Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Oradour-sur-Glane Massacre, one of the most horrific atrocities I’ve ever heard of.
On June 10, 1944 the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” (part of the notorious Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany) stormed the village of Oradour-sur-Glane and killed 642 people, and left the village in ruins.
(Stop reading now if you don’t want to know the disturbing chain of events..)
Upon their arrival, the SS assembled everyone in the main square under the guise of identification papers needing to be checked.
The women and children were then locked in the church before the village was looted.
The men were moved to 6 barns, already stashed with machine guns, and shot in the legs so they couldn’t run. The SS then poured fuel over the men and lit the barns on fire.
The SS returned to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. The device was lit, causing panic amongst the women and children. They attempted to escape through the windows and doors, but were met with machine gun fire. The pocked walls serve as a poignant reminder.
In total, 190 men, 247 women and 205 children perished within a few short hours. Only 52 bodies were identifiable.
The unprovoked attack has never been fully explained, and the world will never know why almost an entire village of people was eliminated. It sickens me to know that humans can be capable of such senseless brutality, and my heart hurts as I try to imagine the fear the villagers experienced before they died.
General Charles de Gaulle later decided that the village should never be rebuilt, but would remain a memorial to the victims who lost their lives and a reminder of the cruelty of the Nazi occupation in Oradour-sur-Glane and countless other locations across Europe. Walking along the deserted roads beside the crumbling shells of buildings is an haunting experience.
In 1999 French president Jacques Chirac dedicated the Centre de la Mémoire d’Oradour, near the entrance to the martyred village. The museum includes items recovered from the burned-out buildings: watches stopped at the time their owners were burned alive, glasses melted from the intense heat, and various personal items.
May their souls forever rest in peace.
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