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1/ OTD 10th June 1944, 4 days after #Dday, German SS troops on their way to Normandy entered the French village of #Oradour sur Glanes. They murdered 642 people & destroyed the village. On Gen De Gaulle's orders, it was never rebuilt. This is that story.
2/ 254 buildings, including those where the killings took place, were torched. Of the 642 dead only 52 were identifiable. 247 women & 205 children died, the youngest just a few months old. Some were just day visitors. Less than 20 people escaped. Photos from my recent visit.
3/ At 2pm on Sat 10th June 1944, responding to a wrong tip off by the collaborationist French Vichy police, lorries of German SS troops arrived in #Oradour. Two drove to either end of the village & blocked the road into it. The population were herded onto the village green.
4/ 2.45pm The roundup was complete. Pupils in both girls & boys school & their teachers were ordered onto the village green. A soldier shoots at 7 yr old Roger Godfrin as he runs away. He misses but Roger falls & plays dead. He is the only child to survive.
5/ 3pm The men were separated from the women & children. Women clung to their husbands as they and their children were headed towards the village church. Many were weeping. The men were divided into groups of 30-70 and taken to six selected buildings.
6/ 3.30pm The church bell sounds. At this sigInal machine-gun fire is heard by the women in the church. In the barns & buildings the SS machines in gun the men, then go through the bodies to shoot those still living, before throwing petrol on the corpses and setting them alight.
7/ In the church, where over 400 panicking women and children, the youngest just a few months old, are locked in, something even more terrible is about to unfold. At 4pm German troops the church with a wooden box, light fuses attached to it and retire hastily. It explodes.
8/ They then re-enter, firing machine guns and throwing grenades. When all is quiet, they pile furniture into a heap and set it alight. Eventually the roof collapses. The flames are so intense even the bronze bells melt (see pic 1, bullet holes in pic 2)
9/ As the flames reach the wounded & those feigning death, screams break out again. 2 women, one with a baby, jump out of a window behind the altar. The baby falls & cries. Soldiers, alerted, open fire. Mother and baby die.
10/ The 2nd woman, Mme Rouffanche, is hit five times but manages to crawl to a ditch where she lay hidden for 24 hours. She is the only witness to the church. Rescuers find her the next day and smuggle her to hospital in Limoges. The remains of a pushchair still lie on the floor.
11/ In a side aisle in the church the confessional survived unburnt. The bodies of two young boys, shot in the head, were found inside. The remains of an 8 week old child were uncovered in the firebox of the bakers oven down the road.
12/ 22 year old Cléa Aliotti from Abazzia (Italy) & her husband had moved to #Oradour the from Avignon, probably for safety. She & her children, Christiane 3, Marie-Christine, 18 months, & Michèle, 2 months, all died together in the church. Their father was shot nearby.
12/ Victims incl a Jewish family from Bordeaux were living under an assumed name, 20-30 Spanish Civil War refugees, 2 boys sent for safety from Avignon, a young brother & sister from Strasbourg, who were staying with the 70 yr old village priest, the Abbé Chapelle. All died.
13/ The village doctor, the mayors son, returns from his rounds & is taken. His car is still where he left it. Father & son were shot but his brother survived, first hiding in his garage (here). As he fled he heard shooting. The Germans used it as an execution site.
(The car photo is the only one that is not mine - too many people were standing by it for me to get a clear photo)
14/ On 12/6 the SS left the region. On 13/6 the Bishop of Limoges visited the ruins & announced a memorial service for 21/6. Inspite of Gestapo opposition the city pop flocked to the cathedral. Bishop was arrested by French police & held until the papal nuncio secured his release
15/ This was the largest but not the only reprisal massacre carried out by the SS who then headed north in response to #DDay . A number of them including the officer commanding the #Oradour detail were killed in the Battle of Normandy.
16/ In the days before, I wondered if I could steel myself to visit the village. Once at the steps of the church I hesitated again, knowing the horror that had taken place inside. Yet it’s worth remembering that on the Eastern Front Nazi massacres like #Oradour were commonplace.
Apologies for typos. Phones are not best suited for composing long threads
17/ A Jewish dentist was dining with a female friend in the hotel. She had left St Malo for safety in the village & had papers. He did not. When the SS arrived he immediately fled and hid in the fields all day. She thought it was only an identity check. She died, he survived.
18/ The Pinèdes were Jewish refugees in hiding. The parents left for the “identity check”, but told their 3 children age 9-23 to hide. They heard all the shooting. At 6pm the Germans began to blow up & burn the houses incl their hotel. Fleeing, they ran straight into a soldier.
19/ “Where shall we go?” they asked him. He pointed away from the village and gestured them to go. They ran across the fields & eventually found shelter in a nearby village. One small act of mercy among day containing hundreds of bestial cruelty.
20/ #Oradour did not come from nowhere. The German ‘Hunger Plan’ devised *before* the war calculated that 10m Slavs in E Europe had to be liquidated to give room for Germans. Mass murder by starvation was the explicitly planned solution. Nazism was a psychopathic mass cult.
21/ The nationality of the guilty is complex: Most were Germans but some of the soldiers were men forcibly conscripted from Alsace-Lorraine after it was taken by the Germans from the French when France fell. And it was collaborationist French Vichy police that sent them there.
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