1 EAGLETON NOTES: Oradur-sur-Glane: 10 June 1944

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Saturday, 6 September 2008

Oradur-sur-Glane: 10 June 1944

About six or seven years ago I visited Oradur-Sur-Glane and the experience affected me deeply. It was, undoubtedly, the most emotionally difficult place I had ever visited. I had found other places such as the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, which were evocative of terrible things, emotional experiences. Until I had been to Oradur-Sur-Glane I had never stood in a church (or anywhere elso for that matter) where it is estimated that 500 women and children were slaughtered and burned to death at the one time. On the fateful day of 10 June 1944 (six days after I was born), 642 people in Oradur-Sur-Glane were slaughtered by German SS troops. In the years immediately following the slaughter and thereafter the reasons why the SS committed such an atrocity have never been determined.

It is exceptionally difficult to put into a words - and all the harder into the few words of a blog posting - the story of that fateful day and to describe the experience of walking through the burned out ruins of what remains of the 328 buildings that were deliberately destroyed by fire then or soon thereafter.

A précis of the events is available on Wikipedia.

Oradur-Sur-Glane was a small town in the Limousin area of France about 20km North West of Limoges set in rich and fertile countryside. Unusually it had a modern tram system connecting it to Limoges. By all accounts life in the town was as normal as it could be in a country with a war being waged on its soil. It had an active social and café society. That makes all the more difficult the journey through the burned-out streets where so many were slaughtered.

By the standards of the massacres of the Balkan conflict of the early 1990s including the killing of about 3500 children in Sarajevo by snipers in the 1991, the slaughter in Oradur-Sur-Glane seems relatively insignificant.

Thanks to General de Gaulle it was decreed that the ruins should be preserved so that future generations might see, realise and never forget where such evil may lead. Somehow, whilst as individuals we may be very deeply affected, as peoples we never learn, we never take heed and the evil and the slaughters will continue. In the meantime if you ever have the opportunity, visit Oradur-Sur-Glane.


There are more of my photographs of Oradur-Sur-Glane on my web album.

1 comment:

  1. Half of me knows that I should brace myself to visit, I owe it to all those poor peope, but the other half realises just how harrowing it would be and I just know that I'd start bawling as soon as I arrived!

    A terrible, terrible tragedy.

    SP

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