Sunday 13 May 2018 - Day 70
Nido’s parked up at a small aire by the river, below the Village Etape of Bellac. Today we visited the Martyr Village of Oradour-sur-Glane.
About 25km northwest of Limoges, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane stands just as the soldiers of the SS left it on 10 June 1944, after killing 642 of the inhabitants in reprisals for alleged attacks by French maquisards. On arriving, the SS surrounded the village and gradually move inwards to its centre, rounding up all the men, women and children. The SS took the men into barns, where they opened fire with machine guns, deliberately aiming low to wound rather than kill, before setting the barns alight; only six men escaped, one of whom was shot dead shortly after. Meanwhile, the women and children were shepherded into the church, where a gas bomb was set off; when this failed, the soldiers let loose with machine guns and grenades before, again, setting the church, and its inhabitants, and then the rest of the village on fire. Over the following days the SS returned, gathered up the charred bodies and bones and dumped them in a mass grave, so that no surviving family members could ever bury their own dead. The entire village, which sits to the southeast of the modern village, has been preserved as a shrine to this evil act.
Access to the Martyr Village is only possible through the Centre de la Memoire. An underground passage leads from the the ticket desk into the village itself, where a sign simply says “Souviens-toi” (“Remember”) and the main street leads past roofless houses gutted by fire. Telephone poles, iron bedsteads and gutters are fixed in twisted shapes where the fire’s heat left them; pre-war cars rust in the garages; cooking pots hang over empty crates; children’s prams and bikes lay abandoned; last year’s grapes hang wizened on a vine whose trellis has long since rotted away. To the north of the village a slab on a shallow plinth covers a crypt containing the relics of the dead and the awful list of names and ages, while to the southeast, by the stream, stands the bullet and shrapnel-riddled church where the women and children - five hundred of them - were burnt to death.