A Tribute: Oradour-sur-Glane

I was never been a history buff, until I got married. My husband is what you might call a “self-studied-history-buff” and he’s very good at it. When I was growing up in the Philippines, we were never really exposed with what happened in Europe during WWII. Believe me I know all about McArthur and his promise “I shall return!” Although I did not know how long was it till his return back then. I guess we talked about what happened on the other side of the globe in WWII it in school, but not much… I recall.

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http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/gauck-oradour102.html

CAUTION (This is just an opinion/obeservation) I also noticed while growing up how in church, I grew up in a Catholic household, it were loosely taught the Jews through Pontius Pilate ultimately put Jesus on the cross. I used to believe that “Hodeo/ Hodeos” or Jews were bad Roman soldiers, and that they were cruel and mean.

I never thought much about it while I was still in the Philippines, not until I came here to the US. My…my, what a difference! From then on I read, I researched and learned a lot about what happened in Europein WWII, with the help of my husband…I cried, I screamed, I could not sleep for months after learning about the Holocaust. I can’t seem to explain all that I feel regarding this when I asked my mother if she knows about it. It has to be experienced. You do not have to go to the camps, you just have to learn about what happened. Until now, I still can’t explain this event, emotions just floods through me and I start crying.

I was browsing, or surfing online for Ghost cities around the world, after seeing an Episode of Top Gear where they used Residencial Francisco Hernando, in Sesena Spain. My husband thought it was not real until I told him it was. Then I came accross this town of Oradour-sur-Glane, France. I became interested and thought I would blog about it. So here it is:

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The village of Oradour-sur-Glane in Haute-Vienne in Nazi occupied France was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS[1] company. A new village was built after the war on a nearby site, but on the orders of the then French president, Charles de Gaulle, the original has been maintained as a permanent memorial and museum.

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The village of Oradour-sur-Glane, France, August 25, 1944. (AFP Photo / Weston Haynes)

In February 1944, 2nd SS Panzer Division (“Das Reich”)[2] was stationed in the Southern French town of Valence-d’Agen, north of Toulouse, waiting to be resupplied with new equipment and freshly trained troops. After the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the division was ordered to make its way across the country to stop the Allied advance. One of the division’s units was the 4th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment (“Der Führer”). Its staff included SS-Standartenführer Sylvester Stadler as regimental commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann as commander of the regiment’s 1st Battalion and SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Weidinger, who was designated Stadler’s successor as regimental commander and was with the regiment for familiarization purposes. Command of “Der Führer” passed from Stadler to Weidinger on 14 June.

Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, Diekmann informed Weidinger at regimental headquarters that he had been approached by two members of the Milice, a paramilitary force belonging to the Vichy Regime. They claimed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village. The captured German was alleged to be SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion (another unit of the “Das Reich” division), who may have been captured by the Maquis du Limousin the day before. Stadler ordered Diekmann to have the mayor of the town name thirty people who could serve as hostages in exchange for Kämpfe.

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On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the townspeople – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square, ostensibly to have their identity papers examined. In addition to the residents of the village, the SS also apprehended six people who did not live there but had the misfortune to be riding their bikes through the village when the Germans arrived.
All the women and children were locked in the church while the village was looted. Meanwhile, the men were led to six barns and sheds where machine guns were already in place.
According to the account of a survivor, the soldiers began shooting at them, aiming for their legs so that they would die slowly. Once the victims were no longer able to move, the soldiers covered their bodies with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men escaped; one of them was later seen walking down a road heading for the cemetery and was shot dead. In all, 190 men perished.
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The soldiers proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device there. After it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but they were met with machine-gun fire. A total of 247 women and 205 children died in the carnage. Only 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche survived. She slid out by a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot; Marguerite Rouffanche was wounded and her companions were killed. She crawled to some pea bushes behind the church, where she remained hidden overnight until she was rescued the following morning. Another group of about twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the soldiers had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.
A few days later, survivors were allowed to bury the dead. 642 inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane had been murdered in a matter of hours. Adolf Diekmann claimed that the episode was a just retaliation for partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

Footnotes:
[1]The Waffen-SS was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (SS, “Protective Squadron”), and gradually developed into a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of Nazi Germany. It grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions during World War II, and served alongside the Heer (regular army) but was never formally part of it. Adolf Hitler resisted integrating the Waffen-SS into the army, as it was to remain the armed wing of the Party and to become an elite police force once the war was won. Prior to the war, it was under the control of the SS Führungshauptamt (SS operational command office) beneath Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Upon mobilization its tactical control was given to the High Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht). Initially membership was only open to people of Germanic “Aryan” origin, who were said to be the Herrenvolk (master race), according to Nazi racial ideology. The rules were partially relaxed in 1940, although groups considered by Nazis to be “sub-human” like ethnic Poles or Jews remained excluded. Hitler authorized the formation of units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts. Foreign SS units were made up from recruits all over Europe, Asia, Middle East, even USA (15-20 volunteers) and a small number of British troops, with the latter unit being a significant propaganda tool.

[2]The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was an elite division during World War II. It was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS. It served during the invasion of France and took part in several major battles on the Eastern Front (particularly in the Battle of Prokhorovka against the 5th Guards Tank Army at the titanic Battle of Kursk). It was then transferred to the West and took part in the fighting in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war with desperate fighting in Hungary and Austria.

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