France

World War II massacre survivor escapes damages payment over book

Robert Hébras with German President Joachim Gauck (L) and French President François Hollande at this year's commemoration of the Oradaour-sur-Glane massacre
Robert Hébras with German President Joachim Gauck (L) and French President François Hollande at this year's commemoration of the Oradaour-sur-Glane massacre Reuters/Yoan Valat/Pool

A French former resistance fighter won a legal battle on Wednesday against memorial groups who contested his portrayal of a World War II massacre. Robert Hébras is one of six survivors of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane, in which a German regiment killed 642 civilians, including 247 children, in June 1944.

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After the war, a trial of the perpetrators featured 14 French nationals who the Nazis claimed as their own.

All but one of them claimed to be among the Malgré-nous, men from the Alsace region who say they were drafted into the German military against their will.

In 1994 Hébras published a book that implied they particpated more willingly than they admit.

Two Malgré-nous memorial groups threatened legal action and the contested passages were left out of later editions.

But they returned in a 2008 version, leading a court to order Hébras to pay damages.

Wednesday's decision overturned the ruling on the grounds that Hébras was not contesting fact but offering a personal view.

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