On my New Year trip to London I met up with my cousin - our Sandra - for the first time in many years.  (Actually, she’s my second cousin; her grandfather and mine were brothers.)  When we were in our teens we spent a lot of time together - and I fancied her first boyfriend in a big way (if you catch my drift).

When we both moved to London in our 20s, we stayed in touch with each other.  These pictures were taken when we were about 26 or 27.  As well as constituting proof that I looked even more bizarre then than I do now, they also show what a lovely-looking lass our Sandra was.

Having met her again a couple of weeks ago, I can now officially confirm that she still is.

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Just over a year ago I had one of the most upsetting - even harrowing - experiences of my life.  While I was on holiday in the Dordogne with Serge, we visited the ‘memorial village’ of Oradour-sur-Glane.  You can read something of its nightmarish history - and see some photos, too - in blogpostings 398 and 401 (from September and October 2012).

Sid contacted me recently to tell me that an arrest has been made in connexion with the dreadful events that took place there. 

German prosecutors re-opened their investigation into the horrors of Oradour last year because documents have been found that implicate 6 men who are still alive and (presumably) well and live in Germany.  The investigators have visited the village several times (see the photo, above); they have spoken to the last two survivors of the slaughter.  And now, back home in Cologne, they’ve made an arrest.

Werner C has been charged with 25 counts of murder and hundreds of counts of accessory to murder.  At the time of the slaughter he was 19 years old and a member of the SS armoured division which carried out the massacre.

My problem with all this - and despite having seen the ghastly results for myself - is...should there - or should there not - be a ‘statute of limitations’ on prosecutions like this?

I know how unspeakably awful the mass-murder was and I’m glad that Oradour has been preserved exactly as the Nazis left it - as a permanent reminder of how savage and cruel they were and of the terrible suffering of the French people at the time.

I also know that many citizens of the countries occupied by the Nazis still bear a very strong grudge indeed against them which sometimes spills over (as it were) into a dislike - or even a hatred - of modern Germany and the people who live there.  I’ve heard opinions like those expressed by many people on my travels round Europe.

And I’ve been roundly berated for suggesting that - maybe, just maybe - it’s time to move on, memorials like Oradour notwithstanding.  After all, people have said to me, ‘you British were not occupied; you did not know of the true horrors and savagery of the Germans’.

True enough, I suppose.  Nevertheless I can’t help wondering what good will come of these upcoming prosecutions and how much strength we should give to the motive of pure revenge.  I wonder if retribution will be served, if consciences will be cleared and if memories will finally rest if Herr C - now aged 88 - is given the appropriate sentence for the crimes he was apparently a party to.

The savagery of Oradour-sur-Glane must never, ever be forgotten.  But I wonder if the time has come when its only memorial should be the village itself.

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Here - unseasonally and untypically late - are the answers to Ross’s Christmas Quiz (in posting 514).  Still - better now than not at all!

1  Epiphany
2  Cranberry
3  A silver bell
Pickwick Papers
5  Kylie Minogue & Chris Martin
6  Donner
7  16
8  Alistair Sim
9  James
10  The World Is Not Enough
11  Broomstick
12  Mountain goats
13  The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
14  To pay taxes and take part in a census
15  Greg Lake
16  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
17  Paris
18  Bobtail
19  The calendar
20  Melchior

Round 2
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Born the King of Angels
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel


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I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re under the impression that AGMs have fallen into desuetude.  If that is what you think, though - you’re mistaken.  They haven’t.  And to prove it….

AGM XLII will take place on Thursday 6 February at 1100 at Oliver’s (in Grainger Market).  We can always slope off somewhere else if the draughty alleyways of the market prove insufferably and insupportably cold.

What all this actually means is that I will be there - on time, as usual - with a copy of Cross-Stitch Monthly open on my lap, hoping that somebody else will turn up and buy me a cup of tea.

I hope it’s you.

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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Bentonbag said...

I know what you mean Ian.
I'm not sure I'd like to be held responsible for something I did when I was 19. I know he had free will and "I was obeying orders" is no defence, but I wonder what would have happened to him had he put his rifle down and said "No, I'm not taking part in this."
We also don't know what sort of life he has lead since, or how traumatized he may have been by what he did and saw.
My uncle was an airman in Germany immediately after the war and the savagery had rebounded on its citizens - especially those living in cities. People, including women and children, were starving. One of his duties was to stop people from scavenging from the kitchen waste bins. In 1952 my parents and siblings were posted to Germany with the RAF and things hadn't improved much. All families above a certain rank were obliged to hire a maid to help get some money into the German economy. Frau Muller took all the potato peelings and other scraps 'for the hens' - Mum reckoned the hens never saw them and they went straight into the soup pot. She understood, Mum had lived through the Depression and knew about being hungry.
The question we have to ask is 'when does justice become vengeance?'

Ian Robinson said...

Well put, Brenda.
I saw lots of evidence on my German Journey that its people have collectively 'owned up' to their terrible crimes and make no attempts to hide their guilt. Just the opposite, in fact.
Whether it's still feasible or justifiable to hold old men to account for what they may or may not have done when they were teenagers is another matter. From what I've heard, even French people - from the country so badly served at Oradour - have doubts about this, Serge included.
The last line of your Comment says it all...

Ian Robinson said...

Another thought...
I wonder how I would feel if an ageing relative of mine was arrested for something he did 60 years ago - however bad it was...

Bentonbag said...

I remember being shocked and sorry when my big brother told me that our Dad had been forced to use his rifle 'for real' when retreating from France with the British Expeditionary Force (just before Dunkirk). The though of my lovely, loving and gentle Daddy being forced to shoot someone, even to save his, or someone else's life, makes me feel very sad.
Dad never told us, his daughters, about the reality of combat; just his son and that only after my brother had been fired on serving with the RAF in Aden.