A court in Germany has dropped charges against an 89 year old former Nazi officer, over his involvement in the massacre of hundreds of civilians in France.
Werner Christukat, a former machine gunner with the SS mechanised infantry regiment known as The Fuehrer, was acquitted of all charges relating to the massacre of 642 people in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France, on 10 June 1944.
Whilst he did not deny being present in the village, he told the court that he had no direct involvement with the killings. SS troops herded 450 women and children into a church before throwing grenades into the building and setting it alight. Men from the village were shot in the legs and locked in a barn which was also set ablaze.
Christukat was accused of shooting dead 25 people as part of his role in the massacre.
“In a trial, it could probably only be proven that the suspect was in the area during the massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane as he has consistently maintained,” declared the court in Cologne.
“His name is not in any interrogations, nor did any witnesses link him to the events in Oradour-sur-Glane... This mere presence is not enough to prove accessory to murder without the proof of other circumstances," the court said.
Robert Hebras, one of two known survivors of the massacre stated that though he did not remember Christukat, “the killers were soldiers wearing uniforms — these people were faceless to us.”
Hebras visited the massacres site last year, which has been kept as it was in 1944, alongside German President Joachim Gauck and President Francois Hollande.
“I would have loved Werner Christukat to have the courage to tell the truth in order to ease his conscience,” said Hebras. “But I have no illusions. Those who did it will never speak out.”
Jean-Jacques Fouché, the former director of the memorial centre at Oradour-sur-Glane also commented on the ruling, saying,
“Even if he didn’t shoot, he allowed others to shoot, and it’s called complicity.”
See more from the New York Times here.