Between June 7 and 17, 1944, an estimated 156 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner and then were illegally murdered by German soldiers during the fierce fighting that raged across the Normandy countryside following the D-Day landings.
The majority of these murders were not spontaneous acts of battlefield violence but cold, calculated, systematic executions carried out behind enemy lines well after the soldiers were captured. The German perpetrators were members of the 12th SS Panzer Division, the recently established ‘Hitler Youth’ Division. Cruelly nicknamed “Germany’s Baby Division” by the allied press, most of the German soldiers in the division were under twenty-years-old.
In 1945, former 12th Panzer officer Kurt Meyer was convicted of inciting his troops to kill prisoners. He was sentenced to death, but later his punishment was commuted to life in prison. After serving nine years he was released by the Canadian government.
Photo: General Kurt Meyer, Canada's No.1 War criminal, after his arrest where he is still handcuffed to Maj. Arthur Russell as they arrive at Aurich barracks, 31 Oct. 1945. (Credit: Barney J. Gloster/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-132444)