“Souviens-Toi – Remember”

You will never forget a visit to Oradour sur Glanes, a memorial to the horror of war.

It’s a long drive (a little over two hours) but well worth it for a day out.

I recommend an early morning start. Michael Williams has built an exceptional website which provides loads of interesting information about the world-renowned site which you really should take a look at before you set out.

The seminal documentary series The World At War used Oradour as a framework, starting and finishing with these words:

Down this road, on a summer day in 1944 . . . The soldiers came. Nobody lives here now. They stayed only a few hours. When they had gone, the community which had lived for a thousand years . . . was dead.

This is Oradour-sur-Glane, in France. The day the soldiers came, the people were gathered together. The men were taken to garages and barns, the women and children were led down this road . . . and they were driven . . . into this church. Here, they heard the firing as their men were shot. Then . . . they were killed too. A few weeks later, many of those who had done the killing were themselves dead, in battle.

They never rebuilt Oradour. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, in China, in a World at War . . .

It is open throughout the day and access is via the Centre de la Mémoire (visitor centre) which includes a museum including melted bottles and the twisted spectacles of children. Please be under no illusion, this is a hard experience. My mother observed that when she visited there was no bird song. It is genuinely silent and silence must be observed, out of respect for the dead and other visitors.

The site was visited by newly elected Président Emmanuel Macron in June 2017.

The massacre took place four days after D-Day on 10 June 1944. In the church you can see the bullet holes in the walls where the villagers were shot from the choir stall.

The visit takes about an hour and a half. Afterwards, I recommend having lunch in the new town that has been built alongside the memorial. To get there take the autoroute towards Limoges (see the Google map). On the way back and to brighten your mood aim for the stunning Saint-Jean-de-Côle and Brantome, both of which are classified as among the most beautiful villages in France.

Here’s a recent article about a visit, taken from The Connection newspaper.

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