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Oradour-sur-Glane, France

By Mark Waldie 
Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: March 12, 2009 
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As I walk up the first road, I think of Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, the 2nd Panzer Division's battalion commander. In June 1944, his division had been rushing northward to repulse the D-Day landings, but their progress was hindered by constant attacks from the French Resistance. Frustrated by the delay, Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle issued orders allowing drastic reprisals against any French partisans caught attacking German forces. Diekmann might have thought that people from Oradour-sur-Glane were involved in the kidnapping of his close friend, Maj. Helmut Kämpfe. Or maybe he had mistaken the village for Oradour-sur-Vayre, a well-armed Resistance stronghold only twenty miles away. But then again, maybe innocent Oradour-sur-Glane was chosen for reprisal because its inhabitants would not put up a fight.

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Some, like eight-year-old Roger Godfrin, did manage to turn and run. Godfrin climbed through a window in the back of the school, fled, and then played dead when a soldier shot at him, not uttering a sound even when the soldier kicked him. But as I pass one of Oradour's three schoolhouses I think of the children who didn't escape. By the bakery is an oven and a sign reading, "Here were found two burnt corpses." One of them was an infant.

Few objects survived the fires. As I walk by the houses, I notice that typically, the only reminder that a family once lived there is a cast-iron sewing machine. There are many burned and rusted sewing machines. A few old signs also managed to outlast the blazes; one advertises automobiles. Just down the road is the garage that was owned by Hubert Desourteaux, where some of the male villagers were taken before they died. Among the signs from long ago are contemporary ones, in French, that identify the burnt-out structures. The one at the garage reads, "Here is a place of torment. A group of men were murdered and then burned by the Nazis. You should remember this."

Halfway through the village, I come to the church where the women and children were killed. There are bullet holes in the sign at the entrance, and the brass bell from the tower is now lying on the ground, melted from the heat of the fires.

How could anyone have done this? Even the SS, known for its ruthlessness, did not normally kill non-Jewish civilians indiscriminately in the west. When Sylvester Stadler, the commander of Diekmann's regiment, found out about the massacre, he recommended that Diekmann be court-martialed. Gen. Heinz Lammerding, Das Reich division commander, concurred, but since experienced officers were urgently needed at the front—and since Resistance activity in the area had quieted down noticeably after the killings—the matter was not pursued.

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3 Responses to “Oradour-sur-Glane, France”

  1. 1
    Müller says:

    Nice story…..

    Todays french partisans are Taliban, they are killing NATO soldiers with hidden bombs…

    and the NATO is fighting back. Killed civilians are called colateral damages and US-troops just changed from very brutal to a nicer behavior.

  2. 2
    Abris says:

    Nice comment Muller-,… But STUPID! As the little Nazi said.

    Now why don't you take your political rant somewhere else?

    War is war; big scale or little scale it's all the same. US Soldiers call it Hell; the Taliban call their war 'the work of Allah'.

    Frankly I don't care what a bunch of 10th century backwards thinking/living pretenders to Islam think as long as I don't have to see their shaggy muttonheaded results. However if I do have to clean up the mess they make flinging crap around from where they are murdering innocents and protesters of their so-called social-religious system. Because they are bringing it into my country and my country's forigen policy then they deserve to get their asses handed to their arisol sprayed remains. If that responce kills children or women I remember that war has been declared on MY women and children too by them and since my country doesn't murder innocents as a matter of course as we wage war then I have the moral high ground.

    Let the Taliban be damned and beware.

    Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed because some waffen SS junior officer was hopped up too high on meth to be makeing such a decission about the disbursing of possible civilian-combatants because the dumb assed 3rd Reich had made enimies of anyone who would supply them coffee to their front line soldiers and occupying forces. Meth induced paranoia got alot of those "Master -Race" folks; They also thought the world was a better place a thousand years before and wanted to go back to living there too.

    I'll bet they have opened up a brand new subdivision of Hell right next to the Natzi Suburb

  3. 3
    Jane g Taylor says:

    Nothing compares to the ghastly tactics of the nazi reich. I just found this town in an old dusty book and checked the Internet.a madman sociopath in command saw prisoners as an unnecessary expense and burden to the economy and gave the directive.
    peace keeping by NATO and securing the worlds oil may be wrong —–like all occupations, but it is all we can do right now.
    The more the population surges over 7 billion,the more we will vie for resources

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