Anyone who’s feeling the need for some good news, especially if, like us you’re thoroughly pissed off with Brexit and desperately need a story with a happy ending… READ NO FURTHER.
On 10 June 1944, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in Haute Vienne in Nazi-occupied France was destroyed, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company.
On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered everyone within to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. This included six non-residents who happened to be bicycling through the town when the SS unit arrived. The women and children were locked in the church, and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.
According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the SS men covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.
The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the SS unit had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.
Several days later, the survivors were allowed to bury the 642 dead inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane who had been killed in just a few hours. Adolf Diekmann said the atrocity was in retaliation for the partisan activity in nearby Tulele and the kidnapping of an SS commander.
They never rebuilt Oradour. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, China, in a World at War …
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Remember Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
But it is all too easy to forget –
In our busy lives, the sacrifices that were made and the lessons learned by those that gave their lives that we might live in peace.
It is all too easy to forget –
Man’s inhumanity to man never fails to shock. Whether it’s a lone gunmen in the US, in Norway or as recently in New Zealand or the Charlie Hebdo killers. Our intolerance to and of each other is a human fault line.
Political point alert: Why is membership of the EU not enough? Why do we think we’d be better off alone? Why do we want more than our neighbours? Surely there are some lessons from history that should not be forgotten..