Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nazi war criminal Heinz Barth dies in Germany. No regrets for atrocities.

From the AFP: Nazi war criminal Heinz Barth dies in Germany:

BERLIN, Aug 13, 2007 (AFP) - Heinz Barth, a Nazi war criminal convicted for atrocities including the massacre of 642 people in the French village of Oradour, has died, his pastor told AFP Monday.
"He is dead. He was 86 years old," said Heinz-Dieter Schmiedkte, the pastor at Gransee, near Berlin, where Barth lived.
"The burial will be in September and I have already declared myself ready to preside over it, as everyone has the right to a burial."
Barth, a former SS junior lieutenant, was jailed for life by a West German court in 1983 for his part in a number of atrocities during World War II.
They included the notorious massacre at the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, in the south of France.
On June 10, 1944, an SS division shot, drowned or burned alive 647 villagers -- including 247 children -- in a massacre that in France has come to represent the worst of Nazi barbarism.
Earlier in the war, in 1942, Barth served as an officer in a Nazi armoured regiment responsible for the slaughter of 91 people in what was then Czechoslovakia.
After the war, Barth lived under a false identity in West Germany for years before finally being exposed.
In 1997, at the age of 76, he was released from jail on health grounds and because he had publicly expressed his remorse, a decision that provoked an outcry at the time.
The mayor of Oradour, Raymond Frugier, said the "will never be able to forget the atrocities which he committed."
He said their only regret was that Barth wasn't convicted earlier and was released from prison early.
"For such crimes one should not be pardoned," said Frugier. "For Oradour, his death doesn't change anything for all the children, women and men who are dead."

Also from the AFP:

LIMOGES, France, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) - Nazi war criminal Heinz Barth, who has died aged 86, showed no regret for his part in the wartime massacre of 642 men, women and children in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, survivors charged on Tuesday.

Heinz Barth, a former SS platoon leader, was jailed for life by an East German court in 1983 for his part in a string of atrocities during World War II, including the slaughter at Oradour that in France came to symbolise the worst of Nazi barbarity.

He was released from prison in 1997 on health grounds, sparking an outcry, and spent the last years of his life in Gransee near Berlin, where his death was announced late Monday.
"In 1983, during his trial in East Berlin, he voiced no regret," recalled Robert Hebras, 82, one of six people who survived the massacre at Oradour, near Limoges in central France. "His sole regret was the fact there were survivors left to testify."

"He never spoke a word of regret. 'It was war,' that's all he said," agreed Jean-Marcel Darthout, 83, the only other living survivor.

Oradour was destroyed on June 10, 1944, four days after the Normandy landings which marked the start of the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi occupation.

A detachment of SS troops heading north to reinforce German defences halted in the village and, for reasons that have never been made clear, ordered its 642 inhabitants, including some 200 children, to assemble in the town square.

Women and children were then herded into the town church which was pumped full of toxic gas and set on fire. The men were machine-gunned and burned alive in a barn. The entire village was then torched.
The village was never rebuilt, its charred ruins being left to stand as a monument to Nazi atrocities while a new town was built nearby.

President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement following news of Barth's death, saying he "joins in remembering the victims and shares the pain of their children".
He said the death of one of the perpetrators of the massacre, a crime of "unspeakable barbarity, reminds France of one of the most tragic pages in its history."

Barth took part in the Oradour massacre as a platoon leader in the regiment Der Fuhrer, commanding several dozen men. Earlier in the war, in 1942, he served as an officer in a Nazi armoured regiment responsible for the slaughter of 91 people in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Convicted in absentia by a French court after the war, Barth lived under a false identity in East Germany for years before being tracked down and made to stand trial again. Both Hebras and Darthout said it was "immoral" that Barth, who died on August 6, should have been granted early release from jail. "He can't have been that sick, since he went on to live another 10 years," said Hebras.

Barth was the last German soldier to stand trial over the Oradour massacre. Around 60 soldiers were brought to trial in France in the 1950s, and 20 of them convicted, but all were released within a few years.
General Heinz Lammerding of the SS Das Reich division, seen by historians as the chief architect of the massacre, died in 1971 after a successful entrepreneurial career in Germany.

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