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April 3, 2010

Oradour-sur-Glane shown in the TV series “The World at War”

Filed under: Germany, movies, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 4:54 pm

Here is the narration by Sir Lawrence Olivier in the first Episode of the British documentary The Word at War which was first shown on TV in 1973:

“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. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, in China, in a World at War…”

The ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, 1944

The Official Publication about the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre states that “the Nazis had no valid reason to attack this peaceful town.”

Women and children were allegedly burned alive in Oradour-sur-Glane church

The massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane happened on June 10, 1944, four days after the Allied invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944.  WHOA! Wait a minute!  Did  German soldiers actually take time out from fighting the Allied invaders, so that they could go to a remote French village and burn 245 women and 207 innocent children alive inside a Catholic church for no reason at all?

I also blogged about the people who were allegedly burned alive on this blog post:

By beginning the documentary The World at War with this story, the British proved right up front that the Germans were indeed heartless barbarians who were solely responsible for a world-wide war. The German soldiers cared more about burning innocent babies alive in a church than they cared about defending their country.  Why else would they have taken time out to commit such an atrocity at Oradour-sur-Glane, a peaceful village where the people had nothing whatsoever to do with the war?  Or is there something that the British are not telling us?

Oradour-sur-Glane as it looked in 1932

Here is a quote from the Forward of the Official Publication about the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane:

“A traveler in June 1944 leaving Limoges for Angouleme would have been captivated by the charming balance of the surrounding countryside. How easily he would have stepped aside from the main road to take some more intimate by-way to discover to his delight, above the meandering river Glane, between two rows of willows and poplars, the church of the town going by the melodic name of Oradour.

“A few days later, nothing was left of this village apart from ruins and embers, the blackened sections of walls grasping the sky like stumps, and the charred remains of its inhabitants. The Huns had been that way, killing, pillaging, destroying, burning and annihilating animate beings and inanimate alike with method and refinement, for in the art of killing they are masters par excellence.”

“The Huns” is the pejorative name for Germans soldiers that was used by the British in World War I. The British told fantastic lies about alleged atrocities committed by German soldiers during World War I. The most famous British lie was about German soldiers “cutting the hands off babies in Belgium.”  Of course, the British government apologized later and admitted that it was all lies, but the damage had been done.

Old car in the ruins of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane

Another quote from the Official Publication:

“… unleashing of such monstrous instincts and the obsession with atrocities such as these has no name in any language – except however in the German language, where the term ‘Schadenfreude’ has been created and which may be translated as ‘pleasure in doing evil.’ How edifying it is when we find that in Germany such a brutal state of mind, heart and spirit should be so natural, normal and usual that it should be necessary to create a special word to designate this!”

Wow!  I’ll never use the word Shadenfreude again.  I had no idea that Shadenfreude means German “pleasure in doing evil.”  I thought it meant taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.

According to the Official Publication, while the women were awaiting their fate in the church and the men were sitting in rows of three on the Market Square, the SS began carrying out a systematic pillage of the town, searching each house and emptying it of its contents.

The fairgrounds where the men waited while the women were taken to the church

The Official Publication claims that this was not a search for weapons, but rather a search for valuables that the SS wanted to steal. “The village was rich and theft was bound to be lucrative: silver, linen, provisions, precious objects, everything was there.”

So that’s why the German soldiers took time out from getting to Normandy to fight the Allied invaders?  They wanted to steal everything from the rich people in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane.  How were they going to carry all this stuff with them into battle?

Maybe they were going to bury it and come and get it later, after Germany had won the war. In fact, there is a book, written by a guy named Robert Mackness, entitled Massacre at Oradour in which he tells about two SS officers stealing gold for years, and then transporting it to  Oradour-sur-Glane, along with military records. On June 10th, the SS officers went to Oradour-sur-Glane to retrieve their gold, and when they didn’t find it, they took revenge on the innocent people in the village.  Don’t laugh; some people actually believe this story.

The Dupic house where the SS soldiers had a drunken orgy

The 200 German SS soldiers spent the night of June 10th in the home of Monsieur Dupic, a fabric merchant who managed to escape when he saw the Germans enter the town. His house was located at the north end of the main street. The SS soldiers did not leave Oradour-Sur-Glane until the following day at about 11 a.m. They set fire to the Dupic house just before they left. The next day, the remains of 20 to 25 Champagne bottles were found in the ruins.

According to the Official Publication:

“Without doubt, during the night, the most atrocious orgies occurred in this house. […] They drank and binged in the Teutonic fashion, whilst other discoveries indicate clearly enough the monstrous nature of the scenes that these sadistic brutes gave themselves over to in the light of the fading glow of the fires.”

Well that’s one side of the story.  The German SS men have a different version of what happened.  You can read it here on my web site The story of Oradour-sur-Glane, as told by SS officer Otto Weidinger can be read here. You can also read more about the Official version of the story here.

Oradour-sur-Glane is a really big deal in France.  The ruins have been preserved just as they were left on June 11, 1944 when the German SS soldiers left the town.  To see the ruins, visitors have to go inside the Center of Memory and then go through a tunnel which leads to the ruined town.

The Center of Memory with the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane in the background

The town cemetery has a sickening display of bones found in the ruins of the town.

Bones of unidentified victims of Oradour-sur-Glane massacre

The French were defeated by the Germans in World War II after only six weeks of fighting.  They have nothing to be proud of except the French Resistance, so they glorify the French people who fought as illegal combatants after France signed an Armistice and promised to stop fighting.  At the same time, they deny that the people in the town of Oradour-sur-Glane had anything to do with the French Resistance.

Madame Rouffanche allegedly survived the massacre

Madame Rouffanche allegedly jumped out of a window in the church and survived, even though she was allegedly shot five times by the SS soldiers. She was found at 5 p.m. the next day, hiding between the rows of peas in a garden behind the church. As the only witness to allegedly survive the atrocity in the church, Madame Rouffanche testified at the trial of the SS men in 1953.

Madame Rouffanche allegedly jumped from the middle window of the Oradour-sur-Glane church

Madame Rouffanche’s final words to the court, at the trial of the SS men, were “I ask that justice be done with God’s help. I came out alive from the crematory oven; I am the sacred witness from the church. I am a mother who has lost everything.” The term “crematory oven,” which was evocative of the Holocaust, was a reference to the burning of the women and children in the church.

I don’t believe that Madame Rouffanche was even in the church, much less that she jumped out of a window in the church.

The side altar on the left side of the church is in pristine condition

The side altar on the right side is a pile of rubble

Body parts of women and children with unburned clothing

The three photos above clearly show what really happened inside the church at Oradour-sur-Glane.  The old black and white photo shows body parts with unburned clothing, which indicates that there was an explosion inside the church. Could the French Resistance have stored weapons inside the church which exploded?  You can see more photos of the church here.

Curiously, the president of France, Charles de Gaulle, ordered the records of the trial to be sealed for 100 years, which means we will not know what really happened at Oradour-sur-Glane until 2053.  Is there something that the French don’t want us to know about the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre?

I can’t say any more because it is a crime in France to tell the truth about what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944.

Corrie ten Boom forgave a Ravensbrück SS guard

This morning I heard Kenneth B. McMillan, Presiding Bishop in the Mormon church, give a sermon on TV.  He told the story about a former SS guard at the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp, who asked Corrie ten Boom to forgive him for his crime of being a camp guard.  She hesitated, but then held out her hand and forgave him.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom is second only to Anne Frank as a famous female person in the story of the Holocaust.  In 1971, Corrie wrote a book entitled The Hiding Place, which was made into a film by World Wide Pictures in 1975.

There is a Museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem, which is all about Corrie ten Boom’s work with the Dutch Resistance and her work in hiding Jews from the Nazis.

The Corrie ten Boom Museum in Haarlem, Holland. Photo credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology

After World War II, Corrie ten Boom taught the Christian gospel all over the world, in 60 countries; her emphasis was on forgiveness. In 1974, Corrie wrote  Tramp for the Lord, in which she told about teaching the gospel in Germany in 1947.  She wrote that when she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards, she was at first reluctant to forgive him.

In her book, Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom wrote:

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

Corrie ten Boom had been arrested, along with her entire family,  by the German Gestapo on February 28, 1944 after a Dutch informant turned them in.  According to Wikipedia, they were sent first to Scheveningen prison, where her father died ten days after his capture. Corrie’s sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter were all released.

Later, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were sent to the Vught  political concentration camp in the Netherlands, and finally to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women in Germany on December 16, 1944, where Corrie’s sister Betsie died.  Corrie was released on December 31, 1944.

In the movie The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom narrates the section on her release from the Ravensbrück concentration camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners, who were her age, were killed the week following her release, which would have been in January 1945.

Women prisoners at work in Ravensbrück camp

Ravensbrück was not a death camp, but it did have a gas chamber, according to a confession given by Johann Schwarzhuber, the SS man who was the second in command at Ravensbrück.

Schwarzhuber gave detailed testimony in the British Military Court at Hamburg, where 16 staff members of Ravensbrück were put on trial from December 5, 1946 to February 3, 1947. Schwarzhuber testified that British SOE agents Violette Szabo, Lilian Rolfe and Denise Bloch had been executed by a shot in the neck shortly after Schwarzhuber was transferred to the camp on January 12, 1945. This would have been around the time that women the age of Corrie ten Boom were killed, according to her story.

Until British SOE officer Vera Atkins interrogated Schwarzhuber on March 13, 1946 and got him to confess to witnessing the murder of the women SOE agents, nothing was known about the fate of these three women who had been at Ravensbrück since August 22, 1944. Schwarzhuber filled in all the details that Atkins wanted to hear, about how the women had died bravely and how the SS men had been impressed with their bearing.

Schwarzhuber, who was on trial himself because he was an SS man at Ravensbrück, said in the deposition taken from him by Vera Atkins and repeated in the courtroom, that Ravensbrück Commandant Fritz Suhren had been annoyed that the Gestapo had not carried out these executions themselves.

Suhren was not on trial since he had escaped from custody. Schwarzhuber testified that Suhren had ordered him to organize a mass gassing of the women prisoners at the end of February 1945, at a time when sixty to seventy prisoners were dying each day during a typhus epidemic. Cecily Lefort was one of the women who died in the gas chamber on May 1, 1945, according to the testimony of Sylvia Salvensen, a former prisoner in the camp.

Schwarzhuber was the most important witness at the Ravensbrück proceedings; he had first told his story when he gave a deposition after being interrogated by Vera Atkins of the British SOE.  Vera Atkins was somehow able to get Schwarzhuber to confess to crimes for which he knew that he would surely be executed. After he was convicted, Schwarzhuber was executed on May 3, 1947.

I don’t know the name of the SS man who asked for forgiveness from Corrie ten Boom.  It could have been Schwarzhuber, but probably not.

In the same passage of her book, in which she wrote about forgiving the SS guard, Corrie wrote that, in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, it was those who were able to forgive who were best able to rebuild their lives.

The State of Israel has named Corrie ten Boom as a person who is Righteous Among the Nations. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work with the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Because of her aid to the Dutch Resistance, Corrie ten Boom was technically an illegal combatant under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929 and her imprisonment in a concentration camp was legal.

The photo below shows a famous monument at the Ravensbrück Memorial Site.

Burdened Woman by Will Lammert. Bronze sculpture looks out over Lake Schwedt. 1959. Photo credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology