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Oradour-sur-Glane before the Nazis came.


Went here during my recent stay in France, having seen it years ago on the World at War, I've wanted to visit it ever since. A genuinely humbling experience in the face of incomprehensible barbarism. The town remains as in the pics attached, apart from the removal of the bodies untouched since the massacre by members of the 'der Führer' regiment of the 'Das Reich' SS Panzer Division on June 10th 1944. Cars stand where they were burned out, bikes lean against the walls they were last rested upon 62 years ago, shop signs still advertise Michelin tyres and Fresh meat at the butchers. In a cafe, the steel seats remain at their matching table on scorched tiles, an enamel coffee mug now fused to the table top, the tram station waits for a tram from Limoges that will never come, the track switch points still in the open position.




The Waffen SS rounded up everyone in the village, even those passing through. They emptied both the Girls and boys' schools and finally the infant school and nursery. All the men and boys over 10 were herded into various barns, the women, children under 10 and baies into the large old stone church. After a long pause while they waited to round up any remaining local farmworkers, they went about their work. They set of a large smoke bomb in the church before throwing grenades in through the windows and then fired their machine guns through the doors. In the barns, Waffen SS soldiers lying in the straw with spandau macine guns cut down the men and boys. They then took the time to shoot through the head with their sidearms anyone who still appeared to be breathing, before burying the bodies under straw and wood and setting the barns on fire. Amazingly, 5 members of the local football team hid under the dead bodies, even though several had been shot for as long as possible until one was on fire - they checked the soldiers had moved on before breaking out the back of one of the barns and hiding in a pigsty. They survived.




In the church, the Waffen SS officers were applying the coup de grace in the same way to the women, children and babies. One family who had refugees from Paris in their number were shot in their home, their bodies dumped in the community well at the foot of their garden. Those members of the village who worked in nearby Limoge returned at six O'clock to be taken from the tram and shot against the nearby church wall.




The Nazis arrived at two in the afternoon and by six o'clock a town that had stood for more than a thousand years lay in ruins, with 642 people dead, over 250 of whom were children and babies.


The Das Reich Panzer Division had been oredered to the newly invaded Normandy the next day. Why did they do it? For years, historians poured over the regimental records to see if it was as reprisals for resistance sabotage, although the nearest activity was almost 50 kilometers away. perhaps it was a tip off about a weapons dump, as one former regimental member claimed, even though no weapons were looked for or found. In the end, looking at the divisions previous history in the east and other parts of France, it became clear thay they massacred the population of Oradour-sur-Glane and destroyed the town itself, simply because they could.




Although trials were held after the war, a national amnesty in the name of 'unity' (14 or so members of the Waffen SS taking part were French from Alsace), meant that no one in the end was ever punished. This still cuts deep with the locals of the new Oradour-sur-Glane, which stands just a kilometer from it's namesake's ghost.





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