The day that time stopped

On June 10,1944, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a Nazi SS company. A new village was built nearby after the war, but President Charles de Gaulle ordered the original maintained as a permanent memorial and museum.

On that day, all the townspeople were herded into the main square. Men were put in two separate garages; women and children were pushed into the church. And then the killing began. After the shooting, the soldiers burned the bodies to hinder any identification.

Five men and one woman escaped.

And then the little town was looted and burned.

This is a sacred place, and walking through its ruins is a chilling experience. It is difficult to understand how so many people were able to “just follow orders” that destroyed lives and countries and go on living with themselves as the war ended. Impossible for us to comprehend.





3 thoughts on “The day that time stopped

  1. I am appalled. There are no words to describe such cruelty. My hope is that the perpetrators were tracked down and tried for war crimes.

    1. You will not like the end of the story. Being tried is not enough.

      In 1953, a military tribunal heard the charges against the surviving 65 of the 200 or so SS men who had been involved. Only 21 of them were present, as many were now in East Germany, which would not permit their extradition. Seven of those charged were German citizens, but 14 were Alsatians, French nationals of German ethnicity. All but one of the Alsatians claimed to have been forced to join the Waffen-SS against their will.

      When 20 defendants were found guilty, uproar in Alsace pressed the French parliament to pass an amnesty law for all those conscripted against their will. The convicted Alsatian former SS men were released shortly afterwards. By 1958, all of the German defendants had also been released.

      We can only hope they never again had a good night’s sleep.

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