Werner Christukat, 89, has been indicted for participating in the 1944 massacre perpetrated by the SS in Oradour-sur-Glane. He says he wasn’t directly involved. Seventy years after the fact, there are more questions than answers, and proof is elusive.
“There was this boy,” says Werner Christukat. “He came walking over the hill. A small blond boy with a bicycle and he wanted to go past me and into the village. I can still picture it exactly. I stopped him and wanted to chase him away, but then the junior squad leader came up and started yelling at me…”
The events described by Christukat took place almost 70 years ago, but he has never forgotten them. Yet ever since Nazi hunters paid him a visit last year, he has been combing through his memory for additional images: during the day when he sits in his sunroom in his knitted vest surrounded by pictures of his grandchildren; at night when he wanders sleeplessly through his dark home.
Everything is coming back. “Not a night goes by in which I don’t think of Oradour. In front of me, I can still see the church through the treetops. I hear a bang and then the screaming of women and children. … I can’t get it out of my mind. I felt so dreadfully sorry for them. But the worst is that I couldn’t save the boy.”
In the summer of 1944, Christukat was 19 years old, a machine-gunner with the Waffen-SS and trained to obey orders. He had only just arrived in France a short time before. “My honor is loyalty. A German soldier fights chivalrously,” he says. “I believed that stuff from Adolf Hitler.”
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An SS Soldier and the Massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane