All but one perished. A total of 642 men, women, boys, girls and babies. The French put a fence up around the whole village and left it untouched, so as to record the atrocity to this day. There is a nearby memorial wall recording alphabetically the names of all those who died.
Some years later French president, Charles De Gaulle ordered the original village be maintained as a permanent memorial while another Oradour-sur-Glane was constructed nearby. (en.wikipedia.org)
A mistaken town
In February 1944 a SS Panzer Divison was stationed in the nearby town of Valence-d'Agen waiting to be resupplied with new equipment and freshly trained troops and after D Day was ordered to make its way across the country to stop the Allied advance. One of the division's units was the 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment ("Der Führer").
Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, the senior officer was informed that he had been approached by two members of the French secret police who were collaborators claiming a Waffen SS officer was being held by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village.
On 10 June, Diekmann's battalion sealed off the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, having confused it with nearby Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village. The rest is history.
A memory, a memorial and a message
Memory: Oradour-sur-Glane is a memory by those who survived, that is the one survivor of the atrocity and the Wafen SS personnel who committed it. 65 of the approximately 200 German soldiers survived the war and 21 of them faced a 1953 tribunal. The others were living in East Germany and not permitted to travel to France. 14 of them were from Alsace (French territory, ethnically German). The outcry from Alsace was heard all the way to Paris these young lads were forced drafted into the Waffen SS. The others were released in 1957. A platoon leader was found, charged and found guilty in 1983 and released in 1997.
Memorial: Oradour-sur-Glane is a memorial to the Nazi horror. The first of the World at War DVD series narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier whose voice says: “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... ”
Message: Oradour-sur-Glane is a message of the devastation and atrocity of war. Jesus Himself says there will be wars and rumors of wars and so it remains. In our own era the final vestiges of the generation that fought WWII are in their distant twilight years, the Vietnam conflict was 40 years ago, Australia has been engaged in numerous peace keeping roles in our region and elsewhere and more recently, we're in the final run down in Afghanistan.
The theological debate of “Just War” perennially goes on, while those in uniform have their pastoral needs catered for by those within the religious orders (of all faiths).
This is a dirty world. Yet in spite of all this wickedness, there continues to be a light of hope in the human spirit. This light for the followers of Jesus is the message of Salvation in Jesus Christ, this is the sure hope of eternity and worthy of true celebration in spite of the of Oradour-sur-Glane's of this world.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html