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First French Town Liberated by Allies Honors Commander of Ss Division That Occupied It

June 1, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Bayeux, the first French city liberated by Allied forces in June, 1944, has presented its Medal of Honor to the former commander of the Waffen SS division that occupied it at the time, Gen. Heinz Harmel. The gesture this week raised a storm of protest in France.

Government sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the decision by Bayeux to confer the honor was taken independently and the government was not consulted in advance.

The ceremonies were held at the town hall Tuesday where Harmel, now 78, led a group of 90 SS veterans who came to visit the German war cemetery at La Cambe where 21,160 German soldiers are buried.

During the last months of World War II, Harmel commanded the 10th Waffen SS “Frunsdsberg” Division which had been stationed earlier in Poland and was part of the 2nd SS Panzerkorp commanded by SS Obergruppenfuhrer Eric Hausser.

Dr. Andre Benamou, director of the Bayeux city musem defended the presence of the former SS men, now mostly in their sixties, balding and paunchy. “The visit is strictly routine. There is nothing exceptional about it. Many German visitors who belonged to the (10th Waffen SS) Division regularly come to visit us. They feel at ease as the museum is reputed to be both neutral and objective,” said Benamou who, according to the Jewish community of Bayeux, is of Jewish origin.

He added, “We regret they have not been invited to attend the (June 6) Normandy celebrations,” the 40th anniversary of the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches.

Much of the French public is incensed over Bayeux playing host to the SS veterans, especially since France and the other wartime allies have persistently refused to invite West Germany’s Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, or any German representative to the Normandy celebrations. Despite official French and German denials, diplomatic sources confirm that Kohl had sought an invitation to attend the event which will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II, President Reagan, the Kings of Norway and Belgium, the Queen of The Netherlands, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada and President Francois Mitterrand of France.


The second paragraph of the story on page 3 of the May 25 JTA Daily News Bulletin, “The Jews of Salonika” should read “The 50,000 Jews, who comprised about a third of its population” not 5,000.

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