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.