I visited Oradour on recommendation from a friend. Having used my Lonely Planet for guidance for the rest of the trip, this was one of the only attractions I visited that was not included in the travellers ‘bible’ and therefore I have dubbed it the hidden wonder of my French road-trip.
Although I just referred to it as an attraction, I’m not sure how appropriate a term this is. In fact it is a small town that I guess over time has become an attraction, a completely untouched town since the horrors of 10th June 1944 occurred. I will explain.
My knowledge of the world wars is, I hate to admit, embarrassingly poor. But I was incredibly intrigued by the history that this town presented.
Oradour-Sur-Glane is a small town situated in West-Central France, and on 10th June 1944 642 of its inhabitants were brutally massacred by the German Nazi’s. Since this day the town has been kept exactly the way it was and has been maintained as a permanent memorial.
You enter the town through the memorial museum, and as soon as you step outside of the museum doors, it really is quite literally like stepping back in time.
The town has a very eerie feel, as if the unfortunate spirits that lost their lives that day are stood all around you. When walking around the town you are informed of how many people died in various buildings, who lived in the different houses and what each building was used for. You can see the bed frames still in the bedrooms, the tables and chairs still in the café and the oven still in the bakers, to give a few examples. There are several cars, rusty and sunken into the ground over time. For me, it was the cars that really struck me, they put a real time perspective on it, and made it feel that little bit more real.
Behind the handful of streets that make up the village there is now a cemetery. Whole families are buried together and their ages shown. The youngest to die on this tragic day was only 4 days old. It is nice to see however, that there are fresh flowers over graves throughout the cemetery; showing that they still receive many visitors all these years later. There is also a memorial, listing all those that fell that day.
At the end of the village is a church, and this is the place that the women and children were taken before being killed. Of all the village, this was the place that felt most eery. When I walked into the church it was as if hundreds of spirits were screaming out. My head hurt.
From the church I walked the entire length of the village back to the museum where I had entered. I felt like I really had been educated here, but I also felt very sad for what had happened.
It is amazing to think that I was stood in the exact same place that such horrors took place. I was looking at the buildings that were set alight; killing all their inhabitants. I entered the church that would have heard hundreds of unanswered prayers minutes or seconds before they died. I waked the streets that the Nazi’s walked on route to kill these unfortunate people.
As sad as it was to see all of this, I am very glad that I did. It was incredibly educational, and certainly thought provoking. I don’t think that this place has been given enough credit at all, and it really is a hidden gem in France!
Interested in Oradour Sur Glane? You can read up on the facts here!