Summary in English of the

1944 Wamel Massacre Investigation

The Wamel Case.
The last investigation of the Dutch National Crime Squad of war crimes in World War Two.

The truth matters
On September 20th 1944 fifteen men from the village of Wamel were executed in the town of Tiel. It was always assumed that soldiers of the German Kriegsmarine (Navy) did this. Years later additional information surfaces incidentally. Detectives Mosk and Waterman of the Dutch National Crime Squad start a historical criminal investigation. They identify the real perpetrator and are believed to close the file called 'War Crimes in World War Two'.

The investigation landed on the desk of detective Mosk and his colleague Waterman. 'The investigation', Mosk explains, 'was set in motion after a Mr. Jan Rijnders provided two names of Germans who are presumed to have been involved in the case.'

Rijnders discovered these names by accident. For years he had been conducting a private investigation to the faith of his grandfather, who was arrested in 1944 and never returned. In the Regional Archive of the Rivierenland area he finds the clue in the Wamel Case. Research to his grandfather leads Rijnders to the German public prosecutor Ulrich Maass. He tells Maass about the Wamel Case and the two names he found in the archive, together with a certain Volkmann from the German Kriegsmarine. From Maass, Rijnders receives a copy of a police report from 1977, when German soldiers had been questioned concerning war crimes committed in Tiel. When the chief of the Dutch Investigative Service - the predecessor of the National Crime Squad- hears this story in 2003, he explains it to the National Prosecutor’s Office. Detectives Mosk and Waterman are then instructed to investigate the Wamel Case aside from their regular case load.

Soon, detective Mosk finds out that Volkmann must have belonged to the 'Fährflottille Waal' of the Kriegsmarine. The investigation confirms that the Fährflottille was in fact activated in September 1944 and consisted of personnel of the Kriegsmarine. This unit was divided into smaller subunits and stationed in various locations along the Waal river to swiftly ferry retreating troops across the river. The name of the commanding officer of the subunit in Tiel: Obersteuermann Otto Volkmann.
In November 2003 Rijnders hands the documents to Mosk and Waterman. Among the documents is a police report by the police in Tiel, dated 1945, about the executions in 1944. Mosk: 'The first part of the investigation consisted of an analysis of all the available police reports. Based on that analysis and on investigation conducted in The Netherlands and in Germany, during which we received much assistance from Ulrich Maass, we were able to create a reconstruction of the incident. This made evident that the execution was committed by one perpetrator, an Oberleutnant of the Luftwaffe and not, as had always been assumed, by soldiers of the Kriegsmarine.'

Sequence of events
The situation in September 1944 is hectic and chaotic, especially for the Germans. While the Allied offensive – Operation Market Garden – bogs down, the Waal river near Wamel is no-man’s land and the stretch of river near Tiel is still in German hands. The Kriegsmarine uses de ferry between Tiel and Wamel to ship retreating troops across the river. On the 19th of September there is heavy fighting between Allied troops, Dutch resistance fighters and German troops. The Germans retaliate the next day. In the afternoon of the 20th they set off from Tiel and head to Wamel. From witness accounts it becomes apparent that the Germans spread out near Wamel in order to rout English troops from the river bank. A German soldier is wounded severely and is evacuated to Germany. Later, it appears that this soldier is the only witness who is still living.
Then, at about five o’clock in the afternoon, German soldiers take several inhabitants from Wamel from their homes. Several of them are taken to a small building containing an electrical power transformer. Two young men who attempt to flee are being shot at by a German with a machine pistol. One of them is fatally hit and he is the first victim. The remaining men are brought to Tiel. According to witnesses, the pale man who gives the orders, the Oberleutnant, is wearing a grey-green uniform. He is estimated to be 35 to 40 years of age and about one meter and seventy centimetres tall. He is the only German with a machine gun.
In the evening, under supervision of the Luftwaffe commanding officer, the men are taken to the riverside wall in Tiel. Some of the soldiers try to stop the furious Oberleutnant. But he is raging and eventually shoots and kills all fourteen men in a brief instant.

'In Germany', Mosk tells, 'we discovered that the Kriegsmarine Obersteuermann, Volksmann, died in 1952. Other witnesses appeared not the be alive anymore either, including the perpetrator. We did locate the wounded soldier.' In 2005 this witness told the detectives that he was stationed in Schoonderwoerd as a radar operator. On the 20th of September he was ordered to liberate German soldiers in Tiel, who had been taken prisoner by Allied troops and partisans. Apart from that, he can not remember anything. Except that he was frightened, was wounded in action and subsequently taken home.
'He was chocked heavily when we told him of the drama that someone from his regiment had caused.' During that interview the man mentioned the code name of the radar station in Schoonderwoerd: Gorilla. Mosk: 'The commandant of that radar station turned out to be no stranger to us. It was the Oberleutnant. Consequently, the only living German soldier must have known him.' A second interview followed a year later. Mosk: 'When we confronted him with our findings, he described his leader as a true Nazi with whom he wanted to be the least involved. The man had tried to ignore the war as much as possible.'

Mosk and Waterman also succeeded in locating a Dutch witness. They found a man, a nine year old boy at the time, who had seen the massacre with his own eyes. According to this witness, the Germans got into an argument, during which one received a punch. Eventually it became evident that this was the one who shot the fourteen men in short succession. 'Not only the Kriegsmarine, but also the Luftwaffe was involved in the actions in Wamel', Mosk continues. 'The most important issue is that surviving relatives and inhabitants of Wamel and Tiel now know the truth. This is also of historical significance.'

Mid April 2007 the report of the massacre was handed to the Mayor of Tiel, the National Archive and to other organizations. It is suspected that the Dutch National Crime Squad has now closed the last investigation to war crimes in the Second World War.


(Note: this is a version of the report in which the name of the killer, the Luftwaffe Oberleutnant, is kept anonymous.)



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