After a later start after breakfast from Bellac, our overnight stay, we headed off to Oradour-sur-Glane and the "Martyr Village" to meet Diane and Nigel. Diane writes "My Life in the Charante" and lives maybe less than an hours drive from Oradour-sur-Glane.
We read about the the village in one of Diane's posts and was aware of it through the Internet. The village stands as it was after the a German SS unit murdered the residents of the village and destroyed the town. This was in 1944.
We'd been in contact with Diane by phone and arranged to meet at 11.00 am in the car park. As we pulled into the car park a couple were just getting out of their Renault Clio. A very tall chap and a lady looked towards us. It was Diane and Nigel. She did say Nigel stood out in a crowd (he is quite tall). Anyway there were smiles all round and warm welcomes that comes from knowing someone never met before. Reading each other's blogs you get the feeling you know each other well and also know you will like them instantly which in this case was proven.
After greetings it was time to wander the memorial to the 642 men, women and children that lost their lives in a senseless action by the Nazi SS unit on that day in June 1944.
|Our B and B in Bellac.|
|The gates to Martyr Village at Oradour-sur-Glane.|
|Two of the streets we walked as they were prior to 1944|
It was a difficult place to view, but probably something that everyone should see once. From our sheltered perspective, absolutely inconceivable that such a thing could happen. That people could do that to each other.
On that day, 190 men, 247 women and 207 children were murdered. Ages ranged from 1 week to 90 years. The men were machine gunned and burned to death in 6 separate locations, the women and children locked in the church and it was set alight, while the doors and windows were under machine gun fire.
It was in retaliation for the belief that an officer of the SS had been captured and was being held.
They mistook the name of the village for one of a similar name not far away. Not even the right village.
After the massacre they burnt the village to the ground.
The small things are what get you. Sewing machines, burnt prams, bicycles. The detritus of people in a community going about their everyday lives. In war time, yes, but still making a life - cafes, hairdressers, hardware stores, dentists. Families carrying on despite the circumstances.
The horror and sadness of witnessing this village cannot be overstated.
The perpetrators that still lived after the war were tried. I think it was six people who escaped and they testified as eye witnesses.
Two separate trials that depended on whether they were French or German.
The French stated that they were forced to become SS members and were acquitted.
The Germans were acquitted somewhat later.
I hope I have my facts correct. This is information I have gained from the internet and from information within the village.
|Our new "finally met in person" friends.|
After a very emotional experience of our walk through the ruined village, we decided to cheer ourselves up with a light lunch washed down with some rose. The colour started to come back into our day.
We chatted away enjoying each other's company discussing each other's lives and the time went quickly. Before we knew it - it was time to head off to Chinon for our two nights at Helene and Jean Michel's B and B, Logis Saint Mexme.
|Our room at Saint Mexme - we had a very late start to exploring Chinon again.|
Our room was to relaxing to leave in a rush.
Tomorrow - some pics at Chinon Castle.