Brigadefuhrer Kurt Meyer remains a controversial figure in Canadian military history. As a commander of Waffen-SS troops in Normandy, he fought the Canadians in the days and weeks after the Allied landings and allegedly ordered the killing of prisoners of war. A Canadian military court at Aurich in occupied Germany tried and convicted Meyer on charges of war crimes. Although sentenced to death, Meyer received commutation to life imprisonment from the convening authority, Major-General Chris Vokes. Meyer was imprisoned in New Brunswick and West Germany until his release in 1954. Several significant political, legal, public opinion, diplomatic, and military factors worked together to turn Meyer into Canada's most notorious war criminal. His trial raised delicate issues of command responsibility for the first time, while Meyer and his formation, the 12th SS Panzer Division, became almost household names in some parts of Canada.
Some Canadians may have genuinely hated the man and his ideals, but Meyer garnered curiosity and respect for his abilities as a fighting officer. A combat veteran of campaigns in Poland, the West, the Balkans, and the Eastern Front, Meyer felt most comfortable at the front of his troops. The inclination was borne from years of experience in the reconnaissance role and a personal disregard for danger. Meyer was among the best-regarded silver foxes of the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of Heinrich Himmler's Schutzstaffel. Meyer likely did not believe that he would survive the war; this fact may have played some part in his complicity in the killing of Canadian prisoners of war behind the lines. Winning the battle or to die trying in a heroic fashion was always his first concern. After being captured alive, Meyer became the subject of several interrogations to further investigations for his eventual war crimes prosecution and to assess Canadian and German battlefield performance during the Normandy campaign.
The following document gives good insights into Meyer’s background, his unwavering adherence to the Nazi cause, the obvious pride in his formation’s conduct, and the tactical battles against the Canadians in Normandy. This interview was conducted by the G Intelligence officer at the HQ of Canadian Forces in the Netherlands on 24 August 1945. In terms of operational details on the battlefield, Meyer demonstrated a remarkable memory, which proved less forthcoming on other matters during his war crimes trial. Meyer obviously inflated his own role and that of the troops under his command in operations. Canadian interrogators, on the other hand, added their own analysis of Meyer’s claims. While furnishing an important perspective from the enemy’s side, this interrogation report must be used with the standard checks for bias and reliability in any primary source.
Anonymous "Special Interrogation Report: Brigadefuhrer Kurt Meyer Command, 12th SS Panzer Division (6 June-25 August 1944)." Canadian Military History 11, 4 (2002)