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88-year-old German charged with French World War II massacre

German President Joachim Gauck (L) and France's François Hollande at Oradour-sur-Glane in September
German President Joachim Gauck (L) and France's François Hollande at Oradour-sur-Glane in September Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
2 min

German prosecutors have charged an 88-year-old pensioner with murder for his alleged role in one of the Nazis' worst atrocities on French soil during World War II. The suspect is believed to have belonged to an armoured division of the SS that killed 642 people in the western French village of Oradour-sur-Glane in June 1944.

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The regional court in Dortmund said the man, whose name has not been made public, is accused of causing the death of 25 men in Oradour.

The men were killed in a barn, which was then set on fire.

The village’s women and the children were being held prisoner in the church and were killed by explosives and hand grenades, before the building, too, was set ablaze.

The suspect, who was 19 years old at the time, is accused of assisting in those deaths.

Nearly all the village's residents died in the attack.

In 2010 Germany reopened the investigation into the attack on Oradour when a historian discovered documents implicating six suspects, all in their 80s today.

After going through archives, prosecutors eventually identified 12 former soldiers who were still alive.

Five have served sentences in France.

Investigations are ongoing in the others.

The Dortmund state prosecutor says the man charged on Wednesday has denied the charges against him.

He has until the end of March to raise any objections to the case being brought to trial.

Last September President Joachim Gauck became the first German head of state to visit Oradour, which he did in the company of French President François Hollande to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre.

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