Oradour-sur-Glane France, Lest we forget

Written by on October 30, 2014 in Battlefields and War Memorials, Limousin

oradour-sur-glane

I visited Oradour-sur-Glane in the Limousin region many years ago. The town is known as the village of the martyrs, a sad memorial to it’s tragic past and the atrocity that took place there on 10 June 1944…

I had been camping along the Atlantic Coast on my way to a rugby match at Nontron. It was mid June and the weather was gloriously hot. Passing a sign for Oradour-sur-Glane my companion and I decided to stop off and visit. He knew more than I, a village destroyed during World War II by occupying forces he said, it had been left almost exactly as it was one terrible day in June, 1944.

The memory of that visit has never left me. Although a sunny day, I nevertheless shivered as I surveyed the complete destruction that was laid out before me. The explanation my friend had given was in no way preparation for the sight that met my eyes and the story that unfolded and I am not ashamed to tell you that I cried when I heard what had happened here.

oradour-sur-glane-house

I visited again in June 2014. There have been big changes. A visitor centre has been erected and through a series of photographs, information boards, film and artefacts, the story of what happened in this once prosperous rural village is revealed as far as is known. For the fact is, to this day, no-one can say for sure why the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich unit wreaked such terrible havoc on the village and its people.

This visit was no less poignant than my first time though the elements have taken their toll on this eerily quiet, still place.

German forces, reeling from the Normandy D-Day landing battles sought to repress French Resistance activity, fearing that it could get out of control. Although no one can say precisely why Oradour-sur-Glane was their target it is thought that the SS unit patrolling the area decided to make an example of the village and terrify others into submission.

oradour-sur-glane-building

It isn’t easy for me to write this, the words are hard to find that can convey the sheer awfulness of man’s inhumanity to man. The SS unit rounded the villagers up, herded women and children into a church and the men into groups in various buildings in the town. They then massacred them. 642 people ranging from babies to the old and infirm were murdered. 240 women and 205 children were asphyxiated, machine-gunned and burnt alive in the church. The men were shot. The town was then systematically destroyed. Every house, shop, bike shed, chicken coop was decimated.

oradour-sur-glane-tramline

When years later the time to clear up came, it was decided to build a new town and to leave the old village exactly as it is. Cars rust in the streets, an upturned pram, a doll, pair of spectacles – the detritus of everyday life has been left as it was that terrible day. A memorial to the victims and a reminder that we should do all we can to ensure such days never come again. It must be said, this does not make for a happy visit but it is an incredibly powerful experience, one that stuns all those who go there.

As Victor Hugo, the great French writer once said “Those who live must think of the dead”…

Oradour-sur-Glane Memorial Centre website

For information on what to see and do in Limousin visit: www.tourismelimousin.com
For information on France see uk.rendezvousenfrance.com

Related Articles

The Douglas Bader Trail, Saint Omer, Hauts de France

Saint Omer in Nord, Hauts de France is a quintessentially French market town. It has a long and illustrious history. Thomas a Becket AKA Saint Thomas Becket took refuge from Henry II of England in there in 1165. Centuries later, three of America’s Founding Fathers, Daniel, Charles and John Carroll, studied at the Jesuit Chapel. […]

Continue Reading

The Blockhaus Eperlecques, Nord, Hauts de France

Several years ago, on my way south from Dunkirk in northern France, I stopped off at Eperlecques, a small town you access off the main autoroute. A sign for the Blockhaus d’Eperlecques was intriguing enough to lure me from my travel plans. What I discovered, in an area of beautiful countryside where the sound of […]

Continue Reading

Cambrai Tank 1917 Museum Cambrai France

From Lille to Cambrai is just a short trip. Go in time for lunch at Cambrai’s Brasserie Beatus in the Avenue de Paris and you’re in for a real treat.  Peter Jones travelled there to discover more about a World War I tank called Deborah. Not any old tank, but the only one that survives from […]

Continue Reading

Dunkirk the film and the town

It’s one of the blockbuster films of 2017 – Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French), Christopher Nolan’s film about Operation Dynamo, the historic event which saw the rescue of allied forces from the beaches on Dunkirk during World War II. The film Dunkirk Filmed largely on location on the beaches of Dunkirk with a clutch of stars […]

Continue Reading

Interview with an Expat in France | Haute Vienne

We talk to Jacqui Wood from the UK who now lives and works in the lovely Haute-Vienne region, north-west France. It’s an area of forests and lakes, unspoiled countryside and picturesque villages as well as the lovely city of Limoges, famous for its porcelain production. Jacqui and her husband Mark, a former London policeman before […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top