Kurt Meyer, 12th SS Panzer Division, and 

the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy: 

An Historical and Historiographical Appraisal

P. Whitney Lackenbauer
Ph.D. Student, Department of History
University of Calgary


"Probably no single event of World War II aroused more widespread and continued interest 

in Canada than the trial and subsequent treatment of S.S. Major-General Kurt Meyer."

-Bruce Macdonald, QC, The Trial of Kurt Meyer (1954)


On 6 June 1998, dozens of Canadian and French citizens gathered in the small garden at the Abbaye d'Ardenne to commemorate the horrors of war. It was a damp day. The gentle breeze chilled the group to the bone as they stood before the memorial to twenty-seven Canadian soldiers murdered at the Abbaye grounds during the Second World War. When these young Canadian men died at the hands of members of 12th SS[1] Panzer Division they were prisoners of war, the victims of a heinous abrogation of international law and conventions of war. Now a dozen Canadian students, one-by-one, walked solemnly up to the stone monument and laid maple leaves for each of the fallen.[2] Their deaths are not forgotten, nor is the controversial legal pursuit that followed after the war to try and bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

Central to the controversy over the deaths at the Abbaye, and those of the more than one hundred and fifty Canadian prisoners of war killed in Normandy, was (and is) Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer. Bruce Macdonald noted in 1954 that the trial and fate of Meyer were objects of intense interest and concern for Canadians in the years after the war. If reports of Nazi atrocities committed against other peoples seemed unreal and unbelievable in this land so far removed from the turmoil of battle, the murder of Canadian prisoners at the hands of the SS brought the matter home to Canadians with unequivocal force. Angry Canadians in all walks of life demanded the apprehension and punishment of those responsible, Macdonald reflected,[3] and the public followed the ensuing legal proceedings in the press and in parliament, and later in historical reflections furnished by those involved in the case. The story of the murders and of Meyers fate has continued to interest journalists, historians and Canadians in general since the end of the war.

While there is a rich historiography surrounding the murder of Canadian POWs in Normandy at the hands of the 12th SS Panzer Division (Hitler Youth), there has yet to appear a critical examination of the way in which the controversial topic has been interpreted and 'narrativized' over time. This paper demonstrates that the story of the murders of Canadians in Normandy has developed in three distinct waves since 1944. The historiography reflects the socio-political contexts in which authors presented their interpretations and the relative weight each gave to conflicting forms of evidence. This paper begins with a brief description of the 12th SS and Kurt Meyer, the murders, and the subsequent trial, sentencing and release of Meyer. The interpretations of the trial by those involved in the legal proceedings and subsequent sentencing are then assessed. Lastly, the evolving historiography of the murders and the Meyer trial is analyzed.

Murder in Normandy, Trial in Germany

As the Allies prepared for their invasion of France in early June 1944, members of 12th SS Panzer (Hitlerjugend) Divison were deployed near Caen. The impressionable young minds of the Hitler Youth had been subjected to a powerful regime of training that had sought to overcome their immaturity, exploit their idealism and youthful enthusiasm, and politically indoctrinate them in Nazi ideology. The entire division, except for officers and NCOs, consisted entirely of boys aged 17 and 18. They were led and taught by veterans of the 1st SS Panzer Divison (Leibenstandarte) of the Eastern Front - all die-hard Nazis embittered by the vicious fighting in the east. For four weeks prior to D-Day the 12th SS Division, at full strength with between 20,000 and 21,000 all ranks and 214 tanks, was busy preparing for an anticipated Allied attack.[4] Among the senior officers present was SS Colonel Kurt Meyer.[5]

Kurt Meyer was a battle-hardened, fanatical Nazi. A devout supporter of Hitler, he had joined Hitler's Bodyguard (Leibstandarte) in 1933 and all his subsequent service was with the SS. He had fought in Poland, France and Holland with the Adolf Hitler Division, and as regimental commander had played a key role in the Greek campaign. The intensity and brutality of the fighting on the Eastern Front needs no introduction, and Meyer had helped to spearhead the German drive into Russia. Here he had displayed feats of fearlessness that would later mark his exploits in Normandy. During his three years in Russia he had plunged deep into the Caucasus, and during his retreat was completely encircled by his opponent three times, on each occasion fighting his way out with only a handful of survivors. Meyer was not only willing, but apparently sought out ways of putting his life in peril by dashing into danger areas on his motorcycle; the multiple wounds he sustained during the war were ample proof of this. While Meyer had proven to be a great tactician, he was also accused of unpalatable behaviour, such as burning villages and murdering women, children, and Soviet soldiers during the brutal fighting around Kharkov in 1943. He had been assigned to the 12th SS Panzer Division in the spring of 1943 and was Commander of the 25th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment in early June 1944. He would take over as divisional commander on 13 June, following the death of Brigadefuehrer Witt.[6]

The Canadians first came into contact with the 12th SS in the days following the Normandy landings. On D-Day+1, SS Lieutenant Colonel Karl-Heinz Milius threw his 3rd battalion at the Canadians during the battle for Authie. The North Nova Scotia Regiment and Cameron Highlanders thwarted this German counterattack, stopping the grenadiers in their tracks and bloodying the 12th SS Panzer division for the first time. The twenty-three Canadians captured by the Germans in Authie suffered a horrific fate that foreshadowed future atrocities at the hands of the SS troops. At the main intersection (at the southern end of the village) Canadian soldiers were disarmed, told to remove their helmets, and shot at close range. The young German troops further insulted the Canadian lives they had taken. In one incident, some German soldiers propped up the corpse of a murdered Canadian, placed an old hat on his head, and stuffed a cigarette box into his mouth. In another situation, eight of the lifeless Canadian bodies were unceremoniously dragged onto the street where they were repeatly mutilated by passing tanks, trucks and armoured vehicles. Appalled French onlookers later testified that SS troops whooped like drunken pirates at their handiwork.[7]

The atrocities continued. Other Canadians were captured and taken to the Abbaye d'Ardenne, the headquarters of the German division where Meyer had watched the battle unfold. In the abbey garden eleven Canadians were interrogated and then killed on 7 June, each Canadian prisoner shaking hands with his comrades before being executed. At noon the next day seven more Canadians were shot at the Abbaye; their murders coincided with the execution of Canadian POWs on the Caen-Fountenay Road. The following evening Canadian prisoners were taken to the 12th SS's 2nd Battalion headquarters to meet their death. On the now tranquil grounds of the Chateau d'Audrieu, Canadian POWs were interrogated and duly executed, first in threes and later in more efficient larger numbers. These large-scale incidents represent 120 of 156 murders committed by the Hitlerjugend during the first ten days of the Normandy Campaign. Other murders took place on a smaller scale at locations like Bretteville d'Orgueuise, Norrey and le Mesnil-Patry. News of the murders began to filter back to the Canadian ranks in Normandy, but there was little immediate proof of the atrocities.[8]

In response to reports of atrocities from escaped Allied prisoners of war and liberated French civilians, the Allied headquarters staff formed organizations to look into allegations of criminal activity beginning in the summer of 1944. Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery ordered two courts of inquiry while the Allied Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, established a Standing Court of Inquiry under the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) which began its work in August 1944.[9] Investigations into murders yielded disturbing information. There was evidence of one hundred and fifty Americans who had been captured and murdered near Malmedy by 1st Panzer Division. Furthermore, the Allies began to realize the magnitude of the crimes committed by the 12th SS against Canadians. Between September 1944 and May 1945, for example, the bodies of the men killed at the Abbaye d'Ardenne were found in five shallow, unmarked graves.[10]

At the end of the war, Canadian War Crimes Investigation Units (CWCIUs) were established to investigate alleged incidents of war crimes in Europe and the Far East. Number 1 CWCIU was led by Lieutenant-Colonel B.J.S. (Bruce) Macdonald, a lawyer and former Commanding Officer of the Essex Scottish Regiment. Macdonald had already participated in the SHAEF Court of Inquiry in which he had interviewed hundreds of German prisoners in North American POW camps and gathered information of alleged atrocities committed by Meyer's 25th Panzier Grenadier Regiment. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Kurt Meyer.[11]

"Panzermeyer" was before the Courts by December 1945. Meyer had been captured by the Americans in September 1944, but had concealed his identity for over a month by wearing a Wehrmacht uniform. Once identified as an SS officer, he was transferred to England for questioning and held there at a POW camp. Under the authority of War Times Regulations (Canada) P.C. 5831, a Canadian Military Court was established at Aurich, Germany. It was here that Meyer was to be sent to stand trial, under the Convening Authority of Major-General Chris Vokes, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3rd Canadian Infantry Division of the Canadian Army Occupation Force. The President of the Court was Major-General Harry Foster. The members of the Court (all brigadiers) were: I.S. Johnston, H.P. Bell-Irving, H.A. Sparling, and J.A. Roberts. The Judge Advocate (prosecutor) in the Meyer trial was Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Bruce Macdonald, aided by LCol Clarence Campbell and Major Dalton Dean. The defending officer was LCol Maurice W. Andrew of the Perth Regiment.[12]

On 10 December 1945 the trial began (see appendix A for the charge sheet), with Meyer pleading not guilty to all charges. The prosecution began by furnishing a character portrait of Meyer and the 12th SS Division, then calling twenty-nine witnesses to try and show that the German commander was responsible for the offenses alleged in the charge sheet. Jan Jesionek, a young Pole forcibly conscripted into the 12th SS, had defected to the Allied cause late in the war and now provided the most damning evidence against Meyer. Jesionek was at the Abbaye when the Canadian soldiers were shot, and testified that Meyer was both present and had ordered that no prisoners be taken. He also dazzled the court with remarkable feats of memory about SS troop deployments and activities. In defence, Meyer later took the stand. The defendant denied ever saying that he took or would take no prisoners, and emphasized that during the entire Normandy Campaign he had never given orders to have prisoners shot. Several SS officers supported the defence, and witnesses for the character of the accused included Meyer's wife and a Canadian Captain who had gained a favourable impression of Meyer as a prisoner in his hands. The Prosecution called several witnesses for the rebuttal, including French civilians. On 22 December the prosecution and defence teams made their final arguments.[13]

Six days later the court reconvened to hear the verdicts. Meyer was cleared of the second, third, sixth, and seventh charges. The court, however, found him guilty of inciting his troops to deny quarter (the first charge) and of responsibility for the murders of the eighteen men at the Abbaye (the fourth and fifth charges). The president of the court (Foster) sentenced Meyer to death. The proceedings were closed, but public controversy was imminent.

Few Canadians could visit Germany to attend the Meyer trial, but citizens were provided with information on what was transpiring. The legal proceedings were followed closely by Canadian journalists who ventured to Germany. Patrick Brode has provided an overview of several Canadian newspapers and their interpretations of the Meyer trial. Unfortunately, there has yet to appear any sustained analysis of contemporary Canadian sentiments on the proceedings.[14] The Winnipeg Free Press gave some indication of feelings in a community from which many of the victims had originated. Interspersed with trial coverage were articles on Manitobans murdered at the hands of the 12th SS, like Lance Corporal Austin Fuller, and recollections by men like trooper L.W. Soroke of Grandview, Manitoba, who described the murders of POWs he had witnessed in Authie.[15] These stories personalized the atrocities and made the trial hit home. Therefore, when reports that "the whole sordid creed of Nazi ruthlessness, militarism and blind, unthinking obedience to orders were laid bare to the gaze of the Canadian military court . . . by brigade fuhrer Kurt Meyer" in an "impassioned recital of methods he used to infuse enthusiasm and lust to kill in his S.S. storm troopers,"[16] Meyer's repeated assertion that he did not give any order to kill prisoners were dubiously received. The news that the court found Meyer guilty and ordered him to be shot would have been no surprise to Winnipeg readers, given that the journalists left little speculation as to his culpability even before the trial was over.

General Chris Vokes decision to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment in mid-January 1946 ensured that the Meyer case would be a subject of historical debate and controversy. As confirming authority, Vokes was the last line of appeal before Meyer was shot. He declined a first petition received from the prisoner on 5 January, but later decided that Meyer's degree of responsibility for the killings (as established during the trial) did not warrant the extreme penalty imposed by the court. Newspapers observed the intense protest against this course of action in Canada, reprinting letters to Ottawa from organizations like the Canadian Legion, publishing letters to the editor that denounced the decision as a miscarriage of justice, and showing the mixed feelings amongst Ottawa officials on the matter.[17] Nevertheless, the decision had been made and the convicted war criminal was transferred to Canada for incarceration.

Although Meyer was safely behind bars in New Brunswick's Dorchester Penitentiary to serve out his life sentence, the controversy did not disappear. At trial's end Meyer had applauded the Court for giving him a genuinely fair trial, but evidently such sentiments were now discarded. In 1950, Meyer solicited the help of two Halifax lawyers to plead for his release. Cabinet considered the petition in February 1951 and refused to grant Meyer clemency due "to the temper of public opinion generally." In October of that year he was transferred to Werl, a prison for Nazi war criminals in the British zone of Germany. British and German pressure was brought to bear on the Canadian government to commute Meyer's sentence, which they did on 15 January 1954. Before the year was out he had been released, ten years to the day after his capture in Belgium. He spent the rest of his days selling beer and acting as spokesman for the German veterans' organization representing the Waffen-SS before suffering several strokes and succumbing to heart failure on 23 December 1961.[18]

The First Wave: The Participants Reflect

The participants in the trial began to produce books and memoirs in the 1950s, providing the first wave of historiography on the subject of the murders and the legal proceedings associated with Meyer. In 1954, in the wake of the decision to release Meyer from prison, Bruce Macdonald wrote a comprehensive "factual account" of the investigation and trial. The author realized that he would be "guilty of special pleading" given his role as prosecutor in the case, but he nevertheless tried to be "objective and fair" in his interpretation so that the reader could achieve a "sound and balanced opinion" on the matter.[19] The Trial of Kurt Meyer reinforced Macdonald's strong conviction that Meyer was indeed guilty for the murders in Normandy. He saw the trial as a formality to establish guilt in a legal forum so that justice could be served. The narrative was constructed on this premise.

The book sets out to reaffirm Meyer's guilt in light of the evidence and testimonies compiled against him and the trial itself. Macdonald's description of the Murder Division (a nickname given to the 12th SS based on their reputation for killing POWs) and facts found by the war crimes investigators in Normandy established their guilt. Once the author establishes the legal foundations of the trial, the reader has little question of Meyer's guilt during the recounting of the trial proceedings. He was, of course, disappointed at Vokes' decision to commute the sentence as it seemed to question the usefulness of any effort to establish responsibility on any level above that of the actual perpetrator, and was discouraging to all of us who had laboured so arduously over a long period in the field of war crimes.[20] The only heroes at the end of the legal process were the victims of Meyer's atrocitiescertainly not Meyer or Canadian political authorities.

If Macdonald's purpose was to bring about a clearer understanding of the controversial trial and outcome, from his perspective, the book was a success. The Trial of Kurt Meyer was the first comprehensive examination of the case against Meyer, his trial and the aftermath. However, critical reception of the book was not universally positive. Sam H.S. Hughes, reviewing Macdonald's account in the Canadian Historical Review, felt that it was "neither topical nor timely" (except insofar as it directed public attention to the lessons of the past). Although Macdonald's "lucid and orderly narrative" convinced Hughes that Meyer was fairly tried and properly condemned for the murders, he reflected that had the book been "written a few years earlier . . . it could very easily have settled the question of the subject's confinement of the walls of Dorchester Penitentiary in the way in which the mass of Canadian opinion felt that it should be settled." Instead, Meyer had "profited from the sentimentalism" in Canada and other Commonwealth countries which had "cast a protective cloak over a beaten enemy."[21]

Kurt Meyer, who had enjoyed a hero's welcome after his release, had risen to almost mythical status in Germany during the war. His memoirs, Grenadiere, first appeared in 1956.[22] His interpretation of the trial was not surprising. Meyer saw the evidence presented against him, like the alleged order he had given to his subordinates to not take prisoners, to be as insulting to the judges as to him. In the case of the order he characterized the scrap of paper as being nothing more than a mixture of undigested memories of platoon leaders and company commanders' instructions and malicious defamations.[23] He saw fit to write a chapter entitled "The Facts of the Case" to try and convince the reader of his version of events. Meyer made no apologies in Grenadiere, either for his behaviour (he did not suggest that he ever did anything wrong in Normandy) or for that of his troops.

After receiving his death sentence in December 1945, Meyer had expressed that he had indeed been given a fair trial.[24] However, there was no indication that this was the case in his autobiography. The trial was painted as a miscarriage of justice based on unsubstantiated and fabricated evidence, and he called upon Ralph Allens controversial 1950 editorial in Macleans to substantiate his claim of innocence in light of an unfair legal process.[25] In short, Meyer used his autobiography to entrench his claims of absolute innocence. Previous assertions, like that of having received a fair trial, were recanted or simply omitted when they detracted from his general theme of misjudgement and injustice. By stacking up Canadian newspaper articles and testaments that were sympathetic to his plight, Meyer tried to exonerate himself and demonstrate that he, not the Canadians killed in Normandy, was the real victim.

Chris Vokes, the general responsible for the court martial of Meyer, had been the German officer's "Court of Last Appeal" and had decided to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. Given that the decision had "caused controversy, even furor, at home in Canada and abroad," Vokes defended his decision in his posthumously published memoirs My Life. While he had remained decidedly aloof from the actual court martial (despite all of the "pomp and ceremony surrounding it"), Vokes did recall that "most of the crap coming out of the trial via the media had Meyer condemned even before the trial was over."[26] Although this was to be expected given the timing of the case, the circumstances, and the desire for Canadians to exact revenge for the atrocities they had heard about, the seemingly predetermined outcome was clearly disconcerting to the senior commander. Therefore, while Vokes had initially confirmed the findings and the death sentence, he claimed that he had done so reluctantly:

I know, and knew very well as a divisional commander in war, that certain things probably did not go on that were not always according to The Rules and Usages. I did absolve my own troops, post facto, of bits of hanky panky now and then, of various degrees of seriousness, that were not according to Cocker. But if I had known about the deeds at the time, I would have brought down the wrath of God upon their heads and punished them.
In light of his own experiences, and a trial transcript that contained what he considered a mass of indirect hearsay and circumstantial evidence that in itself did not prove Meyer's guilt, he commuted the sentence. Monty and Guy Simonds refused to aid him in his decision, so he turned to Reggie Orde (the Judge Advocate-General) who concurred that the circumstantial evidence demonstrated "a vicarious responsibility on the part of Meyer, but . . . more akin to manslaughter than murder." It was with this in mind that Vokes informed London that the sentence would be commuted. Since it had not been proven to his satisfaction that Meyer had given a direct order to refuse quarter to the Canadian POWs, he did not want "to go to bed forever with his unwarranted death on my conscience."[27]

Vokes depiction of events was self-defensive, explaining and justifying why he made the decision that he did and who else was involved. As such, it was representative of the first wave of historiography on the Normandy murders and the Meyer trial. The participants saw their memoirs and books as occasions to defend their earlier testimonies and decisions. In this respect the first wave reflected the inherent problem with autobiographical and first-hand accounts. To state the obvious, authors tried to solicit support for their particular points of view. While these books provided a rich body of primary evidence upon which subsequent historians could draw, they also served to perpetuate the original controversy. The divisions inherent in the original debate were embodied in the first-hand accounts of those who were there, and while they offered important insights into the motivations, positions and actions of those involved, they did little to satisfy the broad question of whether the right choices had been made and whether justice had indeed been served.

The Second Wave: The Revisionist/Relativist School

In the 1970s and early 1980s, American journalists and historians began to critically assess the Normandy campaign, challenging the established version of events and issues related to the war (like the murders of POWs). In this revionist current, even the most entrenched notions, such as Allied moral and ethical superiority on the battlefield, were called into question. Carlo D'Este's Decision in Normandy, first published in 1983, suggested that "Normandy was an infantryman's battle with little quarter given by either side." In his view the tone of the campaign was established when the 3rd Canadian Division and the 12th SS met near Bayeux; D'Este repeated the notion that the Germans had heard rumours of the Allies shooting German POWs, so committed their own atrocities at Le Mesnil Patry and Audrieu.[28] In essence, Canadian atrocities precipitated German retaliation. Max Hastings, in Overlord (published the following year), had the following interpretation of events:

Much has been made of the shooting of prisoners - most notoriously, Canadian prisoners - by 12th SS Panzer and other German units in Normandy. Yet it must be said that propoganda has distorted the balance of guilt. Among scores of Allied witnesses interviewed for this narrative, almost every one had direct knowledge or even experience of shooting German prisoners during the campaign. In the heat of battle, in the wake of seeing comrades die, many men found it intolerable to send prisoners to the rear knowing they would thus survive the war, while they themselves seemed to have little prospect of doing so. Many British and American units shot SS prisoners routinely, which explained, as much as the fanatical resistance that the SS so often offered, why so few appeared in POW cages.[29]
The Second World War was no longer as black and white as earlier scholarship might have suggested. Since atrocities were committed by both sides, these authors suggested, guilt should not be confined to the enemy.

The interpretations offered by D'Este and Hastings were indicative of a new stream of thought emerging in military history. The Second World War was now forty years in the past and could be subjected to more 'objective' scrutiny that placed both Allied and Axis forces under the microscope. Perhaps this was the outgrowth of a post-Vietnam mindset, where the lines between the good, pure cause and the evil one had been blurred. Whatever the cause, Canadian amateur historians and journalists began to pursue similar themes and adopted more relativist stances.

In 1986, Tony Foster's Meeting of Generals hit bookstores.[30] Foster produced what amounted to a dual biography of his father, Major-General Harry Foster, and Meyer. From childhood to death he described their formative experiences, prewar and on the battlefield. The author strove to draw parallels between the evolution of the two men, to show that they were not dissimilar from one another. The essence of his study was embodied in a quote taken from his father, Harry, who after the war reflected on the sentiments he felt during the Meyer trial:

There was an irony to this whole distasteful affair. . . Not because of what had happened to my men - that was inexcusable. What struck me as I sat in my comfortable chair looking down at this hardnosed Nazi was that not one of us sitting on the bench, with the exception of Lieutenant Colonel W. D. Bredin, could claim clean hands in the matter of war crimes or atrocities or whatever you want to call them. It hadn't all been one-sided. Our troops did some pretty dreadful things to the Germans. Didn't that make all of us who were commanding officers just as guilty as Meyer? I remember thinking all the time: you poor arrogant bastard. Except for an accident of birth and background our positions might have been reversed. In which case I would now be standing before you asking for justice at this meeting of generals.[31]
In this context, the dust jacket suggested that the book was a uniquely dispassionate examination on the tragedy of men, women, and children on opposing sides in a war. The men, women and children discussed were not the men murdered by the 12th SS in Normandy or their families, but Meyer and Foster and their families.

Meeting of Generals was typical of the revisionist/relativist current. The author suggested that, during the trial, his father had pangs of guilt and questions about the validity of war crimes tribunals given the realities of battle and his own unsavoury exploits on the battlefield. However, in his chapter on the Meyer trial, The Flags Are Folded, he neglects to mention his father's public response to Vokes decision to commute Meyer's sentence. On 16 January 1946, Harry Foster issued a press statement in which he unequivocally suggested that "The best thing to do would be to shoot Meyer."  He was subsequently called before his senior officers for having made such a bold assertion in direct contradiction to the action of Vokes, the convening officer and Foster's superior officer in the matter. Furthermore, when Foster was asked in Ottawa whether or not Canadian troops had ever shot German prisoners, he heatedly denied such accusations (to borrow the words of the Winnipeg Free Press). In fact, one Manitoban applauded Foster for having the courage to stand for the right, regardless of the political axe that might lop off his head afterwards.[32] These strongly expressed sentiments, frank and controversial, hardly correspond with Tony Foster's characterization of his father's beliefs. If anything, they demonstrate the selectivity the author used to draw comparisons between his father and Meyer.

From an historical standpoint the book left much to be desired. Although the study was based on the personal war diaries and memories of Meyer and Foster, archival material, trial transcripts, and interviews conducted by the author in Canada and Western Europe, Foster did not provide the reader with many endnotes on the sources of his material, so validation of his evidence and assessment of his interpretations is somewhat difficult. The author also felt the need to create hypothetical conversations between the various actors in his drama. Certainly this allowed him to show the reader nuances that could not have been derived from the existing archival materials; it also meant that historical accuracy was not his chief priority. Foster also made some very dubious claims. For example, the author suggested that the Canadian Army was so in awe of Meyer's talents as a tactician that he was "spirited out" of Dorechester Penitentiary, disguised as a Canadian lieutenant, and joined a syndicate of Canadian officers planning for defensive measures in the Yukon. Although the author claimed to have conversed with Major-General Kitching about the incident, the latter denied having ever spoken with the author on the matter. Reginald Roy noted in a review of the book that this was just one of many assertions Foster made without substantiating documentary evidence; as such, he advised that the book "should be taken with a cupfull of salt."[33]

If Meeting of Generals called into question post-Second World War war crimes trials, the Valour and the Horror simplified and amplified the argument, took it out of historical context, and disseminated it to a larger audience. The Valour and the Horror has proven to be one of the most controversial documentary productions in Canadian film history. Writer-producers Brian and Terrence McKenna offered what they claimed to be a new perspective on Canadian participation in World War Two. In sharp contrast to many 'conventional' interpretations of the war effort, the writer-producers criticized the immorality and incompetence of senior Canadian and Allied commanders who led the various campaigns. One of the most polemical aspects of the episode "In Desperate Battle: Normandy 1944" centred on the McKennas' relatively brief discussion on the murders of prisoners of war in Normandy. The producers gave credence to allegations that the murders of Allied troops at German hands were simply retaliation for similar Allied atrocities. Telling the story of the Canadian POWs murdered by their German captors at the Abbaye d'Ardennes, and noting that at least 134 Canadian soldiers are known to have been executed by the SS in Normandy, the McKennas claimed that this criminal activity at German hands was but one half of the story. They reiterated SS commander Kurt Meyer's claim that he had evidence (that was, of course, never produced) to show that the Canadians had committed similar crimes, and used an actor to share a British soldier's claim that he had seen evidence of such activities. They concluded:

While the German atrocity in [the garden at the Abbaye d'Ardennes] and others like it were prosecuted, reports of Allied atrocities against Germans were never pursued. The message seems clear. War crimes committed in good cause are politically acceptable, perhaps regrettable, but such crimes are only prosecuted on the side that loses the war.[34]
Therefore, both sides had failed to fulfill the stipulations for conducting a morally just war (jus in bello) by murdering noncombatants (prisoners of war) and violating the "principle of discrimination." What the McKennas found distasteful was that only the losers had been penalized, an assessment similar to that espoused by Tony Foster.[35]

The Valour and the Horror's depiction of Meyer and the murders of POWs was met by a flurry of dissenting opinions. Professional historians, veterans and veterans' organizations all rallied to the cause of defending the war crimes processes and opposing the notion that Allied and German forces had comparable records of immoral activity. Reginald Roy, author of a detailed study of the Normandy Campaign, believed that there were incidents in which German POWs were killed. However, he distinguished between those committed systematically in light of commands and those done on a lower level by individuals:

There are no incidents I know of where it was done systematically and in cold blood, as happened in the lines of the "Hitler Youth" division. Furthermore, I think to compare the incidents is unfair. When news got out about the murder of Canadians by the SS, our own soldiers were enraged, and with good reason. But I believe I am also right in thinking that it was either General Crerar or General Simonds who issued a special order at the time warning the troops not to take revenge on prisoners they captured, as doing so would be a criminal act. I wonder if Kurt Meyer and the rest of the SS did the same?[36]
Robert Vogel similarly characterized the whole episode with regard to the POWs as "a somewhat force fabrication" because no distinction was made between the idea of not taking prisoners (alleged to have been ordered with no substantiating evidence) and the idea of shooting prisoners once they had surrendered and were being moved or transported to the rear.[37] The issue was a lack of valid evidence on the part of the McKennas. David Bercuson offered this challenge:
The narrator [of the Valour and the Horror] tells the viewers that the Germans explained their actions by claiming "they were often retaliating." What is the evidence for this? The actor representing SS General Kurt Meyer tells viewers that he (ie, Meyer) possessed a notebook from a dead Canadian officer with the notation that "no prisoners were to be taken" and that Canadian prisoners had confirmed this. Surely the producers recognize this for the self-serving statement it is? Are they not aware of the record of brutality, well recorded, of Waffen SS units on both fronts throughout the war? Does this not form a context for the shootings which took place at the Abbaye Ardenne?[38]
By giving superficial allegations the same weight as established historical and legal cases, critics saw the McKennas' moral judgment of the Canadians as invalid. Veteran Jean Baby, in no uncertain terms, castigated the producers of the Valour and the Horror for failing to use discretion and balance in their depiction of the issue:
The[ir] treatment of [the] prisoners of war [issue] was shameful, a shame in the face of Canada that Canadians would equate a few possible rumoured, spurious, spontaneous actions of individuals not ordered or commanded. It equates with that the deliberate murders ordered by Kurt Meyer and infers that that puts us about on the same footing as the Germans as a whole; that is six to 20 million individuals killed outside of the war by Germans.[39]
The alleged comparability of Allied and German mistreatment of POWs could be challenged in light of the specific evidence related to murders of prisoners, and also in light of the broad context of the war.

The Third Wave: Campbell, Margolian and Brode

If the Valour and the Horror was 'bad history' that distorted perceptions and duped viewers through the misconstruance of evidence and an abysmal lack of historical context, it also spurred renewed interest in and discussion of the history of the Second World War. Since the first broadcast of the series, several studies have appeared on the murders of Canadian POWs in Normandy. Studies in this 'third wave' of historiography regarding the Meyer trial have unreservedly drawn one common conclusion: there can be no comparison between the systematic murder of Canadian prisoners by the SS to any claims that a few German POWs died at the hands of Canadian soldiers. Although the authors reach this common conclusion, their distinct approaches to the topic merit individual examination, not only to identify different ways in which war crime issues can be assessed, but also to attest to the various currents in recent Canadian military history.[40]

Ian Campbell's Murder at the Abbaye (1996)[41] presented the story of the twenty Canadian soldiers murdered at the Abbaye d'Ardenne. Jack Granatstein noted in the book's preface that while the murder of Canadian POWs was known, what had "always been missing from the accounts of these terrible events was the personal element. Who were the twenty Canadian soldiers killed by the SS at the Abbaye d'Ardenne in the days after D-Day? What was the impact of their death on those they served with and left behind in Canada and England?" Campbell's purpose was to show the human face of the Canadian junior officers, NCOs and privates killed at the Abbaye. He took the reader on a journey with the victims through their enlistment, basic training, their landings on D-Day, and their initial encounters with 12th SS Panzer division. Perhaps most touching are the brief chapters containing excerpts from letters to the victims' families penned by comrades in the field, those sent by concerned wives and parents to Ottawa to try and obtain information on their missing loved ones, and the devastating telegrams sent to families announcing that the men were killed.[42]

In his reconstruction of events, Campbell takes the prosecution's evidence at face value. The reader is left with little question of Meyer's guilt, since the murders are viewed through SS Mann Jan Jesionek's eyes, and the orders heard through his ears. Meyer's allegations of Allied atrocities during his defence "could not withstand scrutiny," according to the author, the idea of retaliation for similar crimes was "hardly a solid legal defence," and his various statements implying rectitude were "unconvincing." In short, Campbell concluded that "Macdonald had successfully undertaken to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Meyer's responsibility for these crimes was personal and direct; his responsibility could hardly have been described as 'vicarous'" (the term Vokes had used to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment). The political opportunism that led to his eventual release was seen as "a turn of events that somehow seemed unfair, if not unjust."[43]

Campbell's interpretation might be termed a 'humanist' approach to the murders at the Abbaye d'Ardenne. The study presents the lives and deaths of the Canadians killed at the Abbaye d'Ardenne as personal tragedies. Although the atrocities were committed collectively by the 12th SS, and can be remembered as such, Campbell ensures that the victims themselves are not forgotten or merely relegated to a numerical status as 'one of twenty.' The author has broken down the 'whole' (broad generalizations about the murder of Canadian POWs in Normandy) and illuminated each 'piece' (the individual human being who was murdered) to stress that each atrocity had a tremendous impact on real Canadians. In this light, the reader is compelled to draw the conclusion that justice should have been carried out. Campbell encouraged us to think of it this way:

Today, there are very few wives or siblings of these twenty men left in the world to remember them. . . A couple of the murdered men had children; few of these children were old enough to remember their dads. But these twenty men, who went away to that war over half a century ago, were very real people. They were extraordinarily ordinary and total unremarkable men. . . Nevertheless, they were men with dreams and aspirations. They loved and were loved. They lived, they served and they were murdered while doing their duty. And today, all Canadians owe them something, if it is only to remember that they were once with us, that they did their duty to the best of their capabilities, and that they were murdered on the grounds at the Abbaye in a faraway place. Their deaths were tragic, but to forget them, or to remember them only as facelesss statistics, is more tragic still.[44]
Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (1998) provided the most comprehensive account of the Normandy murders and the Meyer case to date. While Campbell deconstructed the whole to look at the parts, Howard Margolian, former investigator for the War Crimes Section of the Canadian Department of Justice, carefully laid each piece to construct the whole story of SS atrocities in Normandy. He places the reader at the scene of each crime, telling us the names of the victims and (where possible) the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Using forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts (taken mainly from interrogation reports and the Meyer trial transcript) Margolian details each Canadian murder at the hands of the 12th SS and illuminates the Hitler Youth's practice of systematic murder.

Margolian's study is a direct rebuttal to members of the 'relativist/revisionist' school that contended Allied and German practices in Normandy were equally atrocious.[45] While the author concedes that some of the murders committed after the early clash of arms in Normandy may have been due to the unchecked emotions of young and inexperienced troops, he is careful to distinguish these from the cold, calculated and systematic killings at German headquarters (like the Abbaye d'Ardenne and Chateau d'Audrieu) and those of large numbers of prisoners in transit well behind enemy lines. Arguably, even if a scholar was able to prove an example of a Canadian soldier murdering a German POW, Margolian's basic argument would still hold true. The sheer number of Canadian prisoners killed in Normandy, in a systematic manner, at or near various SS headquarters, dispells all reasonable doubt that 12th SS policies and orders directly and indirectly advocated (and at the very least did not disuade) the refusal of quarter to and the murder of POWs.

In Conduct Unbecoming, Meyer was just one of several SS officers culpable for murder in Normandy. Margolian critically assesses Macdonald's prosecution and his decision to hold Meyer accountable not only for the Abbaye killings "but for all of the POW murders that had been perpetrated in the sectors in which he had exercised command," even though he was not physically present at the crime scenes. This unexplained reversion to a "chain-of-command theory" made the Crown's case daunting, and although Jesionek's testimony was characterized as "devastating" to Meyer (as well Meyer's own defence that "all but shattered" his credibility), the author differed from Campbell in that he believed Vokes' decision to commute the death sentence was "probably fair." Even though Meyer had a "fair hearing" much of the evidence against Meyer would not have been admissable in a civilian court, and although a "reasonable inference" that Meyer had ordered the shooting of Canadians at the Abbaye could been drawn from attendant circumstances, even this evidence was circumstantial. And although Meyer, the first man tried under Canada's war crime regulations, was not sentenced to death, Margolian felt the conviction of "a clearly guilty man" meant that the system itself had worked. The author concluded that the Meyer trial seemed to augur well for the future prosecution of other perpetrators of the Normandy massacres.[46] However, the real failure of justice was not associated with the Meyer case, but the "one who got away." Milius, Mohnke and Bremer were also responsible for war crimes, but were never tried due to Canadian and British negligence, incompetence or indifference. Margolian's chief assertion is that Canada's failure to bring a single member of the 12th SS Panzer Division to "full justice" (death) represented an abrogation of justice.[47]

If Campbell and Margolian might be accused of using the testimony against Meyer at face value, the same could not be said of Patrick Brode. Brode's focus in Casual Slaughters and Accidential Judgments (1997), a study of Canadian war crimes trials from 1944-48, was the legal aspects of the trial and sentencing of Meyer. This author looked at the case from an 'external' viewpoint, assessing the trial not as an end in itself but as part of a broader legal framework for dealing with war crimes.[48] He exposed the difficulties of a victor applying law to a vanquished enemy in the immediate aftermath of a war, when political and emotional factors impede impartial justice. However, in light of current events and past case studies Brode made the case that there is a continued need to put war criminals on trial to ensure that war is fought humanely and according to established conventions.

Brode's study was the most impartial of the third wave studies of the Normandy murders and Meyer trial. The book began with allegations of murders and the discoveries of the first bodies in Normandy. Rather than constructing a narrative of what might have occurred, Brode used the interrogation of Meyer and the trial itself to tell the story. With this approach, which illuminated all of the inconsistencies in the prosecution's and defence's cases respectively, the reader gets the sense that they are privy to the story of systematic murder as it unfolded in its historical context. Furthermore, the Canadian government's relative indifference to the pursuit of war crimes was exposed, illustrating that Macdonald had already fought a battle to establish the legal framework with which to try Meyer before actually prosecuting the SS officer. Although there were questions of partiality and bias inherent in the trial process, such as the permissibility of hearsay and circumstantial evidence, Brode left little doubt that the need to try alleged war criminals meant that special considerations were needed and that these did not necessarily undermine the fairness of the trial.

In the end, Brode was convinced that Meyer was properly convicted for responsibility in the Normandy murders. The author used a sample of newspaper editorials and letters to describe the public outcry over the decision to commute the war criminal's sentence, taking steps to account for these sentiments and the assumptions upon which they were based. Macdonald's interviews with other members of the 12th SS after the trial further confirmed that Meyer's testimony was flawed, and Brode asserted that politics explained why he was released in the mid-1950s, rather than the implausible suggestion that the officer was wrongly convicted.[49] In light of the Canadian execution of convicted war criminals in the Far East, the reader was left questioning the justice in Meyer's eventual release. Brode concedes that Canadians clearly violated the laws in war, and such allegations should have been investigated and Canadians prosecuted, but he was very careful to avoid a relativist position. "Nothing excused Canada's failure to investigate those crimes" committed by her own troops, but clearly "none of them rivalled the extent or the pre-meditation of the 12th SS's crimes."[50] The Meyer war crime trial was relevant to Canadians, Brode asserted, because it embodied the need for a "system of enforceable international justice . . . to punish those who wantonly murder prisoners or the helpless."[51] This tone demonstrated the difference in his final assessment from that espoused in the relativist/revisionist histories. Like the other third wave authors, Brode believed that there would be no greater crime than letting alleged repeat criminals go free after a war on the basis of simplistic we-did-it-too sentiments.


This paper has argued that historical interpretation of the Meyer trial has developed in three distinct waves. The first wave, that of personal reflection and construction by the participants in the legal process and subsequent decision-making, perpetuated and clarified the structure of and arguments in the original controversies over the fate of Meyer. The second wave, which I have called the 'relativist' or 'revisionist' school, was based on the premise that both sides were guilty of war crimes. While recent authors have examined the subject from a variety of lenses and used different methodological approaches, the third wave of historiography has illustrated the salient distinction between the individual murder of POWs and the systematic killings of Canadians that occured in Normandy.

A critical review of books from each wave not only sheds light on the individual authors and their motivations, but offers insight into what each wave represents about the narrativization of the Second World War and war crimes. The first wave studies sought to justify individual actions and ensure that each party to the debate established their facts and counterbalanced conflicting perspectives. This entrenched the existing structure of the debate as it emerged during the trial and after, but did not move the body of literature any closer to a balanced interpretation of events. The second wave of interpretation represented an effort to contextualize the Meyer controversy in a broad framework of understanding. If developments during the Cold War, like Vietnam, confounded the simple delineation of right and wrong, these narratives applied the sentiment that war can have no winners and losers. There were victims on both sides, and on the basis of broad comparisons the second wave authors made such a case for the Normandy crimes. The trial was thus rendered questionable in relative terms. In my opinion, the third wave of scholarship has dismantled any reasonable claim that the Allies and Germans were equally immoral and unlawful on the battlefields of Normandy on the basis of existing evidence. If Allied soldiers were guilty of war crimes, which they likely were, their atrocities were not comparable to those of the 12th SS Panzer Division. By critically assessing the evidence and interpretations that emerged from investigations, the trial, and participants reflections, Campbell, Margolian and Brode have restored the debate to the realm of detailed evidence and rigorous interpretation.

The recent proliferation of research on Kurt Meyer, the 12th SS, and the murder of Canadian POWs in Normandy has bridged gaps in earlier histories and provided useful assessments of and opinions about the debates that have arisen over the controversial topic. Nevertheless, some areas have been explored less thoroughly than others. While the trial against Kurt Meyer has often been revisited, there has been little critical appraisal of the tactics used by the defence. In many ways, the real story of the trial is LCol Andrews' well-executed cross-examinations. As discussed earlier in the paper, although the prosecutor convinced the presiding judge to sentence Meyer to death on the basis of his case, Vokes commuted the sentence because he did not feel that the evidence presented had warranted such an extreme punishment. Therefore, in light of the circumstances and numerous witnesses called forth by the prosecution, Andrews did an admirable job of defending Meyer - even though he did not want to take the case and refused to participate on Meyer's behalf in subsequent appeals.[52] A scholarly assessment of the defence's line of argumentation would be a useful addition to the evolving literature.

Furthermore, while Brode raised the issues of social interest in the Meyer case and political involvement in decision-making, these themes could be further developed, especially from the German perspective. A critical assessment of the mass of correspondence and newspaper editorials regarding the commutation of Meyer's sentence, as well as the decision to transfer him to Germany and later release him, would broaden the historiography of the post-trial period. Canadian political involvement in the latter decisions appeared to result from Allied diplomatic lobbying, as well as resolute efforts by the German government itself. To understand the government's decision to shorten Meyer's sentence to fourteen years and then release him, it must be contextualized in the broader strategic and political context of West Germany's importance to the Allies during the Cold War. How these broad considerations were directly and indirectly manifest in the Meyer case remain to be clarified.

Another valuable asset would be the publication of an edited and annotated version of the legal proceedings. Given that the trial transcript has not been published and therefore is not very accessible to students and academics, the edited proceedings would provide an opportunity for scholars to undertake critical appraisals of the trial and subsequent decisions. Because it is an intriguing and interesting document in its own right, the trial proceedings would also give professors and teachers the ability to use the primary document as a learning tool. Much of the nine hundred page trial transcript could be pruned down to make it less repetitious and more readable without sacrificing its value as a whole.

The fate of Canadian prisoners of war at the hands of their 12th SS Panzer Division captors continues to captivate, horrify, and enfuriate Canadians. It has become to interested Canadians what the Malmedy massacre is to the Americans - a symbol of the tragedy of war and the travesty of justice when politics are allowed to interfere. Of the total 1017 fatal casualties suffered by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade in Normandy, one in seven died not in combat but in the hands of their captors.[53] For the twenty Canadian soldiers who died at the Abbaye d'Ardenne, their memories live on. The flurry of recent monographs on the murders of Canadians in Normandy attest to this, as does the annual meeting of local citizens and young Canadians in the garden to commemmorate the fallen.

The Charges Against Kurt Meyer [54]

First Charge Sheet

The accused, Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer, an officer in the former Waffen SS, then a part of the Armed Forces of the German Reich, now in the charge of 4 Battalion, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Canadian Army Occupation Force, Canadian Army Overseas, is charged with:

First Charge: Committing a War Crime, in that he, in the Kingdom of Belgium and Republic of France during the year 1943 and prior to the 7th day of June 1944, when Commander of 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, in violation of the laws and usages of war, incited and counselled troops under his command to deny quarter to Allied troops.

Second Charge: Committing a War Crime, in that he, in the province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 7th day of June 1944, as Commander of the 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war, in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command killed twenty-three Canadian prisoners of war at or near the Villages of Buron and Authie.

Third Charge: Committing a War Crime, in that he, at his headquarters at L'Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne in the Province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 8th day of June 1944, when Commander of the 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, in violation of the laws and usages of war gave orders to troops under his command to kill seven Canadian prisoners of war, and as a result of such orders the said prisoners of war were thereupon shot and killed.

Fourth Charge: (Alternative to the Third Charge) Committing a War Crime, in that he, in the province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 8th day of June 1944, as Commander of the 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command shot and killed seven Canadian prisoners of war at his Headquarters at L'Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne.

Fifth Charge: Committing a War Crime, in that he, in the province of Normandy and Republic of France on or about the 7th day of June, 1944, as Commander of the 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was responsible for the killing of prisoners of war, in violation of the laws and usages of war, when troops under his command killed eleven Canadian prisoners of war other than those referred to in the Third and Fourth Charges) at his Headquarters at L'Ancienne Abbaye Ardenne.


The author acknowledges the support of the Department of National Defence (Security and Defence Forum) and the University of Calgary during the preparation of this article.He thanks Chris Madsen, David Bercuson, Jennifer Arthur, and an anonymous reader for their valuable comments.

1. Schutzstaffen.
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2. Jean-Jacques Lerosier, "L'hommage aux Canadiens tués à l'abbaye d'Ardenne," Journal de Ouest-France, 7 juin 1998; excerpt from diary of Whitney Lackenbauer, "The 1998 Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation Study Tour," Canadian Military History 7/4 (Autumn 1998), 74.
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3. B.J.S. Macdonald, The Trial of Kurt Meyer (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co.), xiii.
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4. DND, Directorate of History and Heritage (hereafter DHH), G Int HQ Cdn Forces in the Netherlands, "Special Interrogation Report: Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer, Comd 12 SS Pz Div 'Hitler Jugend, 24 August 45."
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5. Other senior officers in the 12th SS implicated in Normandy war crimes included: Karl-Heinz Milius, William Mohnke, and Gerd Bremer.See Howard Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).
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6. Gerald Reitlinger, The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945 (New York: Arms and Armor Press, 1981), 196; DHH, G Int HQ Cdn Forces in the Netherlands, "Special Interrogation Report: Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer.îSee Kurt Meyer, Grenadiers, trans. Michael Mendé (Winnipeg, MB: J.J. Fedorowicz, 1994), for examples of Meyerís daring (if not reckless) exploits in the field.Upon the announcement of the commutation of Meyer's death sentence to life imprisonment, the Russians demand that Meyer be turned over to them for their own war crimes trial. "Soviet May Seek Meyer For Trial," Winnipeg Free Press, 18 January 1946, 1.
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7. Ian Campbell, Murder at the Abbaye: The Story of Twenty Canadian Soldiers Murdered at the Abbaye díArdenne (Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1996), 76-77; Margolian, Condust Unbecoming, 60-61.
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8. See Margolian, Condust Unbecoming, for a detailed description of each of the murders.
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9. The Allied war crimes policy was established by the 1943 Moscow Declaration by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt, and therefore an institutional framework was already in existence by 1944.
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10. See Patrick Brode, Casual Slaughters and Accidential Judgments: Canadian War Crimes Prosecutions, 1944-1948 (Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1997) and Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming.
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11. Bill Fenrick, "The Prosecution of War Criminals in Canada," Dalhousie Law Journal (1989), 289; Macdonald, The Trial of Kurt Meyer, 22-23; Campbell, Murder at the Abbaye, 130-32.
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12. Campbell, Murder at the Abbaye, 140.
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13. DHH, File 159.95023 (D7), "Record of Proceedings (Revised) of the Trial by Canadian Military Court of S.S. Brigadefuehrer (Major General) Kurt Meyer held at Aurich, Germany 10-28 December 1945"; Case No. 22, "The Abbaye Ardenne Case," Law Reports of War Criminals 1 (1945), 97-112.
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14. See Brode, Casual Slaughters, Chapter 6:"But for the Grace of God," 102-115.
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15. Winnipeg Free Press, 15 December 1945, 2; 3 January 1946, 17.See also ì34 Manitoba Men Believed Murdered,î including a list of the names of all the Manitoban POWs shot by the SS in Normandy, 13 December 1945, 1.
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16. Winnipeg Free Press, 19 December 1945, 1.
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17. Winnipeg Free Press, 14-17 January 1946, 1; 19 January 1946, 14; 26 January 1946, 16.
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18. James Whalen, ìThe Face of the Enemy: Kurt Meyer: Normandy to Dorchester,î The Beaver 74 (April/May 1994), 20-23; Brode, Casual Slaughters, 206-14.
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19. Macdonald, The Trial of Kurt Meyer, xv-xvi.
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20. Macdonald, The Trial of Kurt Meyer, 200.
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21. Sam H.S. Hughes,rev. of The Trial of Kurt Meyer, by B.J.S. Macdonald, Canadian Historical Review XXXVI/1 (March 1955), 164-5.
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22. The citations in this paper are of the English translation by Michael Mendé, published as Grenadiers (Winnipeg, MB: J.J. Fedorowicz, 1994).
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23. Meyer, Grenadiers, 202.
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24. See Brode, Casual Slaughters, 100.
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25. Meyer, Grenadiers, 219-223. See also Ralph Allen, "Was Kurt Meyer Guilty?" Maclean's, 1 Feb 1950, 9.
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26. Chris Vokes and John P. Maclean, Vokes: My Story (Ottawa: Gallery Books, 1985), 205.
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27. Vokes and Maclean, My Story, 205-8.
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28. Carlo D'Este, Decision in Normandy, fiftieth anniversary edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 507.
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29. Max Hastings, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), 211.
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30. The caption on the dust jacket was telling about the tone of the entire book: "They met first in battle--then in court. One sentenced the other to death for war crimes. But . . . who was guilty?" It was this "dispassionate" line of questioning that Foster sought to explore. Meeting of Generals (Toronto: Methuen, 1986).
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31. Foster, Meeting of Generals, xxiii.
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32. Winnipeg Free Press, 17 January 1946, 1; 18 January 1946, 1; H. Howlett, letter to the editor, 26 January 1946, 16.
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33. See Reginald H. Roy, Rev. of Meeting of Generals, by Tony Foster, Canadian Historical Review LXIX/4 (December 1988), 123-4.
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34. Post production script, Normandy Episode, 01:26:49:10 - 01:34:40:00, "The Valour and the Horror," http://www.valourandhorror.com <http://www.valourand> (last accessed 15 October 1998).There were, of course, cases where Allied soldiers were tried for war crimes after the Second World War, although no Canadians were among those convicted of murdering POWs.
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35. Although the McKennas conclusion was seen by some as pro-Nazi, their argument was more likely constructed to argue that the Canadians were also guilty of atrocities, and to stress that the line between black and white is not always clear in wartime - an argument that would be very much in line with their overarching hypothesis.Rather than taking their perspective as a suggestion that all war crime trials should be abolished because they are biased by the victor-vanquished power structure, they were more likely arguing that the Allies should have been more rigorous in dealing with their own criminal activities.Unfortunately, with little evidence to substantiate their claims in the face of contradictory evidence, the McKennas' moral judgments on the murders of POWs and the folly of the postwar processes to deal with purported Allied war crimes can be dismissed.
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36. 25 June 1992, Senate, Proceedings of the Standing Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs (hereafter Proceedings), 3:64-65.
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37. 25 June 1992, Proceedings, 3:79.
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38. David Bercuson in The Valour and the Horror Revisited, Eds. D.J. Bercuson and S.F. Wise (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), 55.
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39. 3 November 1992, Proceedings, 6:44.Vogel expressed that "the inability to make distinctions - or the attempt not to make distinctions - Ö gives the film a cartoon-like character."25 June 1992, Proceedings, 3:79-80.See also Terry Copp, submission to Senate Committee, 25 June 1992, Proceedings, 3A:16-17.
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40. Other historical studies that deal with the Meyer trial, but will not be analyzed in this paper due to space constraints, are Whalen, "The Face of the Enemy," which provides a brief overview of Meyerís experiences in Canada and Chris Madsen's Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999) which reflects on the case in the broader context of Canadian military law.
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41. Murder at the Abbaye (Ottawa: Golden Dog Press, 1996).Colonel Campbell, a retired Canadian Army officer who served in various staff and line appointments in Canada and overseas, became interested in the subject after a visit to the Abbaye d'Ardenne while he was serving in Germany.
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42. See Chapter 12 "The Home Front" and Chapter 13 "The Garden at the Abbaye d'Ardenne."
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43. Campbell, Murder at the Abbaye, 145-6, 165-66.
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44. Campbell, Murder at the Abbaye, 167.
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45. Margolian listed two purposes.The first was to warn "of what can happen when soldiers are dehumanized by political indoctrination, the encouragement of ugly prejudices, and the creed of blind obedience." The second was to "honour oft-forgotten and occasionally scorned heroes," in light of the historical revisionists (Valour and the Horror) who debated and attacked the causes for which World War II veterans fought and bled.The author felt this book would educate readers and help to alleviate the "considerable anguish" felt recently be Canadian veterans, "particularly among the dwindling ranks of the survivors of the Normandy massacres." Conduct Unbecoming, xi.
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46. Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming, 150-51, 164, 166, 170.
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47. Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming, 180, 184-86.
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48. The book was published by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).
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49. See chapters 11 and 12, Brode, Casual Slaughters.
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50. Brode, Casual Slaughters, 220-1.
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51. Brode, Casual Slaughters, 229.
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52. The author is indebted to Chris Madsen and the numerous conversations they had on this topic. Subsequent to the preparation of this article, they delivered a joint paper entitled "Justifying Atrocities: Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Andrew and the Defence of Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer" to the Canada and War Conference, Ottawa, 7 May 2000, which is to be published in the conference proceedings. 
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53. Margolian, Conduct Unbecoming, 123.
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54. DHH, File 159.95023 (D7), "Record of Proceedings (Revised) of the Trial by Canadian Military Court of S.S. Brigadefuehrer (Major General) Kurt Meyer held at Aurich, Germany 10-28 December 1945."
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Archival Documents

DND, Directorate of History and Heritage

File 159.95023 (D7). "Record of Proceedings (Revised) of the Trial by Canadian Military Court of S.S. Brigadefuehrer (Major General) Kurt Meyer held at Aurich, Germany 10-28 December 1945."

G Int HQ Cdn Forces in the Netherlands, "Special Interrogation Report: Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer, Comd 12 SS Pz Div 'Hitler Jugend, 24 August 45."

University of British Columbia, Special Collections

Gardner, Ray. "Wanted for Murder: S.S. Brigadefuehrer Kurt Meyer." Pamphlet, 195?. SPAM 10157.

Government Publications

Canada. House of Commons. Debates.

Canada. Senate. Proceedings of the Standing Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. 3rd Sess., 24th Parl., 1991-92. Issue Nos 3-10.


Winnipeg Free Press.

Books and Articles

"The 1998 Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation Study Tour." Canadian Military History 7/4 (Autumn 1998): 71-9.

Allen, Ralph. "Was Kurt Meyer Guilty?" Maclean's, 1 February 1950, 9.

Bercuson, David J. and S.F. Wise, eds. The Valour and the Horror Revisited. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994.

Blackwell, Tom. "War veterans recall little known massacre." Vancouver Sun, 6 June 1992, A7.

Brode, Patrick. Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgments: Canadian War Crimes Prosecutions, 1944-1948. Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1997.

Campbell, Ian. Murder at the Abbaye: The Story of Twenty Canadian Soldiers Murdered at the Abbaye dArdenne. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1996.

Case No. 22, "The Abbaye Ardenne Case." Law Reports of War Criminals 1 (1945): 97-112.

Copp, Terry. No Price Too High: Canadians and the Second World War. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1995.

D'Este, Carlo. Decision in Normandy. Fiftieth anniversary edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Fenrick, Bill. "The Prosecution of War Criminals in Canada." Dalhousie Law Journal (1989).

Foster, Tony. Meeting of Generals. Toronto: Methuen, 1986.

Goad, George. "Kurt Meyer Was My Prisoner." Weekend Magazine 9/16 (1959): 32, 34-5.

Hastings, Max. Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

Lerosier, Jean-Jacques. "L'hommage aux Canadiens tuÈs ¦ l'abbaye d'Ardenne." Journal de Ouest-France 7 juin 1998.

Macdonald, B.J.S. The Trial of Kurt Meyer. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co., 1954.

Madsen, Chris. Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999.

Margolian, Howard. Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.

Meyer, Kurt. Grenadiers. Trans. Michael MendÈ. Winnipeg, MB: J.J. Fedorowicz, 1994.

Reitlinger, Gerald. The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-1945. New York: Arms and Armor Press, 1981.

Vokes, Chris and John P. Maclean. Vokes: My Story. Ottawa: Gallery Books, 1985.

Weisbord, Merrily and Merilyn Simonds Mohr. The Valour and the Horror: The Untold Story of Canadians in the Second World War. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1991.

Whalen, James M. "The Face of the Enemy: Kurt Meyer: Normandy to Dorchester," The Beaver 74 (April/May 1994).

Book Reviews

Hughes, Sam H.S. Rev. of The Trial of Kurt Meyer, by B.J.S. Macdonald. Canadian Historical Review XXXVI/1 (March 1955): 164-5.

Kramer, Arnold. Rev. of Conduct Unbecoming, by Howard Margolian. The Journal of Military History 62/4 (October 1998): 954-5.

Roy, Reginald H. Rev. of Meeting of Generals, by Tony Foster. Canadian Historical Review LXIX/4 (December 1988): 123-4.

Electronic Sources

"The Valour and the Horror." http://www.valourandhorror.com. Last accessed 15 October 1998.