One of the units of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was the 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Staff members of this regiment included commander SS-Standartenfuhrer Sylvester Stadler, SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Adolf Diekmann, commander of the 1st Battalion and SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Otto Weidinger, the chosen successor to command Stadler’s regiment, who was with the battalion for orientation. Weidinger took over Stadler’s command on June 14, 1944.
During the early morning of June 10, 1944, Commander Diekmann mentioned to Weidinger that he had been contacted by two associates of the Milice, a partisan force of the governmental Vichy Regime. The two members claimed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held captive by the French Resistance in Oradour-sur-Glane, a nearby village.
On June 10, 1944, Diekmann’s battalion cordoned off Oradour-sur-Glane and compelled all the residents, and anyone who chanced to be in or around the village, to gather in the community square to have their identity papers checked. Six people, who did not live in the village, but were merely riding their bicycles through it when the SS unit got there, were detained by the SS.
All of the women and children in the village square were separated, taken to a church, and locked in. The Nazi soldiers also looted the village. All of the men were then taken to six different sheds where the SS had machine guns waiting for them.
As told by one of the survivors, the SS troops proceeded to shoot, aiming straight at the men’s legs. As the men were now incapacitated, the SS soldiers then covered them in fuel and set the sheds on fire. Only six male villagers were able to survive the shootings and the fires. One of the escapees was seen walking down the street and was shot and killed. A total of 190 French men died that day.
Next, the SS troops went over to the church where the women and children were locked inside and put a fire-starting device next to it. Ignited and on fire, the only escape the women and children could see was out through the doors and windows. Flight meant instant death, as they exited they were met by deadly machine-gun fire. That unspeakable attack murdered 247 women and 205 children.
Escaping through a sacristy room window was a 47-year old woman, Marguerite Rouffanche, who would turn out to be the only survivor from the church. Another woman and a child followed Marguerite out the window.
All three were shot when they exited the window, and the other two died of their wounds. Marguerite made her way to some bushes and remained hidden all through the night until she was saved the next morning.
The 642 massacred residents of Oradour-sur-Glane were allowed to be buried a few days later by the survivors. 642 innocent bystanders to a war they wanted nothing to do with – massacred in just a few hours.
The massacre was a reprisal for the partisan activity in nearby Tulle and also for the kidnapping of Helmut Kampfe.