Oradour-Sur-Glane, also known as “Village des Martyrs” is a unique ‘ruined’ french village that is fully preserved. This village is the site of brutal wartime atrocities of World War II. Without a doubt, this village is one of the most powerful destinations in France.
There was a storm of thoughts within me when I visited this village. These kinds of places draw me towards them, so much history, so much to learn, and a lot to think about. I peeped into the ruins and imagined them as homes that were once filled with the laughter of families. Looking at the burnt beds…I thought about the nights when someone had a good night’s sleep. The burned sewing machines…they made me think about mothers and grandmothers. The burned cars… they would have been once a sense of pride in someone’s porch……Now it remains there as ruin…a thing of past….another reminder why “War is Hell” –HG
Oradour-Sur-Glane marks as one of the worst massacre of civilians in the history of France.
During World War II, the Haute -Vienne was in the ‘free zone’ (zone libre), which after 1942 was named ‘South zone’.
On June 10, 1944, just four days before the D-day, the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division- ‘Das Reich’ of the German military entered this farming village and brutally murdered the civilian villagers including children. Some reports justify this act as a way to ‘avenge the kidnapping of a German soldier by the French Resistance’. However, Oradour’s massacre is not a revenge, it was an act of terror.
The Nazi soldiers herded the civilian inhabitants of the village, men into the barns, women and children into the church. The troops then barred the doors of church, machine gunned them, and set the church on fire while some were still alive. The men were taken to barns in groups, where they were shot. Afterward, the Nazis plundered the village and burned it to the ground.
Only 6 people somehow survived the fire and faked being dead till the SS departed. The total death toll was 642: 245 women and 207 children in the church, and 190 men in the barns.
On the orders of Wartime French leader and President, Charles de Gaulle, the remains of the village were left untouched and preserved to bear witness to the atrocities. The crumbling buildings became a ‘Martyred Village’, and a tribute to the people who lost their lives.
Robert Hébras, one of the six survivors of the massacre, revisited the crumbled ruins of the village he once lived in. In an interview with Guardian in 2013, he shares, “There’s the school bell still hanging up there, reminding me how I was always late”. In this unexplained act of brutality against civilians, Hébras lost his mother, two sisters and literally everyone else with whom he lived in the village. He adds, “When I come here, I see faces, people, not ghosts” – Guardian 2013
How to get there
The village of Oradour-Sur Glane is located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of South-central France. It is approximately 23 km northwest of Limoges.
From Limoges, take D941 which will turn into N141.
Take exit 64 towards Saint Gence – Oradour-Our-Glane. After the exit, turn right and continue driving on D9 till you reach Oradour.
This is a budget friendly option, and the one we chose: Depending on where you are coming from, you can take a train to the nearest city, Limoges. We boarded a train from Bordeaux to Limoges, and took a local to Oradour-Sur-Glane. We spent few in days in Limoges and this was one of day trips during our stay there.
Tip: We really had a hard time figuring out which bus to take as there is very little information available. There is only one bus (LIGNE 12) that takes you to Oradour-Sur-Glane from Limoges. It makes three trips in a day. So you have to plan your trip according to the bus times.
Please note these timetables are subject to change at any time. Please visit the link at the end of this post to confirm the bus timings before travelling.
|Limoges– CIEL Bénédictins (Departs)||7:55||12:35||18:23|
|Limoges– CIEL Bénédictins (Arrives)||7:35||12:35||18:17|
Village des Martyrs – The Village of Martyrs
|Feb 1 – Feb 28||9am – 5pm|
|March 1 – May 15||9am – 6pm|
|May 16 – Sept 15||9am – 7pm|
|Sept 16 – Oct 31||9am – 6pm|
|Nov 1 – Dec 15||9am – 7pm|
The sign that greets every pilgrim – SOUVIENS-TOI–REMEMBER
Exploring the lanes of Oradour-Sur-Glane
Old Tram Station
The Rusty Sewing Machines- Another Frozen-in-time Tragedy
EXPLORING THE HOUSES
Hébras, one of the survivors shares “I relive my village in my head, hear its old sounds, put faces to the ruins” —Guardian 2013
The car of the man who hold the pharmacy just around the corner from this place.
The church was the main site for the killing of the women and children, over 400 died here during the afternoon of the 10th June 1944. The main roof of the church and that of the steeple have been completely destroyed.
Claude Milord, head of the association of families of the martyrs in the village shares the importance of keeping the ruins to avoid any kind of revisionism of the history and war crimes – “These ruins are unique and we have a duty of memory never to forget. For the families who lost generations of loved ones, it’s like a sanctuary. It’s all they’ve got.” –Guardian 2013
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THERE IS LOT TO EXPLORE. KEEP EXPLORING