(Reuters) – German prosecutors have charged an 88-year-old former member of Hitler’s elite Waffen SS of taking part in a World War Two massacre of hundreds of French villagers, nearly 70 years after one of the most infamous Nazi atrocities.
In the methodical June 1944 slaughter, SS soldiers took the small village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France by surprise and killed nearly all its inhabitants within a few hours. They killed 642 men, women and children.
The men were herded into barns and shot dead while the women and children were burned alive in the village church.
“The prosecution charges an 88-year-old pensioner from Cologne with (joining in) the destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane in France,” said Achim Hengstenberg, court spokesman in the western German city.
“He and another shooter are said to have killed 25 men in a barn with his machinegun. He is also said to have aided the burning down of the village church.”
Hengstenberg said the charge lay with the young offenders chamber of the Cologne court because the suspect was only 19 years old at the time of the crime. He was not named in the statement. The young offenders chamber will decide whether or not to open proceedings against the aged accused.
The SS unit decided to wipe Oradour-sur-Glane off the map as an example to French Resistance guerrillas after a vehicle carrying an SS doctor was ambushed on a road leading to the village and its occupants abducted.
Among those killed were 207 children, the youngest eight weeks old. Only five men and a woman survived the massacre.