Today we visited a terrible place … a place that's been left to remind us.
I normally keep my posts very light, but I felt I needed to share this, and be warned, it is not light reading.
On the 10th June 1944, 200 SAS troops surrounded the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane which lies more or less on the line between the Vichy Ruled France and Free France. They proceeded to kill everyone in the place and destroy every building in it. 642 people died.
They ordered everyone into the village green, then separated the men, women and children - the latter were ordered to the church - 193 women and 206 children - and the men were divided up into groups ….The Nazis systematically set up machine guns and at one signal shot each of the groups of men and then burnt their coprses.
|The sign says "This is a burial site. A group of men|
were massacred and burned here by the Nazis. Remember."
We passed 8 of these signs and I think I missed a few.
And once they were sure everyone was gone they went to the church and set fire to it and exploded the roof on top of them.
|The Church in Oradour sur Glane.|
An atrocity beyond comprehension.
Charles de Gaulle ordered that the village be left as it was. As a reminder of what war can do. We sanitise war on our news. This was so real.
They have left the cars where they were, sewing machines, tables, bedsteads … anything metal survived and has been corroded by the elements in the the 70 years that have passed. And much of the metal had been contorted by the heat of the fires.
It was really shocking.
Some of you reading this may remember the war. I don't. But I remember our own war. The emotion of feeling this massacre brought me back to the bad days of the euphemistically called "Troubles" in the North of Ireland. Murder is murder in whatever shape it takes.
The soldiers that day, the troops that is, were all 18 years old and younger. An officer held a pistol to their heads and ordered them to shoot - them or you. And the worst part is - they got away with it. Nothing to pay for it.
Apparently, the Restistance had captured some senior German officers - one was killed but one escaped… And when he got back behind German lines he told ….
But he named the wrong village.
The whole cemetery is a memorial - it's still used, this cemetery. All around the memorial are plaques from family members. The people who were left behind must have been in a terrible way. How could you get over that.
And the women in the church must have heard the rest of the machine gun fire and been in such terror. I found it hard to even offer up a prayer for them. What could be said.
In the entrance to the memorial there are these posters with quotes from various people.
|9 members of one family|
"Here some men offended their mothers
and all women in the worst manner:
they didn't spare the children."
Paul Eluard (1944)
"Oradour was not a crime due to madness but the logic of a system.
We must remember this not to see it again,
we must live and build a world in which crime
will be folly again, and reason will be peace."
Claude Roy (1949)
I despair of our world - we have learned nothing really. but places like this will hopefully serve to teach. Children should be brought there on history trips - war is not a glamourous thing - by any stretch of the imagination.