Thursday, June 10, 2010
A Village Where No One Lives
In the west-central part of France, the town of Oradour, where no one lives, has been preserved in its abandoned state since 1944. While doing research for my historical novel, The Tapestry Shop, I came upon this once-thriving village, now a solemn reminder of WWII and innocent lives lost.
There is disagreement as to the exact reason for what took place, but the events that unfolded there are unquestioned. On a sunny morning in June, members of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich entered this peaceful village. They ordered all the men to go to the fairgrounds, saying their mission was an identity check. The women and children were herded into the village church. After a bomb failed to detonate, the men were executed, to the last man, after which the women and children were massacred in the church. The few villagers who had not gone to the church or fairgrounds, for reasons of disability, were hunted down and killed. The houses were searched for anything of value, and the town was set on fire.
While the town burned, the Germans left the area and marched north to join the German forces in Normandy, where they hoped to fight off the invading armies.
Of all the memorials in France, this village may have made the most lasting impression on me. As you walk the empty streets, images of what was a community of people can be seen in the ruins—a rusted bicycle, an automobile that was never driven after that fateful day, the drooping telephone wires that lined the road where vacant homes now stand in ruin, the roofs gone, the walls crumbling. To this author, it remains a stark reminder of the horrors of war. At the entrance is a simple plaque. The words, written in both French and English, say simply,