Thursday, 3 July 2008

Orphans of forgotten Nazi massacre hope for justice

Full Story:

More than sixty years after Nazi soldiers committed one of France's worst wartime atrocities, orphans of the country's "forgotten massacre" hope that justice will finally be done when German investigators arrive next month. On August 25 1944, when most of France rejoiced in the Allied liberation of Paris, Serge Martin's 10-year-old world was torn apart. One of the 600 inhabitants of MaillĂ©, 25 miles south of Tours in the Loire valley, he had spent the day in a nearby village with his grandparents. But at home, his mother, father, brother and two sisters – one just six months old – were all murdered by retreating German troops. In all, the Nazis massacred 124 people that morning, including two infants, 42 women and 44 children under 14. Only seven were shot, the rest were killed in all manner of ways, including by rifle butt, bayonet, or fire. The soldiers lashed out indiscriminately, even attacking animals. A hand-written pencil note found on several bodies read: "This is punishment for terrorists and their assistants." When Mr Martin was allowed to return home, the ghost village had been razed to the ground, its houses torched and pummelled with mortar. Black and white photos of pretty stone houses are his only reminder of the village he knew as a child, today replaced by soulless modern buildings. "Not a day goes by when I don't think about it. I carry on living but not like everyone else," said Mr Martin, now 74, as he pointed out photos of his radiant young mother with her baby, who would later die in her arms. But after all this time, he is still no nearer to understanding exactly why the Germans, many of whom had cohabited with the villagers during the war, decided to mete out such horrific retribution.

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