After a lot of nature during our mini road trip, we also took some time to fit in some “culture”. Oradour-sur-Glane is located near Limoges, in the Haute-Vienne. For those who have never heard of this place, listen up, as I believe it’s a memory that should always be remembered. Together with the fixed date of 10/06/1944.
Looking at the year in the end of that date… I think you might know why this city is so known.
On the 10th of June in 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed by the Nazis who occupied France. Together with the city they murderd 642 of its inhabitants. Not only the men, but also the women and the children. Separated though, as the women and children were gathered inside the church and the men had to stay outside. The church was locked from the outside and the Nazis blew up the church, together with all the women and children inside. The men were all shot and burned to death as well. The Nazis plundered the city after killing the inhabitants.
But why was this city destroyed? Well, we’re speaking of Nazis, so I don’t think we need a lot of reasons here… but there still was one (not a good one). Diekmann, a SS commander, was stationed with his troupes nearby Toulouse, waiting for supplies to fight of the allied troops. In the morning of the 10th of June, Diekmann notified Weidinger that he had been approached by two men of a paramilitary force, telling him that a Waffen-SS (Kämpfe) was held captive by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres. Diekmann was ordered to let the mayor choose thirty people to be hostage in exchange for Kämpfe.
Later that day Diekmann and his battalion went to Oradour-sur-Glane and assembled all inhabitants in the village square to check their ID’s. As mentioned before, the women and childrend were locked up inside the church and the men were led to barns and sheds where machine guns were waiting for them. According to survivors (yes, there were some that could escape the horrifying death) the Nazis aimed for the legs when they started shooting. When nobody could ran away, the covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Apparently only six men could escape, from which one was still shot dead when they saw him walking. After killing the men they went to the church and ignited a incendiary device. The women and children tried to escape via the doors and windows of the church, but only to get shot by a machine-gun fire. Only one woman survived. She could escape via a sacristy window, followed by a young woman and a child. They were all shot, but only two of them fatally. The survivor crawled into the bushes and staid hidden until she was found and rescued the next morning.
The French president Charles de Gaulle ordered that the city would be maintained as a permanent memorial and museum and so the “new” village was built just next to the ruins of the “old” one.
You can visit the city for free, but there’s also an exposition to introduce you to the city. You don’t leave this place with a smile. But it’s still worth your time. Walking inside the city you can actually still see how they must have lived here. You see the tram rails and the old tramstation. A lot of cars, beds, sowing machines, … that are withered. You can see the bakery and the butcher. The café where they took their coffee and/ or beer. And the graveyard. With all the graves of the people who have died.
It’s worth your time.