Saturday, 11 June 2011

Oradour-sur-Glane, - the village of martyrs .................

* this should have posted automatically yesterday
 Friday June 10th 2011 - 67 years on.....*

Last summer Tim needed to fly to the US in the middle of our holiday in France. I took him up to the station at St Pierre de Corps to catch the early morning TGV to Charles de Gaulle airport, then dashed down to Limoges airport to pick up Tom. Tom had spent 4 months in India doing some volunteer work for Christian Aid, so this was the first time I had seen him since May. He came through passport control over 2 stones lighter!

On our way home to Le Petit-Pressigny we decided to visit Oradour-sur-Glane again. Our first visit was in 1998, when Tom was 8, so he saw the village through very different eyes.

The story of Oradour is well known, so I'll only write a very brief explanation here, and include some of the many poignant images we took on the day.

On June 10, 1944, 642 people, nearly the entire population, were murdered by the Waffen SS, and only a handful survived. The soldiers ordered the town’s women and children to gather in the church, and led the men into barns. Once they were certain that the entire population was accounted for, a slaughter began. The regiment attacked the church and barns with machine guns and burned them to the ground. Then they set about destroying the village.

After the war ended, General Charles de Gaulle declared the village a national monument, a testament to the violence suffered by the French during World War II. It was to remain as it was left, burned and empty, and a new village was constructed nearby.

Whole families died and there are memorials in the cemetery.

It is possible to walk around the old village, which has been preserved as it was after its destruction in 1944. There are no guides for the village; visitors can wander through the ruins and see for themselves the devastation caused to a whole community. It is expected that visitors will be quiet and respectful during the visit, so the whole place is virtually silent except for hushed whispers.

There is a museum at the underground entrance, and the whole site is a moving and powerful reminder of what happened that day.

There is an excellent article by David M Thomas which you can read here  which explains the circumstances of the massacre so well.


  1. What an amazing post Gaynor. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know about this village. Most interesting and heart breaking. Many thanks for the education and great photos.

  2. Craig,

    Thanks. I have a lot more photographs, so will do a follow up post next week.

  3. I had never heard of this, unbelievable. It must be just so chilling to walk around there but at the same time pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
    Also intrigued about your husband flying to the US and is it your son? coming back from India. I'm sure they too have interesting stories to tell.

  4. I have been here once and have no desire to go there again. I found it very spooky. I did a write up on it last year. Diane

  5. Diane and Jane,

    I know exactly what you mean. It is eerie but a reminder of the atrocities of the past.

    Sometimes I wonder whether these are all in the past, or whether they are part of out present and future, with the news reports coming out of Libya and Syria and previously in Bosnia.

    I hope so.

    Diane, would you mind if when I do my follow up I put a link to your post? I've just looked at it again, and your photographs show, better than mine, a sense of scale.

    Jane, husband Tim to Boston to the headquarters of the US company he works for, and son Tom back from a gap year (that didn't start out as a gap year) trip to India. I suspect Tom's stories were just a bit more interesting ;o)