Heinz Barth (15 October 1920 – 6 August 2007) was a mid-ranking member in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II and a convicted war criminal, responsible for the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre of 1944.
Barth was the only SS member involved in the Oradour massacre to have been judged, in 1983 in East Germany. Awarded a "war victim" pension in 1991 (which would later become a wide-ranging controversy and would lead to changes in German law regarding war or disability pensions for World War II war criminals) by the reunified German government, he was released in 1997 and died in 2007.
In 1938, he joined the National Socialist Motor Corps, taking motorised para-military training. He joined the NSDAP on 9 November 1939, on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch with Party #7,844,901.
Barth enlisted in the military police, where he was made an officer. The 1983 East German court found that Barth participated, as a member of security police battalion, in execution of 92 Czech civilians during martial law in summer of 1942 in Klatovy and Pardubice. He was also one of those who, in June 1942, shot 32 citizens of Ležáky according to the historian Eduard Stehlík from the Military History Institute.
Barth joined the SS on 10 February 1943 (n°458037) with the rank of Untersturmführer(Second Lieutenant) and was assigned to the SS-Kraft Pioneers detachment. On 15 January 1943, he was moved to the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg, later to the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf, and then, in October 1943, to the Eastern Front in the 2nd SS Division Das Reich He led a section in the 3rd company, 1st battalion of the 4th Panzergrenadier regiment Der Führer of the division.
In 1944, he became part of Adolf Diekmann's brigade, being under the direct command of Otto Erich Kahn. He then took part in the June 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane massacre by leading the group which led the men of the village into a barn and commanding the fire. During his 1983 trial, he testified to having personally shot roughly fifteen times into the crowd. He also confirmed that the massacre of 642 civilians (the whole village, including more than 200 children) had no military objective.
In August 1944, Barth was severely wounded in Normandy, losing part of his leg. He was reassigned to the 2nd Training Battalion of the SS-Panzer Grenadier, and promoted to Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant) on 9 November 1944.
Trial and conviction
After the end of the war, Barth returned to his hometown in Brandenburg in the then German Democratic Republic. According to the AFP, he returned under a false name. He was tried in France in absentia on 12 February 1953, and sentenced to death for war crimes.
Identified and arrested on 14 June 1981 in Gransee, Barth was tried again in 1983 in East Germany and sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. Barth, who claimed that he was only following orders, was the only former Nazi to have been judged for this massacre. Others Nazis involved had taken refuge in West Germany (such as General Lammerding, commander of the Das Reich division) and had not been judged. Lammerding took up residence in Bad Tölz. Both in life and death, the general populace of Bad Tölz held Lammerding in good regard.
Barth was released in 1997 reportedly in consideration of his age and health and for having "expressed remorse".
Controversy arose because of the 800 mark pension Barth had been receiving as a wounded veteran for his lost leg since 1991, following German reunification. In 2000, a tribunal in Potsdam canceled the pension with the argument that a war criminal should not be granted a pension. In 2001, the Bundestag enacted a law stripping war criminals from obtaining disability compensation.
Barth's death at the age of 86 was announced on 14 August 2007 by a priest in Gransee. However, the priest would only say that he died within the last few days of cancer, and did not disclose the place or exact date of his death.
Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld commented that "the man responsible of this horrible crime [in Oradour-sur-Glane], the one who had authorised its execution, General Heinz Lammerding, who lived in the Federal Republic of Germany, died unpunished.
- Le maire d'Oradour-sur-Glane : « Il était dénué de toute humanité », Le Parisien, 14 August 2007 (French)
- L'"assassin d'Oradour-sur-Glane" est mort à l'âge de 86 ans, Le Monde (with AFP), 14 August 2007 (French)
- Heinz Barth, former SS officer, dies, International Herald Tribune (with Associated Press), 14 August 2007 (English)
- Czech notice of Barth's death
- Michael Williams, In a Ruined State, Chapter III (English)
- Mort d'Heinz Barth, "l'assassin d'Oradour-sur-Glane", L'Express, 14 August 2007 (French)
- L’Allemagne verse une pension à un tueur d’Oradour. L'Humanité, 13 May 1995 (French)
- "Wiesenthal Center and German Labor Ministry Joint Project Leads to Cancellation of Pensions for 72 Nazi War Criminals", Simon Wiesenthal Center, November 14, 2001 (English)
- Victor Homola, World Briefing | Europe: "Germany: War Criminals Lose Pensions", New York Times, 13 November 2001 (English)
- French: "le principal responsable de ce crime affreux [commis à Oradour], celui qui avait autorisé son exécution, le général Heinz Lammerding, qui vivait en République fédérale d'Allemagne, [soit] mort impuni", quoted in L'"assassin d'Oradour-sur-Glane" est mort à l'âge de 86 ans, Le Monde (with AFP), 14 August 2007 (French)