Not far from Limoges, a tiny little village, once filled with tailors, butchers, chefs, bakers and farmers, their wives and their children, has become a memorial to the French victims of World War II, a place where today's French children are taught to remember the brutality and cruelty of war. Streets where children played and parents walked to get fresh groceries and haircuts, doorways where young lovers must have kissed goodnight, gardens where flowers must have basked in a glorious French sun, are eerily quiet as awe-struck tourists amble past the remains of homes and storefronts burnt after the massacre, to the barn where the men were gunned down, to the church where the women and children were locked inside while the German soldiers set fire to the building, and to the cemetary, where the 642 vicitims of the such an incomprehensible act are buried.
There is no time when the murders at Oradour would have been justified but the carnage seems even more incomprehensible when you realize it occured a few weeks before the war in Europe came to an end. On June 10, 1944, as act of revenge for resistance efforts in a neighboring village, the citizens of Oradour were rounded up by German soldiers, men sent in one direction, women and children the other, all were dead by sunset.
Six citizens of Oradour survived the massacre. The town remains as a memorial to all the French citizens who suffered in WWII.
A new town has grown up near the remains of the originial village and there is convenient parking for the memorial. A museum that explains the events of June 10, 1944 serves as the entryway to the town that is left much as it was left by the German soldiers. As you walk past the homes and business, you see the devastation but you feel the presence, or more precisely the void, of the families that should be living in this town. Make the cemetary your last stop....but even if you are uncomfortable in cemetaries, the cemetary at Oradour is one you should visit for it is in the memorials at the cemetary that the final statement of Oradour is made.
Wandering through Oradour is a contemplative experience that may be difficult for younger children to comprehend. If you arrive there in the summer, you will appreciate how beautiful it must have been that morning. You will also appreciate how vulnerable the citizens of Oradour were when the soldiers arrived. Notice the artifacts, read the signs, and let the voices from the past tell you their stories.
Since our visit to Oradour in the summer of 2001, many new scars have been left around the world telling the same sad story of brutality. In a world ravaged by war and inexplicable acts of terrorism, Oradour sur Glane is a fitting tribute to the martyrs of France that reminds us to remember that war reaps destruction on even the most innocent of victims and to urge the world to find peaceful ways to deal with conflict.
The nearby town or New Oradour sur Glane has restaurant and hotel facilities if you need them, but we found it was a convenient detour on our way from the Loire Valley to a campground near Sarlat on the Dordogne. If you are traveling by train, you may want to stay in Limoges.