Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Haunted Village of Oradour-sur-Glane

Today in the Limousin region in west-central France, there sits what remains of the Oradour-sur-Glane village. 

This small communities destruction has been preserved, so the atrocities that happened here will never be forgotten.

It was during World War ll on the morning of June 10, 1944, that the Germans made a mistake.

Their goal was to hit the center of the now-famous French Resistance located in Oradour-Sur-Vayres. They wanted revenge. But they mistakenly mistook the nearby village of Oradour-sur-Glane as being their target.

The citizens of Oradour-sur-Glane had managed to keep their lives distant from the war that raged around them. They had no idea that the nearby Oradour-sur-Vayres village was the hub for France’s militia and resistance troops who had managed to regularly disrupt the Nazi occupation of France.

Commander Adolf Diekmann
The commander of the Waffen-SS, Adolf Diekmann, was in a hurry to taste revenge. This was probably why the Germans confused the villages. 

On the morning of the 10th, he and his regiment entered Oradour-sur-Glane.

They ordered all the residents gather at Camp de Foire--the village fairgrounds-- stating they needed to examine their identity papers. They then separated the men into one group and the women and children into another.

The Nazis encouraged the children to sing as they escorted them and the woman into the village church. They then separated the men into smaller groups and escorted them into three barns, two garages, a warehouse, and a hanger.

The village women and children heard the distant fire of machine guns. 

The Nazis shot most of the men in the legs at the various locations simultaneously. They waited until these men could no longer move, then they piled straw and boards on their bodies, lighting them on fire. So most of the men were alive as they burned to death. 

One soldier stated they wanted to prolong the villager's suffering.

Five men managed to escape. They pretended to be dead as they lay under other men’s corpses. When it got too hot, they fled into some nearby bushes where they hid until the next day.

Village Girl's School Picture
A year before the massacre.
At the same time, around 4:00 p.m., the Nazi’s then placed a gas bomb in the church to asphyxiate the woman and children. 

This bomb malfunctioned, and many women and children tried to escape, but the soldiers used their machine guns to shoot them. They also threw grenades into the church.

The Nazi's also piled straw and boards on the women and children that fell wounded and set them on fire.

A woman, Marguerite Rouffanche, fled with another woman and child. Her two companions were shot and killed. 

The 47-year-old Marguerite managed to climb a ladder to a window where she dropped to the ground ten feet below. She was shot five times but was able to make her way to the back of the church, where she hid in a vegetable plot until the next day.

What remained...
Warning: images are graphic
Within hours the Germans had killed 642 villagers-- 247 women and 205 children perished. 109 men died. 

The Nazis then looted and burned most of the homes in the village. They left Oradour-sur-Glane the next morning.

Around twenty members of the village managed to escape as the German’s first entered the town. A couple of days after this slaughter, they were given permission to bury the dead.

After the war in 1953, the French court at Bordeaux tried 21 men for this massacre. Fourteen of them were Alsatians, *who were born in the French province of Alsace. 

When the Nazis invaded France in 1940, the men of this province were conscripted into the German army, so these fourteen men claimed they were forced, but many still considered them traitors.

Madame Rouffanche
at the trial.
Only two men were sentenced to death. The others were sentenced to between eight to twelve years in prison, but there were bitter protests and demonstrations. The Alsatians felt the sentences were too harsh, the people of Oradour thought they were too lenient as a result, all twenty-one men were just released.

General Charles de Gaulle stated Oradour-sur-Glane should not be rebuilt. He felt it should be preserved as a memorial to the cruelty of the Nazi occupation.

In 1958, a new village named Ordour-sur-Glane was built near the original town. These residents call the first town, Village of the Martyred.

Many say they will not enter the old village at night. It is a ghost town, but ghosts also haunt it.

Witnesses state as they stand at their windows at night, they see the dark spirits of the slaughtered walking through the ruined village’s deserted streets.

Others state they often smell the aroma of burning wood and flesh as it floats over this old village. Until recently, the new residents would leave gifts along the border of the Village of the Martyred as a peace offering for the spirits that still linger.

Today, the old village is open to the public as a heritage and war memorial. Notices are posted reminding visitors to show respect for the dead.

Here is an excellent site for more information.

Update: A German court on Dec. 9, 2014, dismissed a case against a former SS man accused of involvement in this massacre. There was not enough evidence to prove this 89-year old from Cologne was involved. He admits he was at the village but did not fire his weapon.

*  Alsatians are French nationals of German ethnicity.

Bicycle among the ruins.

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