Thursday, October 11, 2012


"Down this road, on a summer day in 1944...The soldiers came.  Nobody lives here now.  They stayed only a few hours.  When they had gone, the community which had lived for a thousand years...was dead.

This is Oradour-sur-Glane, in France.  The day the soldiers came, the people were gathered together.  The men were taken to garages and barns, the women and children were led down this road...and they were driven...into this church.  Here, they heard the firing as their men were shot.  Then...they were killed too.  A few weeks later, many of those who had done the killing were themselves dead, in battle.

They never rebuilt Oradour.  It's ruins are a memorial.  It's martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, in China, in a world at War...:
Quote taken from a British documentary "A World at War".

We were on the two lane from the Loire Valley to Les Eyzies in Dordogne.  Somewhere in the back of my memorie I had heard stories about Oradour-sur-Glane...the atrocities that were committed there on a summer day during the german occupation of France, only a few days after the D Day landings on the beaches of Normandie.  When I saw the road sign it meant several hours off our  schedule...but we had no schedule (something that we constantly had to remind ourselves...attempting to rid ourselves of the daily grind we left behind in Indiana).  We headed for Oradour.

Having lived through September 11th first hand in the New york area I thought I was prepared for what we would see here.  I witnessed the trauma and destruction left behind during the 4 days I remained after 911...seeing ground zero... remembering the rage I felt at the sight of what man is capable of doing to his fellow man.  This day would bring back all those feelings again.

Oradour-sur-Glane has been set aside as a French National Memorial.  The village remains exactly as it was left on June 10th, 1944.  The Nazis were looking for a French resistance fighter thought to be hiding out in Oradour.  The search escalated into a complete slaughter of the men, women and children...over 600...of the village of Oradour -sur-Glane.  They then set the village on fire.  Many were burnt alive.  Walking through the village I noticed a complete silence even though there were visiters that day.  How this must have affected the French psyche...trying to sort out the Why of such a meaningless loss of life.

As I was taking pictures, I became the subject of two Frenchmen, both with understandable re-actions to my taking the pictures.  The conversation was in French and directed at me and at each other.  "Disgusting....How can you photograph such a sight...have you no reverence at what happened here?" The other stepping into the conversation..."It is good that he takes the pictures...we must never forget what happened here...always remember...(souviens-toi)  tell and show your friends when you return home what happened here".

A moment in time that I will never forget....Souviens-Toi.


DawnTreader said...

Sad memories - but what a place to explore with the camera...

ADRIAN said...

Such a terrible place. The French are very good at preserving memorials. There is a dignity about them.
It is photogenic but I suspect I'd be too emotional to capture it. You did a good job here but high contrast B&W would have suited it better for me.
St Malo...they rebuilt but left the little peninsular off it as a memorial to the brave German soldiers who defended it for weeks against everything we threw at them.
There is much to be said for jousting....If the head of state gets fed up with someone then let them sort it out without sitting on their bums while we peasants do it.

shabby girl said...

Wow. What a memorial! Things left exactly as it was is chilling.
Beautiful photography, Dan.