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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE

I have left this post till I came home from France so that I had time to think about how I would approach it.

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On the day of 10th June 1944 all was peaceful in the little village of Oradour-sur-Glane.
The streets of this little village in the rural heart of the Dordogne Region of France were never busy with people and the war had waged for many years now without actually touching this quiet backwater.
What young men there were left in the village planned a soccer match for the next day and it was the topic of any chance conversations. The children of the village were all busy at their schoolwork in the village school.

Into the village on this bright Summer afternoon marched a band of 200 soldiers from Der F├╝hrer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division Das Reich.

They gathered together the occupants of this little village.
The men were separated from the women and children who were moved to the church.

Systematically the men were divided up into groups and marched to different barns in the village where they were machine gunned down as they stood and their bodies were then set alight.

Four men survived, wounded but still able to hide by covering themselves with the bodies of their friends and neighbours.

The church door was locked and all escape routes barred, then through the windows the women and children inside were shot and the church set on fire so that those inside who remained alive were burnt. Only one woman escaped through a small window behind the altar.

 642 villagers were massacred including 240 women and 205 children.

Those brave soldiers of the Waffen SS then went about systematically destroying the village, blowing up buildings and setting them alight before leaving a smoking ruin behind.


* photo from the Internet


When French President DeGaul visited the ruins of the village at the end of the war he ordered the village to be preserved as a War Memorial and so it stand today, exactly as the German soldiers left it, a harrowing example of the madness and cruelty of war.



 
 

The rusted car from which the Mayor of the village was dragged on that awful day sits there, an abandoned hulk.
 
 
 
Inside the buildings - shops and homes alike- are remnants of the lives of the people of Oradour.
 

 
 

 

 

 
                                           So many homes had sewing machines !
 

 
 
Charred, rusted and bent but still recognisable !
 
 
 








We visited Oradour-sur-Glane while we were staying in Sarlat.
It was an hour and a half drive away and I can tell you that the drive home was a quiet one as we all digested what we had seen. 
 


There is a large Memorial Centre that leads you to the entrance to the village - so ghostly quiet - and a modern new village constructed just up the road.




If you would like to read more about Oradour-sur-Glane and its horrific story try these:

http://www.oradour.info/ruined/chapter2.htm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/10289171/Oradour-sur-Glane-France-moments-of-Nazi-massacre-frozen-in-time.html

Cheers.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this Helen. I can see why you were very quiet as you left the place.
    I wonder what Oradour-sur-Glane means. Possibly - "The Dark Heart of Humankind". And it happened such a short time ago. May they rest in peace.

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    1. A wonderful War Memorial that really gets you thinking.

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  2. When we lived in France we could see Oradour sur Glane from our house about 8 km away and we visited it often when friends came to stay. I was always expecting it to be a melancholy somewhat ghostly place but in fact I didn't find it so even though what happened there was so dreadful. I was taken more with the kind of lives that had been lived there with all those ladies busy on their sewing machines and the number of hairdressers and cafes etc. It must have been a prosperous little town and on a hot summer's day I could hear not the screams of those who suffered in the atrocity so much as the happy cries of the children who playing on the green whilst their mothers shopped and chatted with their friends.. Odd but then I am odd as you know and maybe it was because to think of the day when the slaughter took place was impossible for me to comprehend. How one human being could do such a thing to another is beyond comprehension and perhaps for me the town stood as a reminder of what can happen when evil takes over but also of hope that it will never happen again. The most moving part for me was the little museum with the remains of the possessions such as glasses and toys etc which were saved from the ensuing inferno. I couldn't imagine what the young menfolk felt when they returned from their work in Limoges to discover that their lives had changed for ever like that. I am not sure what Oradour means though some say it comes from oratio (latin) and means a place of speech or prayer but sur Glane means on the river Glane and there are several other Oradours in France.

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    1. I found it quite eerie Jane but I was expecting that A tragic place in a lovely part of the world.

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  3. Oh Helen, no wonder you had to reflect on this post. How sobering to see that village. How sad.

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  4. What a chilling reminder of the horrors of war and how terribly humans can treat others. I wonder if those Nazi soldiers had nightmares in years to come. I certainly hope so. Let us never forget.

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    1. It's an awful story Lorrie.....and a very good memorial.

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  5. Such a disturbing, distressing heartbreaking story ...another horrific example of man's callous inhumanity to man. Humans never learn...they never will. How very, very sad...It's difficult to express, here, how I feel...but I'm sure you understand....

    I can hear, sense the silence as you drove away. I know I would've been in tears if I wandered through the remains of what was once people's lives.

    Back in the 80s I visited Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery with a group of people with whom I was attending a trade seminar, and none of us could speak. A cloud of silence descended. It engulfed us one and all. We each drifted off, alone with our own thoughts and emotions. I've never forgotten that moment.

    From there we went up to the start of the Kokoda Trail......

    As heartbreaking as it is....stories like the one you've just told here about what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane should never be hidden away. They must be shown and told over and over again to future generations...throughout the world. Maybe...just maybe...one day humans will wake up to themselves...start respecting each other...maybe...one day....

    Lest We Forget....

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  6. Such a harrowing story, but still so real and important. The photos are wonderful.Thanks for sharing in such a sensitive and interesting post. Ros x

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