LE VILLAGE MARTYR D'ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE
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Walking through the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, between the ruins of these stone buildings that once constituted a peaceful village in the Haute-Vienne, does not leave one unscathed. It was here, some 20 kilometers north of Limoges, that the largest massacre of civilians in France by the German army took place. The ruins of the martyred village cover an area of 15 hectares. Classified as a historical monument on May 10, 1946, they have been maintained in the same state as they were the day after the massacre. Signs invite those present to meditate on the paths and roads where bullet holes can still be seen on the walls as well as cars and rails left in their original state. Oradour is a symbol of a France wounded by the German occupation. The preservation of this village after the massacre testifies for future generations of this atrocious barbarity. Every year, 300,000 visitors come to wander between the ruins of the martyred village, to pay homage, to remember, to bring back to life those who were cowardly murdered. A difficult but essential visit, which leaves a lasting memory and brings us back to the events of June 10, 1944.
Oradour-sur-Glane is a typical Limousin village, with its small shops, its 15th century church and its tramway, used every Saturday by many inhabitants of Limoges who go to the village to buy their provisions. The German presence in the region dates back to 1942, and did not change the daily life of the inhabitants. The population of the village, however, almost doubled due to the Spanish, Alsatian and Jewish refugees. Although Oradour-sur-Glane had no direct links with the Resistance, FTP companies (the resistance movement of the Francs-tireurs et partisans) were established in the woods of the neighboring communes. In the spring of 1944, the German army noticed an upsurge in resistance actions in the region, and clashes between maquisards and soldiers increased. Known for its brutality, the2nd SS division "Das Reich", which had just returned from the Eastern Front, advanced into New Aquitaine. Its soldiers terrorized the population, set fire to entire villages and murdered, without distinction, resistance fighters and civilians.
On June 10, 1944, the tanks of the "Das Reich" division were at the gates of Oradour-sur-Glane. In the early afternoon, 200 German soldiers surrounded the village. They entered the shops, the houses and the three communal schools, where the children had their medical check-up, and ordered the population to gather at the fairground. Major Diekmann, who led the battalion, asked to be told the location of a supposedly clandestine arms depot, which was supposedly hidden in Oradour-sur-Glane. No one in the village knew of the existence of such a cache. In a heartbreaking farewell, the 180 men were separated from the women and children, then taken to six locations, barns and garages, requisitioned by the Germans. The soldiers opened fire and the men fell under the bursts of machine-gun fire. The corpses were then set on fire, amidst which the cries of the survivors emerged. The women and children were crammed into the village church, where the SS placed a case of explosives whose charge did not prove powerful enough to cause the building to collapse. The soldiers then proceeded to commit a massacre of unprecedented brutality: some threw grenades, others fired machine gun bullets, and then, under the agonizing cries of the survivors, the German soldiers set fire to the church. Once the massacre was over, the soldiers seized the cattle, motorcycles, cars and boxes from the shops. When the "Das Reich" division left Oradour-sur-Glane at nightfall, the village was nothing more than a huge inferno. In the days that followed, groups of SS troops returned to bury the dead amidst the still smoldering rubble.
At the end of the war, after the devastation, it was time to rebuild. The new Oradour, rebuilt by the State, is located just a few steps from the martyred village. It was President Vincent Auriol who, three years to the day after the terrible events that took place in the village, laid the first stone of the new town. In 1953, nearly 200 houses were built, some of which were occupied by inhabitants who had escaped the massacre. The new Oradour is a typical example of post-war urban planning with its right-angle streets. The church of the new town, inaugurated in 1953, has stained glass windows designed by Pierre Parot and made by Francis and Pierre Chigot. In spite of this desire to rebuild, the proximity of the ruins was a burden: Oradour-sur-Glane is a dead city, in a state of permanent mourning. The inhabitants are scarce, and the streets devoid of children are extremely sad. No festivities are celebrated in the village. The process of returning to normal life is very slow: it will take several decades and will pass by the creation of the Center of Memory. The Center offers a tour of the expansion of Nazism in Europe up to the trial in Bordeaux: five exhibition spaces allow visitors to understand why Oradour-sur-Glane, a peaceful village in the Haute-Vienne, fell prey to Nazi barbarism.
Information on LE VILLAGE MARTYR D'ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE
Open all year round. Access through the Centre de la mémoire in Oradour-sur-Glane The Centre de la mémoire is open 7 days a week from 1 February to 15 December inclusive. Animals not allowed. Open all year round. Opening hours depending on the period. Annual closure from 16 December to 31 January inclusive. Parking under video surveillance. Free of charge. Elevator serves the different levels of the centre and the martyr village.
Services offered by LE VILLAGE MARTYR D'ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE
- Wheelchair accessible
- Accessible to people with reduced mobility
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