Readers of my novel, Amour et Vengeance, (Love & Revenge) have questioned my depiction of brutality by the German soldiers. Is it exaggerated or is it historically accurate?
I know immediately that these people have not read accounts of WW 2 and descriptions of what some German soldiers did during this time. All soldiers of every nation are at times brutal. But the German army rules allowed each soldier (and especially officers) to be his own judge, jury and executioner.
In the early occupation of France, an old lady in the town of Luray, Madame Bourgeois yelled at two German soldiers who came to requisition and occupy her house. She shook her fist at them and refused to allow them in her house. They tied her to a tree in her garden and shot her. Her daughter was told to leave her there for twenty-four hours as a warning to anyone who resisted the German army.
Late in the war, the French Resistance harassed the 2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ as the Germans were trying to move their tanks from southern France to the Normandy invasion. The attacks were continuous. Near a village of Oradour-sur-Glane, two soldiers were killed. Driven by other rumors about the activities of the village, the SS entered the town, shot 196 men, herded 452 women and children into the local church.
The soldiers threw grenades into the church, setting it on fire. They then machine-gunned the interior, killing all but one woman. Today the village stands in ruins, just as the SS left it, as a memorial to those who died.
There are many more examples. But there are also many examples of French brutality during this time as well. And there are times that Americans and their allies acted in ways that we have trouble imagining.