On January 8, officials in Germany announced charges against an elderly former Nazi who is suspected of participating in an infamous World War II massacre in France.
The 88-year-old suspect, identified only Werner C. in accordance with German privacy laws, is facing 25 counts of murder resulting from his alleged actions during the 1944 slaughter of 642 men, women and children in Oradour-sur-Glane, according to the Associated Press.
The case will likely hinge around whether Werner C. actually fired any shots. Indeed, the suspect’s attorney Rainer Pohlen told the AP that while his client was in Oradour-sur-Glane at the time of the killings he did not participate in them.
Only 19 at the time, the suspect was in France as part of the SS tank infantry unit called Der Fuhrer, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA that the center commended the work so far of the German state prosecutor Andreas Brendel in charge of the case against Werner C.
“We highly commend his proactive efforts,” Zuroff said.
Today, Oradour-sur-Glane is a ghost town still bearing the scars of the Nazis, who forced hundreds of civilians into a barn on June 10, 1944, and then burned the building to the ground.
In September, the presidents of Germany and France paid a joint visit to the town as a show of reconciliation, reports the Associated Press.
German President Joachim Gauck read a prepared statement flanked by French President Francois Hollande and one of only six survivors of the massacre, 88-year-old Robert Hebra.
“We can today only understand with difficulty how ‘totally normal men’ became unscrupulous murderers,” Gauck said. “And it happened here in Oradour, in the middle of Europe, and so many other places.”