Excavation work is to start soon to find the bodies of up to 40 German soldiers who were executed by the French Resistance in June 1944.
It follows the testimony of an ex-Resistance fighter who recently broke eight decades of silence to reveal how the Germans were shot in a wood near Meymac in central France.
Edmond Réveil, 98, is the last surviving member from the local branch of the FTP (Francs et Tireurs Partisans) Resistance group, and personally witnessed the mass execution at a place called Le Vert.
In a recorded deposition, Réveil described how his detachment of 30 fighters was escorting German prisoners through countryside east of Tulle when the order came to kill them.
The commander of the detachment, whose code name was Hannibal, “cried like a kid when he got the order. But there was discipline in the Resistance,” remembered Réveil.
“He asked for volunteers to carry out the order. Every fighter had someone to kill. But there were some of us – and I was one of them – who said we wouldn’t take part.
“It was a terribly hot day. We made them dig their own graves. They were killed and we poured quicklime on them. I remember it smelled of blood. We never spoke of it again.”
Réveil, whose codename in the war was Papillon (Butterfly), kept the secret for 75 years, even from his family.
Then unexpectedly in 2019 he rose at the end of a local meeting of the National Veterans’ Association and announced he had something to say.
Meymac’s mayor Philippe Brugere told the BBC that it was like a weight had been lifted from Réveil’s mind.
“Over the years he had plenty of opportunities to tell the story, and he never did. But he was the last witness. It was a burden to him. He knew that if he didn’t speak out, no-one would ever know.”