Sunday, 26 October 2008

Man's inhumanity to man

The story of Oradour sur Glane. This is a long post.

I decided to visit Oradour sur Glane yesterday. I've heard its story several times, even though it's not particularly well known. Oradour is a small town not far from Limoges. It would be an unremarkable place if it weren't for what happened there on 10 June 1944. The results of that day's event have been preserved, not only to commemorate those who used to live there, but perhaps in the hope that we may one day learn.

On 10 June 1944, shortly after the D-Day landings, a Waffen-SS company murdered 642 men, women, and children in the town, and then destroyed the buildings with fire.

Everyone was ordered to gather in the square/fairground, where their identity papers were to be checked. The men were taken to barns, and the women and children to the church. The men were shot, then the bodies burnt. Out of 195 men, five escaped. The women and children in the church were gassed and then shot. There were 247 women and 205 children, some of whom were babies. One woman escaped.

Plaque at the entrance.

The square/fairground where the people were gathered.

One of the several plaques on walls, saying "Here, a place of torture. A group of men was massacred and burnt by the Nazis. Think."

The main street with tram lines and electricity cables still in place.

The doctor's car.

The girl's school.

A sewing machine in a ruined house.

The church where the women and children were killed.

It was a very moving experience to visit the town.  There is no effort to commercialise the site.  There is no entrance fee.  The people who were visiting were quiet.  There was no laughter or chatter.

Although there is a new town nearby, they have never rebuilt Oradour.  It is preserved as it was after the massacre, in the memory of the victims.  In my mind it also represents innumerable other atrocities committed by humans against humans.

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  1. So sad. I had never even heard of this. After some research I found that it was the wrong town - the Nazis were looking for a nearby town with a similar name. Of course, the result would have been the same, just different people. And, although a few were tried after the war, none were convicted of their crimes.

    So very sad. And every single war has its similar horror stories. You are right.

  2. I'm hard to find the words to depict my current emotions ... thank you for the post - your writing helps to guard the memory and thus appreciate the life more.
    Your blog (and this post in the concrete) looks so attractively - memory transforms the ruins into the talking gardens and thus brings us to maturity where love blossoms out with gratitude for being alive.

  3. A. Thank you! For keeping this memory alive. So we never forget. The same thing happens in every war I think. So many stories.

  4. A. thank you for bringing us through this. A reminder to all of the crimes of human against human. Just like Tomas, I couldn't find any words to describe my emotion. This brought me back to a few months back when I was reading Viktor Frankl's book, 'Man Search for Meaning.' In this book of his story in the concentration camps, I was moved by a passage:

    "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."

  5. It is on my list of places to visit, we didn't have time on the last trip to Zeltus, but we hope to go back and both of us want to visit Oradour sur glane to pay our respects. Thanks for reminding us of how moving it looks and its story

  6. Wow, what a story. It's sad how many things have been destroyed, how many people have been killed during World War II. I just remember when I have visited a concentration camp here in Germany... the smell, the atmosphere.. it was horrible, even more horrible if you imagine what happened there.

    We have tagged you with a meme. However no obligation! ;-)

  7. That is such an unfortunate and gripping story, but it is important to remember acts such as this because it is what we must think about to make sure it is not repeated. Thank you for posting about this and also for the pictures.

  8. This is an example of the things we must never forget. I was a tiny baby at the time, but fortunate enough to live in England.
    I'm glad the village was kept as a memorial - how could anyone live there after that?

  9. I can only hoope that those who perpetrated this horror paid for it in some way in body or mind.

  10. Even just reading this without being there I have chills. I am pleased it was kept as a memorial to remind us of the horrible things that happened there, and in other places. If only those things weren't still happening somewhere today.

  11. See also Maillé 25th August 1944, ironically the same day as the liberation of Paris.

  12. Thank you told us this sad history.
    Lest we forget!

  13. Very sad. I'm imagining the horror on the victims' faces and what they went through before their death.

    No one should be treated this way.

  14. @Max, thanks for taking the trouble to find out more. It is a very complicated story.

    @Tomas, thank you for your kind words. I found it hard to write.

    @Ettarose, as you say, so many stories, so many wars.

    @BK, thank you too. It was incredibly moving to see the place.

    @Sage, do try to get there. I don't think you'll regret it.

  15. this story made me appreciate my life more...
    GOD bless :-)

  16. @Ana, yes a very sad story. I've done that meme a few times now, so if you'll excuse me, I'll pass this time.

    @WomanTribune, thank you. It is so important to remember.

    @Dragonstar, it would be dreadful to try to live there I would think. Mind you, depending on where in England you were, there were terrible times during bombing raids.

    @LR, apparently the commander of the regiment died within weeks while at the Normandy front. Whether that would be considered paying for it, I don't know.

    @Caroline, I wasn't sure whether I could explain how I felt as I went around, but it sounds as though you have caught the atmosphere. I was horrified.

  17. @j, Maillé I hadn't heard of until I started trying to find more about Oradour. It was I understand the next worst massacre in France. There were reprisals in so many places: Buchères, Tule, Vif. I didn't know, I googled. Years ago I met an elderly Englishwoman, married to a Frenchman, who had survived a similar incident. I just wish I had paid more attention to where.

    @iWalk, it is a sad story indeed.

    @ECL, I can't even begin to imagine that.

    @championijo, it does very much put things into perspective.

  18. One more piece of evidence, (as if any were needed)of the dangers of extremism. How can ANYONE be so sure of their "righteousness" that they can justify such atrocities in their mind, let alone commit them?

    The '08 Presidential race here in the states has reminded me again of this fact, as we seem to have a choice between far right extremism, or far left extremism. Neither is good for us, our country, or our world.

  19. Such acts of inhumanity are precisely what makes it so that I wish there were *no* wars whatsoever in the world. Unfortunately, it never seems that there's any time in human history where there's been no war being waged in some part of the earth. :(

  20. Humans can be the badest predator it can exist! The rescent discoverings in the east of Europa show that things went very bad when People where killed immediatly after digging an hole! Sometimes I think to the descendants of the criminals. How can they support what did their parents. and tonight I heard again about the Congo and the atrocities against the civil population... Will we see the end of such facts one day?

  21. I can't even think how come that they shoot the inhabitantes in such coild way! I wonder how they thought while shooting them!

    Mon Dieu!

  22. Hello
    I was there last year
    It is so very sad but a not to be missed visit
    Words cannot describe how you feel when you step back in time as you enter
    A history we will never want repeated
    love your blog this is my first visit


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