Today it is a memorial: The cruel history of the French ruined village of Oradour


It was June 10, 1944, when horror fell over the small French town of Oradour-sur-Glane: 200 German soldiers from the SS unit “Das Reich” marched into the village just four days after the Allies landed in Normandy , drive all the residents together. What then happens is incredibly cruel.

The Nazis first gather the locals in the village square, such as “Encyclopedia Britannica”Reported. Then they announce that they want to search the place for explosives – units of the Germans had been attacked by resistance fighters again and again in the days before and involved in skirmishes. The men are then taken to stables, women and children locked in the church.

Only ten survivors

Then the Nazis set the buildings on fire and also throw dynamite sticks into the fire – anyone who does not burn in the flames or suffocate in the smoke will be mowed down by machine gun fire. Of the total of 652 inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane, only ten survive the slaughter because they manage to hide among heaps of dead people or to play themselves dead.

The balance of horror: 642 dead, 245 women and 207 children. The Oradour massacre is still considered to be one of the worst war crimes committed by the National Socialists against civilians in the history of the Second World War. A survivor later told the “Guardian “: “Many villagers had never seen a German before the massacre.” Before the Nazis leave, they set fire to the entire village.

The place of horror is now a memorial

The names of the dead from Oradour can be found in a memorial on sitePhoto: Getty Images

After the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, then President Charles de Gaulle announced that the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane would remain as a memorial, and it has remained so to this day. The approximately 300,000 people who visit the wiped out village every year see the remains of the collapsed buildings, including the burned-out and rusted wreckage of the car of the town’s mayor at the time.

Oradour is the most important memorial in France, which is why the government invests 150,000 euros annually to preserve the remains of the place – which is still falling into disrepair. The “new” Oradour was built in the immediate vicinity after the end of the Second World War and is now home to around 2500 people. The international reappraisal of history is ongoing. According to the Guardian, the former Federal President Joachim Gauck was the first significant German statesman ever to visit the memorial to lay a wreath on September 4, 2013.

Still unpunished

The crime itself, however, has gone unpunished to this day: of the 200 Germans involved in the massacre, just 21 were brought to justice in 1953. Five of them received prison terms and two were executed. Most of the Oradour-sur-Glane dead could never be identified as their remains were burned beyond recognition.

Oradour-sur-Glane on the map: