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The Tulle Murders refer to the actions committed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich in June 1944, during World War II. After a successful FTP offensive on 7 and 8 June 1944, the arrival of Das Reich troops forced the guerillas to evacuate the city of Tulle (Corrèze), in the Limousin region of France. On 9 June 1944, after arresting all men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, the SS and members of the SD ordered 120 of the prisoners to be hanged, of whom 99 were first tortured. In the days that followed, 149 men were sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where 101 lost their lives. In total, the actions of the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS, and the Sicherheitsdienst or SD, claimed the lives of 213 civilian residents of Tulle.
2nd SS Panzer Division
At the beginning of 1944, after suffering heavy losses on the Eastern Front, the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, under the command of Gruppenführer Heinz Lammerding regrouped in Valence-d'Agen to prepare to depart for the Western Front. They were to respond to the purported landing of 18,000 Allied soldiers supported by light armoured vehicles and tanks.
Historically, there have been several theories for the reason behind the 2nd Panzer Division's role in the massacres. According to Peter Lieb, these were the division's heavy belief in the ideology of National Socialism, their battle experience on the Eastern Front, the fact that they saw themselves as an elite military unit, and the fact that they had already participated in engagements with the French Resistance.
After the Normandy Landings, the 2nd Panzer Division received orders to position themselves in the region between Tulle and Limoges to suppress the Maquis, who, in coordination with the Allied invasion, were intensifying their insurgency against German interests and forces. It was the personal wish of Hitler that the division confront the Maquis in the face of their escalation.
The order to engage the guerillas was given known as the Sperrle Ordinance, after the Deputy High Commander of the Western Front. By those orders, the division was to immediately attack the "terrorists" at any opportunity and that if any civilians were killed, that it would be regrettable, but would be the responsibility of the "terrorists" and not their own. The orders also called for the area to be secured along with all inhabitants, and that any house used by the resistance or its supporters, regardless of its owner, were to be burned. The orders of the commander of the division mentioned certain precise tactics: "The resistance must be wiped out by outflanking them." On 5 June 1944, General Lammerding approved the use of repressive measures implemented in Eastern Europe in the suppression of the Maquis. His program included provisions such as use of counter-propaganda and discrimination, and other actions intended to "turn the public against the terrorists." It approved massive arrests, occupation of important localities, and the commandeering of vehicles. Notably, it also read that "For every German wounded or killed, we will kill ten terrorists." Execution is not a usual part of the French justice system. The order's overreaching goal was to separate the resistance fighters from the rest of French citizens and turn the public against them.
Between early May and 9 June, the division, particularly the regiment Der Führer designated as under the direction of the Department of Information, conducted a widespread search for supporters of the resistance as well as put several anti-guerilla operations into effect. During these operations, sixty guerillas were killed and twenty were deported to labor camps. An estimated hundred civilians were killed in a variety of circumstances, while hundreds of houses were burned.
- (French) « Rubrique Valence d'Agen », Archives du Tarn-et-Garonne, June 11, 2011.
- Hastings, Max. Das Reich: The March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Through France. A critique.
- Penaud, Guy. La 'Das Reich' 2e SS Panzer Division (Parcours de la division en France – 560 pages), Editions de La Lauze/Périgueux. ISBN 2912032768.
- (French) Speech of Dominique de Villepin, on 10 June 2006
- (French) Witness testimony (personal website)
- (German) http://www.geschichtsthemen.de/massaker_von_tulle_1944.htm
- The SS Massacre At Tulle in 1944
- German website re Tulle massacre