In the afternoon of 10th June 1944 a detachment of SS troops arrived in Oradour-sur-Glane, a peaceful town near the city of Limoges in central France. The troops sealed off the entrances to the town and rounded up the inhabitants, including those they had collected from nearby farms on their way in.
The assembled residents were initially told that this was to be an identity check. However the women and children were then separated from the men folk and the (200 or so) men were split up into smaller groups and taken to various barns or warehouses around the town centre where SS troops set up machine guns facing them. The women and children (approx 450 of them) were taken to the church and locked in.
On a pre-determined signal the machine gunners opened fire on all the men, slaughtering them in cold blood. Once the firing had ceased the troops covered the dead and dying with wood and straw and set fire to them. At the church, soldiers brought in a box containing some sort of explosive device and detonated it amidst the terrified women and children. It is believed that this was supposed to produce an asphyxiating gas rather than being purely explosive, however its effect was to set the women and children into a screaming panic. The SS then started firing their machine guns into the church through the doors and windows and also threw in hand grenades to murder the women and children. As with the barns where the men were held, the SS then piled in wood and straw and set light to the church. They then proceeded to loot the town and burn down all the buildings.
Only one woman managed to escape from the church, through one of the windows. Several of the men escaped the slaughter at the various barns and managed to hide or flee the town.
At the end of the day, the SS had murdered a total of 642 men women and children.
Following the war the French government decided to preserve the town in its ruined state as a memorial to the murdered inhabitants. It is today still possible to visit the town and get and idea of the terrible atrocity carried out there. I personally made a visit to Oradour in June 2005 and the following pages are presented in the interests of those who are unable to visit the town themselves.