ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE, FRANCE
«MAY 2015»

Photos © Ruud Leeuw


 

Our visit to Oradour-sur-Glane was also our most southern point of this trip. I had read about this place in an Ian Rankin novel, where the author explained how his story was inspired by this place.
I had to see it for myself!

The village of Oradour-sur-Glane in Haute-Vienne, in Nazi occupied France, was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company. A new village was built after the war on a nearby site, but on the orders of the then French president, Charles de Gaulle, the original has been maintained as a permanent memorial and museum.

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

What led to this tragedy?
In February 1944, 2nd SS Panzer Division ('Das Reich') was stationed in the Southern French town of Valence-d'Agen, north of Toulouse, waiting to be resupplied with new equipment and freshly trained troops.
After the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the division was ordered to make its way across the country to stop the Allied advance. One of the division's units was the 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment ('Der Führer'). Its staff included SS-Standartenführer Sylvester Stadler as regimental commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann as commander of the regiment's 1st Battalion and SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Weidinger, who was designated Stadler's successor as regimental commander and was with the regiment for familiarisation purposes.
Command of 'Der Führer' passed from Stadler to Weidinger on 14 June.[2]
Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, Diekmann informed Weidinger at regimental headquarters that he had been approached by two members of the Milice, a paramilitary force belonging to the Vichy Regime. They claimed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village.
The captured German was alleged to be SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion (another unit of the 'Das Reich' division), who may have been captured by the Maquis du Limousin the day before.
Stadler ordered Diekmann to have the mayor of the town name thirty people who could serve as hostages in exchange for Kämpfe.

 

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument


 

 

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument
On 10 June, Diekmann's battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the townspeople – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square, ostensibly to have their identity papers
examined. In addition to the residents of the village, the SS also apprehended 6 people who did not live there
but had the misfortune to be riding their bikes through the village when the Germans arrived. All the women
and children were locked in the church while the village was looted. Meanwhile, the men were led to 6 barns and
sheds where machine guns were already in place. According to the account of a survivor, the soldiers began
shooting at them, aiming for their legs so that they would die slowly. Once the victims were no longer able to
move, the soldiers covered their bodies with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only 6 men escaped; one of them
was later seen walking down a road heading for the cemetery and was shot dead.
In all, 190 men perished.

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

The German soldiers proceeded, after they had killed the men, to the church and placed an incendiary device there. After it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but they
were met with machine-gun fire. A total of 247 women and 205 children died in the carnage.

Only 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche survived. She slid out by a rear sacristy window, followed by a
young woman and child. All three were shot; Marguerite was wounded and her companions were killed.
She crawled to some pea bushes behind the church, where she remained hidden overnight until she was rescued
the following morning. Another group of about 20 villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the
soldiers had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.

 



 

 

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

 


 

 


 

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

 


 

 

 

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument
Numerous other instances of Nazi use of collective punishment and massacre
of civilians are documented across occupied Europe.
The above information was learned form Wikipedia.

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument
I had difficulty grasping the tragedy here upon my visit. Due to numerous classes of
schoolkids visiting this monument, being loud and unruly, I had skipped most of the
briefing at the entrance of this monument. I knew of people massaced here and the
houses set on fire, but there is little information among the ruins, except the above.

Oradour-sur-Glane, WW2 monument


 


 

 

LINKS of the various pages reporting on this trip
FRANCE 2015
HONFLEUR
RENNES
LOIRE CHATEAUX
ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE