Oradour sur Glane, the martyr town

Oradour-sur-glane is a French town located in the west of the county and was completely destroyed during the Second World War by Nazi Waffen-SS. It was the biggest and most horrible massacre that has been committed by German army in France, with total of 642 victims and only 6 survivors (5 men and 1 woman).

Nowadays only a patch of ruins remain of the town; nobody lives there anymore since the massacre. The town has now been turned into a museum to remind the next generations about the horrible events that took place here in June 1944.

Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, the SS was informed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held prisoner by the French Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a small village nearby Oradour-Sur-Glane. Filled with rage and desire for revenge, the SS went to Oradour-sur-glane with orders to choose thirty people to be hostages in exchange for the officer.

However everything turned differently in the end and no orders were followed. The SS blocked the whole village without giving any explanations. Then all the people of the town was ordered to gather whether they were inhabitants or just tourists in order to check their ID. But it is clear now that this was just a ruse to kill them all. No exceptions were made this day: even the sick including a bedridden teacher had to go outside to gather with the others. A man that was just going through the town for business in another nearby village was also stopped by the soldiers. He was, of course, in no mood for a collective ID check that day and did not want to leave his bicycle unattended; the soldiers replied that he would not need the bicycle anymore. If someone was not obeying to the SS orders, this person was immediately killed in front of everyone.

The Nazis split the population in two groups: the women and children were locked in the church while the men were led to six barns and sheds, where loads of machine guns were already in place. Without saying anything, the SS began shooting the men, aiming for their legs so that they would be unable to move. The men were writhing in agony on the floor and some of them were already dead when the Nazis decided to shoot them all in the head to make sure no one would survive. Once the victims were dead, they poured fuel on them and set the barns on fire. Only five men survived this first massacre.

The SS men then went to the church and placed an incendiary device inside it. The church began to be filled with thick smoke, making the air unbreathable. Women and children were agonizing on the ground, everyone tried to escape through the doors and windows, but met the fire of the SS-men. Only one woman was able to escape from this dreadful massacre: Mme Rouffanche who inexplicably was able to reach the end window right behind the altar and squeeze through with bullets trying to catch her in her escape.

“When I looked up I saw I had been followed in my climb by a woman holding out her baby to me. She fell down next to me but the Germans, alerted by the cries of the baby, machine-gunned us. The woman and the mite were killed and I too was injured as I made it to a neighbouring garden and hid among some rows of peas and waited anxiously for someone to come to help me. That wasn’t until the following day at 5 p.m.”.

village2

The French president Charles de Gaulle decided to keep the village as it was so that it could serve as a symbol of the Nazi atrocities. The State decided to build a new village not far from Oradour-Sur-Glane, but the revival was slow because of the huge traumatism left by the massacre. In 1999 they built a museum “Centre de la mémoire d’Ouradour” near the entrance of the village where you can find 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. This terrible event has also been the subject of many documentaries, movies, books and songs.

However, the most eerie documentary might be the ghosts locals allege to have seen. Some accounts mention dark apparitions slowly moving through the deserted streets. Some recall having sensed the smell of burning wood coming from the town although nothing is burning. However it did burn 70 years ago when SS soldiers set the town on fire after looting the buildings.

As any ruins, also these ones will slowly perish in time, but as this is a museum, the French secretly rejuvenate the display. The Doctor’s car – a famous tourist attraction of the town has been changing throughout the years, however not for worse, but for better. If you compare the pictures taken 12 years apart (in 1998 and 2010), the automobile certainly looks better in the latter. Some parts have been replaced. Locals even argue that it is not even the same car that stood there in 1944.

References:

http://www.oradour.info/images/doccar06.htm

http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/Rouffanche.html

https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-haunted-village-of-oradour-sur-glane.html

Lisa Cazaux

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