Helen Watts Author

Adolf Otto Diekmann


Born: 18th December 1914.

Place of birth: Magdeburg, Germany.

Father's occupation: Primary school teacher.

Mother's occupation: Housewife.

First joined SS: 1st March 1936, Signals Battalion.

Medals and awards: Iron Cross Second Class (14th November 1939) for his services as a Platoon Leader in Poland;
Iron Cross First Class (20th August 1940) after being shot in the lungs while fighting in France.

Married: Hedwig Meindi, 12th February 1940.

Children: First son born 11th March 1942; second son born 6th May 1943.

Died: 29th June 1944, age 29.

Buried: La Cambe Cemetery, Normandy, France.

Who was the real Gustav Dietrich?

by Helen Watts

The fictional character of Gustav Dietrich, who is central to my novel
One Day In Oradour, is based on a real SS Commander. HIs name was Adolf Otto Diekmann, and he was the highest ranking officer in Oradour-sur-Glane on the day of the massacre.

Many people lay the blame for the atrocity at Oradour firmly at the feet of General Heinz Lammerding. As the Commander of the Das Reich division, it was he who authorised the brutal crackdown against all Resistance activity in the area. Indeed, on 5 June 1944, just five days before the massacre, he issued an anti-terrorist memorandum in which he authorised repressive measures against civilians in areas in which Resistance units were operating. It is also General Lammerding's name which appears on the plaque in the cemetery at Oradour-sur-Glane which refers to the ‘Crime committed by the 2nd SS Division Das Reich under orders of General Lammerding.’

However, personally, I believe there is insufficient evidence available for us to be able to say for sure whether or not Lammerding gave those under his command explicit orders to murder so many innocent men, women and children at Oradour on 10th June. Certainly, there appears to be strong suggestion that the power-hungry Major Adolf Diekmann took matters ito his own hands and was a key infuencer in deciding what form Lammerding's 'reprisals' should take.

We know that Adolf Diekmann was, in the words of his superior officers, a ‘very brave, go-getter'  who was ‘very deliberate in the leadership of his Battalion’. We know that he could be short-tempered and brusque with his men. We also know that he was furious about recent Resistance attacks on German troops and that he had experienced these firsthand, when his own battalion was ambushed while crossing the Dordogne River on its march north. Added to this was his undoubted anger over the abduction and kidnap of SS commander Major Helmut Kämpfe on 9th June, a man whom he appears to have known well and to have fought alongside.

So it does not require a big leap in logic to predict that, when given orders to go into Oradour-sur-Glane and search for the kidnapped Kampfe and to take hostages, Diekmann would have relished the opportunity to take revenge and being an ambitious man he might also see this as an opportunity to make his mark. Certainly, massacre survivor Robert Hébras endorses this view of Diekmann in his book The Slaughter of our Village, where he argues that the SS commander took matters into his own hands at Oradour, going way beyond his orders in his lust for retribution.

It also seems that Diekman expected to be praised for the way he had led the Oradour-sur-Glane raid. On the evening of the massacre, he returned to the Der Fuhrer Regiment headquarters in Limoges to report to his commanding officer, Sylvester Stadler. However, if Stadler's claims are to be believed, the reception Diekman received was far from warm. Stadler claimed that he was was ‘shaken to the core’ by Diekman's report, considering the Major's actions to be a huge overreaction to events, and he was quick to insist that Diekmann would have to face a court martial, saying. “I cannot allow the regiment to be charged with something like this!”

No doubt, after the event, men like Stadler might have thought it wise to distance themselves from events at Oradour-sur-Glane, and certainly we have to accept that Diekmann was an easy scapegoat at the Bordeaux Trials nine years later in 1953. Indeed, Diekmann never had the chance to speak for himself at the trial alongside those other SS soldiers accused of war crimes at Oradour-sur-Glane, nor was there ever the chance for the world to see him court martialled. because just nineteen days after the Oradour massacre, Diekmann was dead.

Adolf Otto Diekmann was hit in the head by artillery shell splinters on 29th June 1944 during a bombardment in Normandy, near Noyers. Uncharacteristically, he was caught on exposed ground, away from the safety of his command shelter and not wearing his helmet. With a court martial hanging over his head, perhaps it is not surprising that some of Diekman's men suggested that the Major had got himself killed deliberately.