On June 10, 1944, around 14:00, four days after the Allies invaded Normandy, about 150 Waffen-SS soldiers entered the quiet village of Oradour-sur-Glane in the center of France.
For no apparent reason, Hitler’s elite troops destroyed every building in this tranquil village and brutally murdered 642 men, women and innocent children.
The movie of a massacre
On June 10, 1944, the SS battalion headed by Major Adolf Diekmann blocked all trips to the village. He then ordered all locals to gather in the central square, where their ID documents would be examined.
The women and children were imprisoned in the church, and the village was predestined.The men were transported in six stables, where machine guns were already fitted.
According to a survivor’s account, the SS troops started shooting, aiming to their feet.
When the victims could no longer move, the Nazi soldiers poured gas on them and burned them alive. Only six men managed to escape.
One of them was later spotted and shot dead.
Then the SS soldiers headed for the church and placed an incendiary device near the building.
When the device was set on fire, women and children tried to get out on the door or on the windows where the machine-gun soldiers were waiting for them.
247 women and 205 children died in attack. The only survivor was a 47-year-old woman named Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through the back window of the sacristy.
Rouffanche dragged in some bushes and stayed all night. The next day, it was found and saved.
Apart from Rouffache, 20 villagers survived in Oradour-sur-Glane, who managed to flee immediately after the arrival of SS troops.
A few days later, the survivors were allowed to bury the 642 dead in Oradour-sur-Glane.
Guilty, punished and not too
Unfortunately, even to this day, it is not known why SS troops invaded a peaceful village, far from any conflict zone.
Moreover, Oradour-sur-Glane had never been a Resistance shelter.
Later, Diekmann said the atrocity was committed as a response to the activity of partisans in the area and the abduction by an SS commander of the Resistance.
Diekmann died immediately after the massacre during the Battle of Normandy. Thus, he has not been prosecuted.
After the war, the authorities tried to punish the perpetrators and accused 65 of the 200 soldiers involved.
Only 21 of them were present. The rest were in East Germany and could not be extradited.
On February 11, 1953, 20 of them were found guilty. But by 1958, everyone was released from prison.
An outdoor museum
After the war, Oradour-sur-Glane was not rebuilt. The place was left in the state where it was, as a memory of those who perished.
A new village, named Oradour-sur-Glane, was built northwest of the massacre.
Where the carnage took place, the ruins of the former village still stand, serving as a memorial to the dead.
Here, a museum has been built that shows objects recovered from burned buildings: watches or glasses that stopped while their owner was burned alive, and many other personal items and money.