Source: United Nations War Crimes Commission. Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals. Volume VIII, 1949

CASE No. 46



Permanent Military Tribunal at Dijon
(Completed 3rd February 1947)

Part I

The killing of civilians as "reprisals"-Destruction of inhabited buildings- Ill-treatment of civilians-Pillage-Guilt of instigators and other accomplices.


Outline of the Proceedings

The Accused
The Facts and Evidence

Background of the Crimes and Composition of Units Involved

The Crimes

Events at Tour-sur-Arroux
Events at Dun-les-Places

Events at Vermot

Events at Vieux-Dun

Events at Arleuf

Events at Crux-la-Villes

The Findings and Sentences



The accused were members of various German units who took part in a series of crimes against the French population in the area of Dijon in 1944.  Some belonged to the Army, and others to the Gestapo and SD (Security Police).

Three accused were present at the trial. They were Franz Holstein, a Major ; Georg Major, a Captain commanding “ Ost Battalion 654 “; and Emil Goldberg, an Adjutant of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône. The remainder twenty-one accused, were tried in absentia and were the following : Hans Kruger, head of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône ; Ludwig Schellaas, Adjutant of the S.D. at Dijon ; Klaus Schenevoigt, non-commissioned officer of the S.D. at Dijon ; Schirmacher, a Lieutenant, commanding the 3rd Company, Ost Battalion 654 ; Vier, a Colonel, Feldkommandant at Nevers ; Eder, Artillery Lieutenant, Ortskommandant at Château-Chinon ; Verfurt, Lieutenant serving at Autun ; Gierszewski, a Lieutenant, commanding the 2nd Company, Ost Battalion 654 ; Fuierer, a Lieutenant, commanding the 1st Company, Ost Battalion 654 ; Lenartz, Adjutant, interpreter of the S.D. at Dijon ; Gottlieb Hilgenstohler, sergeant of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône ; Runkewitz, sergeant, interpreter of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône ; Eugen Knodler, Chief Adjutant of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône ; Karl Haeberle, sergeant-major of the S.D. at Châlon-sur-Saône ; Hildebrand, deputy O.C. of the German Officer Cadet School at Dijon ; Moeckel, Lieutenant, Feldgendarmerie at Autun ; Gunther Irmisch, Colonel, head of the Feldkommandantur 669 at Dijon ; Hulf, Sturmbannführer of the Gestapo at Dijon ;Hefeke, Captain, 2nd Battalion, 5 Kouban Regiment ; Albert Hippe, Colonel, O.C. of the German Officer Cadet School at Dijon, and Merck, a Lieutenant serving at Dijon.


(i)  Background of the Crimes and Composition of Units Involved

According to the evidence presented by the prosecution, the accused took part in combined operations against members of the French resistance movement: The operations were decided upon and planned at a conference held at Dijon under the auspices of General Hederich, Feldkommandant and “ Befehlshaber Nord-Ost Frankreich ” (G.O.C., North-East, France), in June, 1944. Six of the accused attended in their respective commanding capacities : Irmisch, Hippe, Major, Hulf, Kruger and Verfurt. They were


to provide the troops and issue instructions, and all had to take personal part in the operations at the head of their units.

The conference decided that the French resistance movement in the area was to be suppressed and annihilated, and that severe measures were to be taken against them and the population “ in reprisals ” for their struggle against the occupying authorities or assistance given in this respect. In the light of some of the evidence, such measures were to consist in executing on the spot every member of the resistance, captured with arms, pursuant to Hitler’s orders to kill all “ terrorists ” or “ saboteurs ”; in the burning down of three farms for every German soldier killed, and of one farm for every German soldier wounded.

The events described by the Prosecution showed that, in carrying out the above instructions, the accused killed a large number of inhabitants, destroyed by fire many buildings in various localities, and pillaged property of the population.

The assignment was conducted and the crimes perpetrated by several columns operating simultaneously in the different areas, and moving from one area to the other. One column was composed of German officer-cadets supplied and commanded personally by Hippe and his deputy, Hildebrand. Another column consisted of Russian quisling troops, Ost Battalion 654, under the command of German officers and N.C.O.'s. The O.C. was Major. The ranks of a third column were filled with members of 5 Kouban Regiment, another Russian (Cossack) unit, under Captain Hepeke. In addition, there were detachments of German Feldgendarmes from the Ortskommandantur at Chateau-Chinon, under Lieutenanls Moeckel and Eder, and almost the entire personnel of the SD. at Châlon-sur-Saône, with its head Kruger. In the events of August, 1944, another German officer, Colonel Vier, took an active part as Feldkommandant at Nevers.

(ii)  The Crimes

The crimes were committed in six different places and their surroundings. _

Events at Toulon-sur-Arroux

On 25th June, 1944, two columns left Dijon for Toulon-sur-Arroux.  One was composed of the officer cadets and the other of one company of Ost Battalion 654. The latter arrived at Châlon-sur-Saône at 10 a.m. and was joined by three more companies of the same Battalion. The column then headed towards Toulon-sur-Arroux and, when approaching it, deployed in the fields. In a hamlet, Prayes, they shot at farmers who were hay- making. One was wounded and several others were seized and executed on the spot. When the wounded man moved, he was killed by five Germans.  He was later identified as one Swedrowski.

The column then surrounded another small locality, St. Eugene, north-east of Toulon-sur-Arroux. They seized two inhabitants, ill-treated them and shot them without investigation or trial. After this the place was looted.

Events at Dun-les-Places

The column regrouped and arrived at Autun at 11 a.m. There they found the first column, with officer-cadets. At this juncture, a third column,.

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that of the Russian Cossacks, 5 Kuban Regiment, arrived from Dôle, via Châlon-sur-Saône. Together with the other two columns, as well as with elements of the Feldgendarmeries, Gestapo and S.D., they all moved the next day, 26th June, towards. Dun-les-Places. According to some witnesses the Cossacks column, before arriving at Dun, met detachments of the French resistance movement and shots were exchanged, which did not extend beyond mere skirmishes. According to other witnesses, however, no such encounter took place. When the above combined force arrived at Dun-les-Places, Feldgendarmes and S.D. men arrested a large number of the male population. The arrestees were all taken at their homes, and were locked in the local church. Some were interrogated and all were physically ill-treated. At this point fires were heard in the village and a confusion arose. The Germans contended that shots were fired at them from the church steeple by resistance men. According to other witnesses, the incident was entirely invented by the Germans themselves in order to justify hard measures against the population. At any rate, after this the inhabitants detained in the church were massacred. They were lined up in front of the church and shot by Bren-guns. The massacre was carried out under Kruger’s direct orders and supervision. In the early morning, an officer cadet was seen killing off some of those who had survived. Two of the victims, however, who had also survived, had time to flee before the morning, and were later to give full account of the event. Twenty-one inhabitants in all fell as victims on this occasion.

On 27th June, the place was thoroughly pillaged and twelve houses were set on fire and burnt to the ground. On 28th June, at 1 p.m., the Germans left the locality.

Events at Vermot

The third or Cossacks column, under the Command of Hefeke, had left on the 26th June, at about 5 p.m. It went to Vermot, a hamlet 2 kms. north of Dun. When leaving, it took with it six hostages from Dun-les-Places.  According to the evidence of the Prosecution, while approaching Vermot, the column met a group of resistance men hidden in the nearby woods.  A battle took place which lasted one hour. After the battle the column entered Vermot, and as revenge for the battle, severely ill-treated many inhabitants and pillaged their property. One of the victims, named Petit, had his jaw fractured by a rifle butt, and his grandson had his right arm broken. Petit died of the ill-treatment. In addition, the six hostages were executed. They were all identified. Eleven houses were set on fire and property of the inhabitants was looted. The column left Vermot on 28th June.

Events at Vieux Dun

According to the accused Major, on 26th June, in the evening, while at Dun-les-Places, he received orders from Hildebrand to proceed with a detachment to Vieux-Dun, another small locality in the area, and search all the woods on the way. He arrived at Vieux-Dun on 27th June, at 8 or 9 a.m. According to a German witness no members of the resistance movement were met or found and no incidents took place. The head of.

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the SD., Kruger, also came to Vieux-Dun, and in spite of these quiet conditions, had one house set on fire. The village was also pillaged.

Events at Arleuf

Several weeks later, a similar expedition was made on the orders of Vier, Feldkommandant at Nevers and was carried out by Major. His assignment was to make a general search in the area of Nevers for hidden arms, to execute those found with arms, and to destroy houses from which shots would be fired. Major alleged that the expedition took place as a result of shots which were fired at German soldiers eight or ten days before. On 10th August the detachment arrived at Arleuf and soon several crimes were to be committed. According to a German witness the events took place in the following manner :

A French girl, Mlle. Buteau, had her parents arrested by members of the French resistance movement, and they were taken away. She appealed to Major for help to liberate them, and on this occasion told him that the whole population of Arleuf was in the resistance movement. Major had the locality surrounded by a company under Schirmacher, and gathered one member of every family in a café. He told them that if Mlle. Buteau’s parents were not returned by the night, he would have the whole village set on fire. The Mayor despatched two youths to contact men of the resistance and request the return of the Buteau’s by 8 p.m.

The crimes took place in the course of these events. At 6.30 a.m., when members of families were being collected, an agricultural worker, Goujon, took fright and tried to escape or hide. He was apprehended and brought to Major, who ordered that he be shot. The man was taken away and executed.

A revolver was found in the house of an old man, Boulle, aged 71. The man and the revolver were brought to Major. The latter fired a shot from the revolver into the ceiling and told Boulle : “ For this you are going to be shot.” These words were heard by a soldier who instantly took Boulle away and killed him.  

A third man was killed in the following circumstances. Several inhabitants were lined up against a wall with their hands up, and were searched by Major’s men. At one moment one of the inhabitants, Gantes, moved his right arm down. A soldier moved one or two yards back and killed him with a Bren-gun.

Events at Crux-la-Ville

Several days later an expedition took place under the direct command of Colonel Vier. The purpose was to annihilate units of the resistance movement, which were encamped west of Crux-la-Ville. Major and his men i again took part in this operation.

On 15th August, Major and elements of his Battalion attacked a body of resistance men and suffered losses. The following day, after the battle was over, a young resistance combatant, Chermette, who had been captured on the 15th, was taken to a yard and tortured. Over a hundred soldiers watched the torture. The victim was laid on a table and beaten all over his body. After that he was thrown on a heap of refuse and killed by


Bren-guns. At 7 p.m., of the same day, soldiers broke into the house of a farmer, Ricard. They found his wife and son working on the cattle and accused the son of being a “ terrorist.” They shot him on the spot.  Another four inhabitants were seized, tortured and killed, bringing the total to six victims. Seven houses were set on fire, one on 15th August and six on 16th August.


Twenty-two accused were found guilty of some of the above offences and two were acquitted for lack of evidence that they had personally perpetrated crimes.

According to the findings the accused could conveniently be classified into three categories : those found guilty as instigators, mainly by issuing orders; those found guilty as perpetrators; and those found guilty as their accomplices.

Irmisch, Hippe, Hulf and Hildebrand were found guilty as instigators of the killing of twenty-one inhabitants at Dun-les-Places. Kruger, Schenevoigt, Lenertz, Hilgenstohler, Runkewitz, Knodler, Hoeberle, Schellhaas, were found guilty as perpetrators, and Merck, Goldberg, Eder and Moeckel as their accomplices.

Kruger was found guilty for instigating the arsons at Dun-les-Places, the killing of six hostages at Vermot and the arson at Vieux-Dun. He was also found guilty as perpetrator of the killing of Swedrowski at Toulon-sur-Arroux.  Verfurt was found guilty as perpetrator of the arsons at Dun-les-Places, Hefeke was found guilty of instigating the arsons at Vermot, and of being an accomplice to the killing of the six hostages, the pillage and the ill-treatment of Petit and his grandson, all at Vermot. Major was found guilty of instigating the murder of two of the three victims at Arleuf, and the arson at Arleuf. Vier was found guilty as instigator of the killing of all the three victims at Arleuf and of the six victims at Crux-la-Ville, and of the arsons at Arleuf and Crux-la-Ville. Schirmacher was also held responsible as instigator in the arson at Arleuf and Holstein was found guilty of the arson at Crux-la-Ville as an accomplice.

The two acquitted were Fuierer and Gierszewski.

All the accused found guilty, except two, were sentenced to death.  Holstein and Major were convicted with extenuating circumstances and were sentenced, Holstein to hard labour for 15 years, and Major to hard labour for 20 years.  

Part I   Part II
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©S D Stein
Faculty of Economics and Social Science