The trial

To address the topic “the trial,” our choice was to transcribe an excerpt from the book, “The Enemies Within,” written by Nathalie Roussarie Sicard – Ph.D. in History, whose work on repression in Corrèze is a reference. This work relies not only on regional and national archives but also on local press and testimonies, offering a detailed study enriched with portraits of the main protagonists, which places the history of this region in a broader perspective, without shying away from delicate questions. Without passing judgment, Nathalie Roussarie Sicard tries to unravel the uncertainties and complexities of this period and analyze the consequences: a history confronted with grief, violence, and resentment.

The concern for justice

In the case of Tulle, justice was not served. Furthermore, the tragedy of Oradour, occurring one day after that of Tulle, and the enormous impact of the massacre that was committed, served as a screen for the Corrèze tragedy, whereas the commonalities between the two Nazi atrocities should have, on the contrary, brought them closer together in the national memory. While it is tempting to compare the two, notable differences must be noted. The case of Tulle is, as seen, much more complex: it likely requires a very long period to examine the questions that Antoine Soulier raises from the outset, decipher the unsaid, defuse all the traps of Parisian passions, and gradually accustom the people of Tulle to the long patience of the historian’s work.

Like in the rest of Limousin, the Resistance played a significant role in Corrèze, and the natural desire to punish the guilty was all the greater. But who were the guilty parties? How were they pursued, and what was their punishment? Antoine Soulier, Jacques Delarue, Paul Mons, and a few journalists have mentioned the various trials, but it must be acknowledged that the one in Tulle did not attract much attention and remained very discreet.

Proces de Tulle 1951

There were several trials: the first, which took place quite quickly, was that of the murderers of the 18 railway guards, war crimes par excellence: these railway guards were shot without reason, and their affiliation with the maquis could not be held against them since they were “requisitioned” by the city authorities, in agreement with the occupying forces, for civilian service. Regarding the 10 German soldiers from the third company of the 95th security regiment who shot them, Captain Reichmann, Lieutenant Retzer, and Sergeant Schlewski were respectively sentenced to 15, 10, and 15 years of forced labor; three other soldiers were found guilty but absolved, and four other soldiers and corporals were acquitted. The people of Tulle protested against this particularly lenient verdict, but their voices were scarcely heard.

Two years later, on June 6, 1951, the Bordeaux trial opens with the aim of punishing those responsible for the hangings in Tulle, and the ensuing disappointment is even greater. Hoff is accused of organizing the hangings, and although Walter Schmald (who died without being tried) did oversee the sorting, it was under the orders of Kowatsch. Paulette Geissler reportedly “saved” 17 engineers from the MAT (Manufacture d’Armes de Tulle) from sorting as “essential,” but she allegedly designated engineer Cazin. Regarding the testimony of French witnesses, neither historiography nor the sources studied provide much indication. Antoine Soulier, of course, testifies and responds to the rather confusing questions from the president; Prefect Trouillé is not present, and the Secretary-General of the Prefecture, Maurice Roche, is also absent due to illness. The Tulle trial is very discreet: it seems to interest no one and is quickly concluded.

No book has ever been dedicated to it. General Lammerding, Captain Kowatsch, Major Heinrich Wulf, and Sergeant Otto Hoff are accused of complicity and voluntary homicide committed in retaliation. Lammerding and Kowatsch are sentenced to death in absentia. Wulf and Hoff, who were prisoners, are respectively sentenced to 10 years of forced labor and life imprisonment with forced labor. Paulette Geissler, who was at liberty, receives a three-year prison sentence for failing to assist a person in danger. Only Hoff appeals. But after this appeal, where the trial is overturned on procedural grounds (“the military court was irregularly chaired and there is a violation of the texts referred to in the grounds”), on May 27, 1952, in Marseille, only Hoff appears and is sentenced to five years of forced labor. Wulf was inexplicably released the previous week and returned to Germany. With the main actors dead or on the run, the perpetrators receiving light sentences, and the general indifference surrounding the trial, all these elements undoubtedly affected the inhabitants of the city and especially the families of the victims, as strongly as the event itself.

« Tulle can only mourn its dead in silence. »

Yet, a year later, the major trial of Oradour opens, and with it, Tulle is brought back into discussion. It resurfaces in connection with Lammerding. Because it is during the Oradour trial that it is suddenly learned, not without astonishment, that he is indeed alive. Lammerding has been the subject of several arrest warrants since the end of the war, but he is protected by the division of Germany. In January 1953, he leaves his home in Dusseldorf (British zone) for Munich (American zone) to negotiate with his lawyer about “the further treatment of the case.” From 1954 onwards, he can feel safe, as he is covered by the sovereignty law of the Federal Republic of Germany and cannot be extradited. Regarding Tulle, as well as Oradour, Lammerding has nothing to say. He did not attend, he is not guilty, his orders were exceeded by his subordinates, and he is a victim of slander. He lives quietly in Dusseldorf. For a few years, the people of Tulle then mobilize to obtain his extradition. A significant demonstration takes place in Tulle on November 29, 1958; some managed to obtain the personal phone number of the Lammerding family and engage in telephone harassment for several months. But neither individual efforts nor official interventions can succeed. Lammerding dies on January 21, 1971, reportedly a victim – according to his wife – of the unjust harassment he endured. He is buried in the cemetery of Dusseldorf, with honors, flower wreaths, speeches, and swastikas. His funeral is organized by an association of former SS members.

Irony of this story: after the Franco-German agreement of February 2, 1971, on the extradition issue, Lammerding would have been on the list. But one understands how deeply this whole story has left its mark in Corrèze.

paula Geissler 1