Saturday, May 08, 2010


Next day after Cunninghams' arrival The Ramblers decided to give them some space and go for a drive. C's had been to Oradour on a previous trip and did not need to go again. I can now see why. It was the most sobering experience. Jude had read about Oradour as we passed Limoges on our way to our Beynac (just near the wrong Beynac). We decided to come back to visit later.

Oradour-sur-Glane is the site of a most horrible Nazi massacre of a whole village on June 10 1944. The Allies had just landed in France and the war was turning against the Germans. There were other factors that led to the incident, but overall there is
no clear explanation as to why it happened.

The short story is that the village was surrounded by military vehicles and the inhabitants -all the inhabitants - were herded into the town square, separated into groups of men in one group and women and children in another and then machine-gunned. The town was then looted and burned. In all, 642 people were killed.

For many years the town was left as it was. The incident was too raw to be faced. Finally it was decided to leave it as a memorial to the uselessness of war and the effect that it has on those who perpetrated this act. They were determined, methodical and brutal.

What remains now is the town as it was found on the day after. All the houses are roofless. Walls are crumbled. The Germans had tried to eliminate all evidence And survivors of the shootings by burning everything in sight. Burned-out cars rest in the streets or in garages. The old tram-line, with its overhead electric wires still runs along the main street, buckled now but a very real testament to the ordinariness of the village life that had been.

It is not a small village. Streets of ruined houses criss-cross the main street and the town square, where the village people were assembled lies off to one side. The church where the women and children were shot is accessible and the bullet holes can be seen in its walls.

This was a very sad day. The groups of school kids there on excursion were nowhere near as boisterous as you normally see such groups. No photographs were allowed, so we don't have any (though plenty were being taken by others). Jude and I walked around in silence. It was all too real and too shocking. We bought a little book that outlines the events of that day, written by one of the five survivors. It also outlines what life was like prior to that day in words and pictures. All very sobering.

The museum/memorial constructed at the entrance to the village was very well presented and gave a very clear account of the incident and the context/background, both in terms of world and local events. It is well worth a visit.

We drove back to Beynac (two hours, 120km) to check what the Cunninghams had been up to. We understood that ours was a trip you need only do once. It was a very powerful experience.

1 comment:

  1. Here is a site to visit: