I always gravitate toward levity and humor on my blog, but I’m going to veer sharply from that today. This post is an extremely tragic story and there is no light or humor to be found in it.
Regular readers of my website know that I’m endlessly intrigued by abandoned houses, villages and towns and the stories behind them. But when I learned about this small town in France I actually cried.
Here is the story of this uninhabited town, frozen in time and grief….
Oradour-sur-Glane was a village in the west-central Limousin region of France with roots going back 1000 years in time. The majority of the town’s inhabitants, plus a couple of unfortunate souls passing through on bicycles, were killed on June 10, 1944 by the German Waffen SS soldiers in World War II.
642 innocent men, women and children ranging in age from one week old to 90 years, were rounded up and slaughtered. The village was then pillaged and burned.
On the order of then president of France, Charles de Gaulle, the remains of the town of Oradour-sur-Glane were preserved as a permanent memorial and museum.
A new village named Oradour-sur-Glane was built nearby, but the ruins of the original town survive to this day, bearing witness to the horrors that occurred there.
On the morning of June 10 1944, a German SS battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane with the aim of exacting revenge and teaching the French a lesson for a purported kidnapping of a Waffen-SS officer by the French Resistance movement.
In a sad twist of fate, the occupying Nazis mistook Oradour-sur-Glane for their intended target village with a similar name: Oradour-sur-Vayres.
They assembled all of the townspeople in the central square under the guise of having their identity papers checked. In addition to all of the local residents who were present on that day, the SS also ensnared six young people who did not live there but had the great misfortune of just having ridden through town on a bicycle trip when the Germans arrived.
The women and children were separated from the men and locked inside the village church. The men were taken to six barns where the SS had already moved machine guns into place.
The Nazis shot the men in their legs to prolong the agony. Once all the men in the barns were immobile, the structures were doused with fuel and set on fire.
190 men perished there. Six were able to escape.
Victims of the massacre at Oradour-Sur-Glane killed on 10 June 1944
All of these children died on that day
The SS then returned to the church where the women and children were held and ignited an incendiary device. As the church burned from the inside, many of the women and children attempted to jump through windows. The SS were waiting with machine guns.
In total, 247 women and 205 children were killed there. Only one woman survived.
The church where the women & children were mudered
47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche slid out of a rear sacristy window along with a young woman and her child. All three were shot; only Madame Rouffanche survived her wounds. She crawled to some bushes behind the church and lay bleeding all night until she was rescued the following morning.
Madame Marguerite Rouffanche
She was hospitalized for over a year; but her psychic wounds never fully healed. She grieved and held vigil for her loved ones and her village for the rest of her life. She died in 1988.
During the night of the massacre, the village was burned and partially razed.
In the following days, relatives of the dead were permitted to recover the charred bodies and bury them.
Burned out cars and household goods still litter the remains of the village.
Today, the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane are preserved as a memorial to the dead, and to acknowledge similar events that were perpetrated around Europe during the Second World War.
In the years after WWII, a new village named Oradour-sur-Glane (present population 2,100) was built northwest of the site of the massacre where relatives of the dead gathered and where their descendants still reside.
In 1999 French president Jacques Chirac dedicated a memorial museum, the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour, near the entrance to the Village Martyr (“martyred village”). Its museum includes items recovered from the burned-out buildings: watches stopped at the time their owners were burned alive, glasses melted from the intense heat, and various personal items.
– from: wikipedia
On this day of Remembrance and deference to Veterans, please spare a thought for not only the soldiers of war, but the innocent victims who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just riding their bicycles through town…