Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not Just Another Roadside Attraction


Oradour sur Glane was once a small, charming village in the picturesque Limousin region of central France. Life there was quiet, uncomplicated and prosperous and even during the dark days of occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II, the people of the village were content to live in the shadow of the spire of their 16th century stone church.
This all ended on the tenth of June, 1944 at around 14:00, when two hundred men from the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich entered the town, ostensibly searching for weapons being stored by the French Resistance. Working to a clearly defined plan, they rounded up all of the inhabitants, separated the women and children and locked the latter inside the Church. Later, the men were separated into different groups and marched off to separate areas within the village.
At 16:00, a small explosion was heard, probably a signal to the troops to begin their "work", whereupon the groups of men were murderously machine-gunned to death. Simultaneously, the Church was set alight and the women and children were either burned or choked to death in the conflagration.
By the end of the massacre, six hundred and forty-two people had been ruthlessly exterminated in the most brutal fashion, two hundred and forty-seven of them were children. Three hundred and twenty-eight buildings had been looted, set on fire and destroyed.
Oradour sur Glane had been wiped out.

During our epic bike journey in the summer of 1987, somewhere in the beautiful valley of the Loire River, Nancy and I heard about a French village that had been destroyed during WWII. The village had been left intact, unrestored, unchanged to serve as a memorial to those lost in that village and in that conflict. A young Canadian/English couple we camped next to told us about it and I can't remember whether they had gone there or not. We never did find out the name of that village or where it might be, but the memory of such a place stuck in our minds. While in Leran last summer, we talked to someone, probably Alan and Eileen Simmons, who had been there and we learned the name of the village; Oradour sur Glane. It would have been a long day to go there from Leran and back in a day, so we didn't get around to a visit. We are hoping that during our drive from Paris to Leran, road-weary from our drive from Moab to Montreal, and jet-lagged from the flight, we'll be able to take time out to visit this poor, forlorn village.

I might add that a handful of people survived the massacre. You can learn more about this village by using Google.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Luke had not heard that particular story. More than 60 years later it is still heartwrenching.

There really doesn't seem to be any "stopping point" when it comes to mans' inhumanity to just keeps getting worse.

I wish I had an answer to this problem.