Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a peaceful village in the midst of war-torn Europe. It was in Vichy France and the horrors of war had mostly bypassed Oradour Sur Glane. It sits some 20 kilometres from Limoges, the renowned city of porcelan and enamels and Limousin oak barrels used in the manufacture of Cognac. There was a tramway running from Limoges to Oradour and people used to come out for the day to picnic or fish in the peaceful River Glane for an afternoon. The folks in Oradour had rarely seen German soldiers and rationing and shortages were the only hint of war. In the picture above, Monsieur Copain leans out of the window of his patisserie. He would be dead in the very near future.

There was a newly formed football club competing in the 1944-45 season. In the top row are Rene Mercier, Henri Bouchoule and Joseph Bergmann, among others, but those three would soon be dead.

Here is a photograph of the boys school, class of 1936-37. Robert Hebras is in the second row with the large white scarf. Eight years later, he would survive while others in this picture would die a gruesome death.

This picture is of Georgette and Denise Hebras, sister of Robert. They would both soon be dead.

This is the girl's school photo for 1943. In a year, almost everyone in this picture would die together in the village church, either of bullet wounds or by the fires that followed.

It is very peaceful and picturesque in this photo from around 1900, but today, it looks nothing like this. As we know, southern France returned to near normal after the German invasion and the fall of Paris. The Germans were interested in occupation of the Atlantic coastline to prevent an invasion, and keeping the Parisians in line. Southern France, for the most part was left on it's own. On June 6, 1944 the Allies invaded the Normandy beaches and the French Resistance stepped up operations of sabotage, and everything changed.

A division of the SS began moving towards Normandy and found themselves near Oradour on June 8th. On that night the Maquis blew up a railway bridge near Saint-Junien, which is near Oradour. A few nights before, a German Sturmbannfuher was taken captive by l'Resistance. These events, or perhaps other events, led up to what happened on June 10, 1944. No one knows for sure, and the German Army and Nazi regime remained silent on the ultimate reasons. The result was the slaughter of Oradour sur Glane.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

The routine pictures you've included certainly make you think about the innocent villagers. I'm at a loss for words.