The old photo above, which shows two French children standing in front of the sign at the entrance to the ruins, is displayed in the Center of Memory at Oradour-sur-Glane. The caption on the photo says that the German SS soldiers dishonored their mothers by killing children, but the caption doesn’t mention the French soldiers from Alsace who took part in the massacre and also killed children, some of whom were refugees from Alsace.
I did not go inside the Center of Memory to see the exhibits because I did not want to pay to see them. I walked through the hallway to get to ruins on the other side of the road. The photo below shows the hallway.
Here is my synopsis of the Official Story of Oradour-sur-Glane, as it is told in the Center of Memory, the Museum shown in the photo above:
Around 2 p.m. on June 10, 1944, four days after the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy, approximately 150 Waffen-SS soldiers entered the tranquil village of Oradour-sur-Glane in south central France. For no apparent reason, Hitler’s elite troops destroyed every building in this peaceful village and brutally murdered a total of 642 innocent men, women and children, an unexplained tragedy which has gone down in history as one of the worst war crimes committed by the Germans in World War II.
On that beautiful June day, the defenseless inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane were rudely dragged out of their homes, including the sick and the elderly, and ordered to assemble on the Fairgrounds on the pretext of checking their identity papers. After all of the villagers had been assembled, they were forced to wait in suspense with machine guns pointed at them. Then the women were separated from the men and marched a short distance to the small Catholic Church, carrying infants in their arms or pushing them in baby carriages.
The men in the village were ordered to line up in three rows and face a wall that bordered on the Fairgrounds. A short time later, the men were randomly divided into groups and herded into six buildings: barns, garages, a smithy, and a wine storehouse. Around 4 p.m., a loud explosion was heard which was interpreted by the men to be a signal for the SS soldiers to begin firing their machine guns. Most of the men were wounded in the legs and then burned alive when every building in the village was set on fire by the German soldiers at around 5 p.m. By some miracle, 6 of the men managed to escape from one of the burning barns and 5 of them survived. They testified in court about this completely unjustified German barbarity against blameless French civilians.
The Oradour church only had a seating capacity of 350 persons, but 245 frightened women and 207 sobbing children were forced inside at gunpoint while the men were still sitting on the grass of the Fairgrounds, awaiting their fate. The women and children were locked inside the church while the SS soldiers systematically looted all the homes in this prosperous farming village. Then around 4 p.m. a couple of SS soldiers carried a gas bomb inside this holy place and set it off, filling the church with a cloud of noxious black smoke. Their intention had been to asphyxiate the women and children in the House of God, but their plan failed.
As the women and children pressed against the doors, trying to escape and struggling to breathe, SS soldiers then entered the crowded, smoke-filled church and fired hundreds of shots at the hapless victims, while other SS men stood outside ready to machine-gun anyone who attempted to escape. The soldiers fired low inside the church in order to hit the small children. Babies in their prams were blown up by hand grenades, filled with gas, that were tossed into the church. Then brushwood and straw was carried into the stone church and piled on top of the writhing bodies of those that were not yet dead. The church was then set on fire, burning alive the women and babies who had only been wounded by the shots and the grenades. The clamor coming from the church could be heard for a distance of two kilometers, according the Bishop’s office report.
The fire inside the church was so intense that the flames leaped up into the bell tower, shown in the photo above. The bronze church bell melted from the heat of the flames and fell down onto the floor of the church. One SS soldier was accidentally killed by falling debris when the roof of the church steeple collapsed.
Only one woman, a 47-year-old grandmother, escaped from the church. Taking advantage of a cloud of smoke, she hid behind the main altar where she found a ladder that had been left there for the purpose of lighting the candles on the altar. Madame Marguerite Rouffanche, the lone survivor of the massacre in the church, managed to escape by using the ladder to climb up to a broken window behind the altar, then leaping out of the window, which was 10 feet from the ground. Although hit by machine gun fire and wounded 4 times in the legs and once in the shoulder, she was able to crawl to the garden behind the presbytery where she hid among the rows of peas until she was rescued, 24 hours later, at 5 p.m. the next day, and taken to the hospital in Limoges where she was admitted under an assumed name. In 1953, she testified before a French military tribunal in Bordeaux about the massacre of the women and children in the church. End of (official) Story
Is there any evidence which supports the official story? None that I know of. All of the remaining evidence, which can be seen today, supports the German version of the story, which is that members of the French Resistance in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane were storing explosives inside the Church and there was an explosion which killed the women and children. Note that the official story includes the fact that there was an explosion heard at 4 p.m.
The bell in the tower of the church fell. Did it fall as the result of an explosion in the bell tower?
Notice in the photo above that the melted bell is resting on some broken stones; the stone in the foreground appears to have a bit of the melted bronze on it. This indicates that the bell fell onto some stones in another location and both the bell and the stones were transported to this location inside the church. The floor of the church, underneath the bell, is undamaged.
Strangely, the wooden confession box in the ruined church is still in pristine condition, despite the fact that the church was set on fire, burning the women and children alive, according to the official story. Not even the smoke from the alleged fire damaged the confession box.
The photo above shows the transept on the left side of the Oradour-sur-Glane church where the wooden confession box is located. Behind the wall is the front door of the church. Note the damage on the arch of the transept which looks like damage from an explosion. The melted bell is located to the left of this view and very close to the confessional, not underneath the bell tower. The great mystery of the massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane is why the wooden confession box did not suffer any damage from the fire that melted the church bell in the tower. The bodies of two boys were found in the confessional; they had been shot in the neck.
The photo above shows the transept on the right side of the church, which had two side altars before the church was destroyed. On the left side of the photo, you can see that the side altar has been completely demolished. The broken pieces have been piled up to resemble an altar, which is shown in the photo below. The official story is that the altar was blown up by hand grenades thrown into the church by the SS soldiers who were trying to kill the babies sitting in their prams. Strangely the other altar in this transept is still in pristine condition, as shown in the second photo below.
The photo below shows the transept on the left side of the church which has a side altar still in pristine condition. This is the same side of the church where the confessional is located.
The photo below shows the main altar with a brick wall on the right. The doorway in the wall has pieces of the communion rail stored there, along with broken pieces of the main altar. In the new church in the new town of Oradour-sur-Glane, there is a little room in this space; the new church is modeled after the old one. It appears that there is a room behind the brick wall in the old church, but the access to it was closed off when I visited.
According to the official story, a German soldier stood in the cramped space to the right of the main altar and fired at the children huddled at the altar, aiming low so as to hit the small children. The photo below shows the bullet holes in the side panel of the altar, which is only a few feet from the brick wall.
Could there be another explanation for the bullet holes in the main altar? Could there have been ammunition stored in the church by members of the French resistance in Oradour-sur-Glane?
The photo below shows the center panel of the front of the altar. It appears to have one bullet hole in the center and one on each side.
Were the bullet holes in the front panel of the main altar made by German soldiers who were standing inside the burning church, shooting the innocent children standing in front of the altar?
The photo above shows what a burned corpse looks like. The photo below shows body parts of women and children found in the ruins of the church with unburned clothing. The body parts seem to support the unofficial story that the church was not burned by the SS soldiers.
The purpose of the Center of Memory at Oradour-sur-Glane seems to be to promote hatred of the German people. The following quote is from a book published by the Association of the Families of the Martyrs of Oradour-sur-Glane:
“Lest we forget…Months and years have passed since the drama at Oradour; it must remain alive in the hearts of French people, as the clearest example of Nazi cruelty. Let not the France of the future, ennobled by adversity, purified by the sacrifice of so many of its finest citizens, forget the humble and innocent victims, who for the sole crime of being French, paid the ultimate price. Let us not forget them.”
So German soldiers took time out from fighting the war and came to Oradour-sur-Glane, four days after the Normandy invasion, for the sole purpose of killing French civilians for the sole crime of being French? (That’s the official story, and if you don’t believe it, you could go to prison for several years.)
Following the Normandy invasion, the German Army, and especially the SS, came under heavy attack by the Maquis, a resistance group that in today’s War on Terror would be called insurgents or illegal combatants. The Waffen-SS Das Reich Division, which had been ordered from Bordeaux to the Normandy front, took 17 days to complete what would normally have been a three-day journey, suffering numerous casualties en route, as they were attacked by the Maquisards.
The Maquis was working closely with the British, who gave them supplies and coordinated their efforts. In the days immediately following the Allied invasion at Normandy, the leader of the Free French, Charles de Gaulle, was making plans to become the President of France after it was liberated from the German occupation. From his headquarters in London, he directed the British to drop money and ammunition to the resistance fighters in rural areas, rather than supplying the 25,000 Communists who were in Paris. He did not want the capital city of Paris to be liberated by the Communists because this would have resulted in a Communist government in France after the war. The Maquis fought in the outlying areas, hiding in the hamlets and villages of rural France; de Gaulle wanted all the Allied ammunition to be given to them.
The Maquisards set land mines, wrecked trains, blew up bridges and railroad tracks, ambushed German soldiers, kidnapped high-ranking German officers, killed wounded SS soldiers, and directed British and American planes in the bombing of German troop trains. There were also French collaborators who were helping the Nazis in the fight against Communism, particularly the Milice, the secret police, which helped the German Gestapo in arresting the resistance fighters.
The destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane had the desired effect because, immediately after the massacre, the Communist partisans, who had been wreaking havoc in the Limosin area, gave the order to stop fighting. The order was intercepted by the Germans and this immediately lifted their morale. The reprisal had worked; this was basically the reason why reprisals were allowed at that time, although such bestial cruelty as the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane is, understandably, no longer legal under international law.
Otto Diekmann, the commanding officer who ordered the reprisal at Oradour-sur-Glane, returned to his headquarters in the late afternoon, and gave his report to his commanding officer. Diekmann had gone to Oradour-sur-Glane to search for his friend and fellow officer, Helmut Kämpfe, the commander of Der Führer Battalion 3, who had been kidnapped by members of the FTP, the French Communist resistance, on June 9, 1944.
The following quote, from Diekmann’s Report, was included in Otto Weidinger’s book, Comrades to the End:
The Company had encountered resistance in Oradour, the bodies of executed German soldiers were found. It then occupied the village and immediately conducted an intensive search of the houses. Unfortunately this failed to turn up Kämpfe, however large quantities of weapons and ammunition were found. Therefore all the men of the village were shot, who were surely Maquisards.
The women and children were locked up in the church while all this was going on. Then the village was set on fire, as a result of which the ammunition that was stored in almost every house went up. The burning of the village resulted in fire spreading to the church, where ammunition had also been hidden in the roof. The church burned down very rapidly and the women and children lost their lives.
Note that Diekmann wrote that “The church burned down very rapidly…” Diekmann left the village before the church was destroyed, so he did not know that it had been destroyed by an explosion of the ammunition stored inside. The church could not have “burned down very rapidly” since it was made of stone. Diekmann apparently did not see the church before he left in the late afternoon.
Some former SS men believe that Diekmann committed suicide by deliberately getting himself killed at Normandy. He had been court-martialed because, in ordering the reprisal, he had exceeded his orders and he knew that he would soon be put on trial by the SS.
German Army General Erwin Rommel demanded the court martial of Diekmann, and even said that he would conduct it himself. Compare this with General George S. Patton tearing up the court-martial papers of the American soldiers who committed the Dachau massacre. Ironically, the killing of over 500 Waffen-SS Prisoners of War, who had surrendered at Dachau, was motivated by the anger that American soldiers felt after seeing dead bodies of prisoners on a train outside the camp, while the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre may have been touched off by the anguish of the SS soldiers at seeing the charred bodies of wounded Waffen-SS men who had been burned alive in an ambulance near the village.
I wrote another blog post about Oradour-sur-Glane at http://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/oradour-sur-glane-shown-in-the-tv-series-the-world-at-war/