Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oradour-Sur-Glane, Village Martyr

We left Nantes in the early afternoon and began making our way towards Oradour-Sur-Glane. A good friend, you know who you are ;) told me about this place several months back and I just knew I had to see it. The story of what happened to this quiet little village back in 1944 is absolutely heartbreaking. Basically, a few days after the successful invasion of the beaches of Normandy, the Nazi's were in a frenzy trying to prepare to stop the Allies from going deeper into France. On their, the soldiers', way up to Limoges the army somehow ended up in the little town of Oradour-Sur-Glane. They rounded up all the citizens, nearly 700, then separated the men to two different areas of town and the women and children were herded to the church. At some point the Nazis massacred all the men and then proceeded to gas the women and children, shoot, and then collapse the roof of the church. Overall, 642 people died in the worst massacre of citizens to take place on French soil during WWII. The Nazis tried to burn the town and hide the evidence, but time was not on their side, and people began arriving in the village by the next morning. Consequently, the entire town still remains and is now a national memorial where people can go to pay their respects and see first hand the brutality of the Germans during WWII.
We stopped in the museum first to get some good background information on the events leading up to, and the actual massacre, of Oradour-Sur-Glane. If you ever make it to Oradour, definitely set some time aside for the museum. The first little bit is mostly general WWII information, but then you get some really good information on the events leading up to and the day of the killings (I basically just completely repeated myself. I just really want you to understand how great the museum is! :) ) We had to hurry through it because everything closed down relatively early and we were starting to run short on time. When we walked out of the museum, a road leads you right up to the entrance of the "village martyr."
Here is the entrance into the city.
When I first walked through the front gates, I was so shocked at how big the town was. It wasn't a few buildings scattered along a desolate road. It was LOTS and LOTS of buildings lining the streets of the village.
As you can see in the picture above, many ruined object such as scales, sewing machines, cars, etc., are still standing within the buildings. These were just ordinary average people, just like you and me.
After walking past several buildings, we came to one of the spots where many of the many were shot alive.
Coming to this building and seeing the sign that simply stated what happened in that building was such a surreal experience.
These tracks ran right through the city and connected it to the rest of France. The next morning following the massacre, a train pulled in to town right on schedule. The memoir of one of the men who was so unfortunate to arrive was absolutely heartbreaking. I wonder if he ever slept again.
At the end of the road, you finally come upon the church where so many women and children lost their lives.
This was the one building at the entire memorial open for the public to walk in to and look around.
Going inside literally broke my heart. Knowing that innocent little children: babies, toddlers, and kids, were murdered here made me hurt all the way down to my soul.
Notice that the roof was gone? The Nazis caved in the top of the church to cover up, and I'm sure to finish off any of the survivors.

I I wish that my pictures could capture the size and vastness of the village. What an experience. I'm always left in shock after visiting the various WWII sites throughout Europe because each time I think how atrocious the crimes the Nazis committed towards humanity were as bad as it gets, we come across another place that was worse than the site before it.