Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the French Resistance forcing German prisoners to dig their own graves before shooting them days after D-Day.
French and German archaeologists excavated a site on a hill near the small town of Meymac in central France for eight days following harrowing testimony from the last surviving witness to the massacre.
Although scientists found bullet casings and coins at the remote site, excavations failed to uncover any human remains.
“The bodies are definitely there somewhere. We are not going to stop now,” said Xavier Kompa, head of France’s Office for Veterans in Corrèze. BBC.
He added that the scientists would continue their investigations and that “when new elements allow us to identify the remains, a new effort will be made to exhume them”.
Edmond Réveil (pictured), 98, spoke publicly about the Aftermath Massacre for the first time in 2019.
Archaeologists have so far failed to unearth any human remains, but have managed to find bullet casings and coins.
“Finding the exact spot is extremely difficult because the terrain has changed so much,” a local official said.
“Finding the exact spot is extremely difficult because the terrain has changed so much,” Kompa said.
“In 1944, it was the moor. The pines were planted by the Americans after the war. And the configuration of the paths has also changed.
The site’s research began following the revelations of Edmond Réveil, a 98-year-old former resistance fighter who came to light after nearly 80 years.
He had previously admitted in recorded deposition that 30-man detachments were ordered to kill the German prisoners they escorted through the countryside.
The resistants of the region organize an uprising in Tulle, the capital of Corrèze, and capture 50 to 60 German prisoners.
But the Germans responded with the public hanging of 99 hostages.
Archaeologists have managed to find a series of World War II coins in the area.
They also dug up several bullet casings from different weapons that appeared to have been fired at around the same time.
The SS also massacred 643 people in the nearby village of Oradour-sur-Glane, which has since remained an empty monument.
Edmond, whose code name during the war was “Papillon”, said the detachment commander of the local branch of the resistance group FTP (Francs-tireurs et partisans) “cried like a child when he received the order”. to execute prisoners.
“But there was discipline in the Resistance. He asked for volunteers to carry out the order. Each fighter had someone to kill. But some of us – and I was one of them – said we wouldn’t participate,” Edmond said.
“They knew what was coming…. They pulled out their wallets and looked at (pictures of) their families. There was no cry. They were soldiers.
“They were shot in the chest from a distance of four or five meters.
“It was a terribly hot day. We made them dig their own graves. They were killed and we poured quicklime on them. I remember it smelled of blood. We never talked about it again.
“None of the Resistance groups wanted to deal with (the prisoners). We didn’t know what to do with it.
“If a prisoner wanted to pee, he had to be guarded by two of us. We hadn’t planned anything for food. We were under orders from an Allied command center in Saint-Fréjoux, and they were the ones who gave the order to kill them.
A prisoner, a French woman who had collaborated with the Gestapo, was also killed by the detachment, who drew lots to see which of them would shoot her, as no one had volunteered.
Archaeologists excavated the site for eight days, hoping to find further evidence of the massacre.
The massacre only came to light after Edmond admitted witnessing it in 2019
Edmond kept it a secret for 75 years, even from his family, before unexpectedly admitting to witnessing the incident at a local National Veterans Association meeting.
Meymac mayor Philippe Brugère said at the time that it appeared Edmond had freed himself of a weight after speaking out.
“He is a wonderfully kind old man. He was against violence and in the Resistance he never fired a single shot.
“All he wants now is for the dead soldiers to be remembered and for their families to know where they are buried. And maybe a little memorial is erected there.
This is not the first time that excavations have been undertaken in the region.
Local historians said 11 German bodies were exhumed nearby in 1967.
But the excavations were abruptly interrupted and no precise trace of where the bodies were found has been kept.
Historians have explained that the probable reason for this was that former members of the Resistance, still alive and influential in French politics, did not want the then-recent past to rear its head and drag them into scandal.
But Phillipe said those concerns are now long gone.
“Resistance memory keepers feared it would damage their reputation. But today, no one wants to judge. People understand that in time of war, all acts become possible.
“You can be on the side of the righteous, and still do what is morally wrong. »