Friday 10 June 2011

The massacred village

On this day…….67 years ago, the SS murdered 642 men, women and children at the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane.    The victims ranged in age from one week to 90 years.    Most were inhabitants, but a few just happened to be seized as they were cycling through the village.

Soldiers from the 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment were on their way to confront the allies who had landed in Normandy four days earlier, when they were approached by members of the Milice, the French secret police who worked with the Gestapo, to say the Resistance were holding an SS officer hostage in the village of Oradour-sur-Vayres, about 15 miles from Oradour-sur-Glane.   

It seems the SS got the wrong village.    At Oradour-sur-Glane, they herded the men into barns, shot them, then burned down the barns.    Then they locked the women and children in the church, set it on fire, and shot down any who managed to get out.    Just one woman survived.    Finally the village was destroyed.

Today its ruins are still preserved as a monument.

*Something more cheerful.   My friend Johnny Bull’s wonderful picture of the Queen Mary, The Return of the Native, has been selling like hot cakes at the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition in London.     Get along to see it while stocks last!


  1. Thanks John. If memory serves, didn't Jeremy Isaac's amazing TV series The World At War actually start with footage of this location as reminder? A perfect starting point and a reminder of the seismic and enduring agonies that the ruins represent. Easy to forget the Nazi-sympathetic secret police as well as the Paris cops willingly rounding up Jewish children for deportation etc: on seeing Marcel Ophuls' The Sorrow And The Pity, you realise just how many French thought the Germans to be a jolly good thing. And then you think how we might have feared; and not much better has to be the answer...

  2. 'The Sorrow and the Pity' - there was a classic. He also made a wonderful film about 15 years later about the Russian invasion and occupation of Germany - can't remember the title. A great film buff like you will also remember 'It Happened Here' about a Nazi occupation of Britain