11 Aug 2014
|The drive to Oradour-Sur-Glane (Oradour on the Glane river) was largely uneventful, save for us worrying about running out of petrol. The TomTom GPS I have took us the most direct route, which was via the back roads from Chenonceau directly to Oradour. This meant we avoided all the motorways, and subsequently all of the roadhouses we had expected. Never fear, we had a diesel car, which had hundreds of km left in the tank, even though we were under a quarter of a tank to go.
Aside from that, we got to Oradour in the afternoon, about 3pm. It is free entry into the main part of the Oradour ruins, although you can pay a small fee to go through the museum. We were a bit worried about running late into our final stop (Limoges), so we elected to skip the museum.
For those who are unsure what on earth Oradour-Sur-Glane is, I will do my best to explain it. It is, excluding the holocaust, one of the worst acts of terrorism of WW2. Oradour-Sur-Glane was a town of 642 people. On the 10th June 1944, the town was massacred. To this day, it is not completely clear as to why. It is believed that a miscommunication, between some French nazi-informers, who told German command, that a waffen SS officer was being held captive by the French Resistance at Oradour-Sur-Vayres.
A newly promoted office, told his superior of the information, but instead of going to Oradour-Sur-Vayres, they went to Oradour-Sur-Glane. When they arrived, they told all the townsfolk, and all found on nearby roads, to gather in the village square.
From here, they separated the men into groups, and lead them to different parts of the village. The women and children were lead away to the town church.
At various sites around the village, the men were quite literally, shot down at the knees so they could not run. They were then either shot through the head, or left alive. The Germans then set them on fire. Of this, 6 men escaped the initial torture. One of them was later shot near the cemetery as he tried to flee the village.
The women and children were corralled into the church. An incendiary device was detonated within the church. As the women and children inside tried to escape from windows and doors, they were met with machine gun fire. 2 women and 1 child escaped out a rear window. However only one woman from this small group live.
The Germans tried to level the town that night, and the remnants of that attack are all that are left today. President Charles de Gaulle found out about this after the war, and said that the village should be left as is, so that the world could be reminded of the horros of war.
In total, 190 men, 247 women and 205 children were killed that day. One child was no more than 5 weeks old.
I have been to Oradour before. I can say, that this site still impacts on the emotions the second time as much as it did the first. If not, moreso than the first time. I find it hard to be motivated to walk the streets, however Tess as determined to experience this, so we came here.
I've taken no pictures this time, so I will load none on this diary. There is nothing good to take of this, save that 6 people lived, and were able to tell the world what happened. Unfortunately, many of the culprits went back to East Germany after the war, and never had to face up to their crime. The French from Alsace who assisted the Germans did. I can only imagine this is cold comfort to the relatives who lost their entire family members on this day.
As we stood in the chapel, whilst a volunteer gave a lecture (unfortunately for us, entirely in French) of what happened that day in 1944, I stopped to think what is happening at this moment, in Iraq and in Gaza. I wonder, if in 10 years time, people will talk of another Oradour type town in those countries, and if mankind will ever improve.
Sorry for the depressing tone, but as I mentioned earlier, there is nothing good to take from this stop.