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 Führer 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.
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: