98-year-old French man reveals mass execution of German soldiers during World War II

98-year-old French man reveals mass execution of German soldiers during World War II

Edmond Réveil - Photo taken by Stéphanie Para for La Montagne Brive

French and German authorities will excavate a forest in Corrèze, following the testimony of a 98-year-old former French resistance fighter. Edmond Réveil has disclosed that he was part of the execution of 47 German soldiers and one French woman accused of collaborating with the Gestapo in 1944.

Réveil, who served as an 18-year-old officer for the resistance, spoke publicly about the killings for the first time at a veterans’ meeting in 2019 but did not approach the media at that time.

Codenamed “Butterfly” during his time as a teenage resistance liaison officer, Réveil revealed to France Bleu radio that he had kept silent due to pressure at the time, but now felt compelled to speak out, considering his advanced age and status as the sole surviving witness.

He expressed a sense of shame, as shooting prisoners of war was not allowed, although there were individuals in the area who were aware of the events.

Réveil emphasised the importance of disclosing the truth to the world, stating, “The world has to know what happened there. It is a historical truth.”

According to La Montagne, an initial excavation in 1967 had already uncovered the remains of 11 individuals.

The French national veteran’s office is collaborating with the German war graves commission in using ground-penetrating radar to locate the site.

The aim is to excavate and identify the remains of over 30 individuals, which will subsequently be returned to their respective families.

Xavier Kompa, the head of the national veteran’s office in Corrèze, explained that France is obligated to return these remains under the Geneva Conventions and a 1966 Franco-German agreement.

The decision on the final resting place for the remains will be made by the German authorities.

Réveil confirmed to the media that he knew the exact location in the forest, revealing that while he and a few others had refused to participate in the execution, they had witnessed it.

However, he noted that the foliage and landscape had significantly changed since that time.

According to Réveil, the German soldiers and the unnamed female collaborator were part of a group captured during an attack on the town of Tulle in June 1944.

They were marched through the forest at night to an area near Meymac, but keeping them prisoner proved difficult. An order was given to shoot them, and they were forced to dig their own graves.

The resistance officer in charge, who hailed from Alsace and spoke German, individually informed each person of their impending execution.

Following this, each resistance fighter volunteered to shoot one person. Réveil stated that he did not participate in the shooting.

After resistance fighters launched an attack on German troops in June 1944, an SS division subsequently hanged 99 men and deported 149 others, most of whom perished in concentration camps.

The execution described by Réveil, occurred a few days later and was seen as a form of retaliation.

In that same month, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France witnessed the worst Nazi massacre of civilians on French soil, with 642 individuals, including 247 children, being shot or burned alive.