One of the best-known images of Oradour -
M Desourteaux's car still parked on the village green where he left it.
LA MORT EN FRANCE / DEATH IN FRANCE: II
In blogposting 398, I described the events that befell the little French village of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944. I’ve just re-read my account of that terrible day and, considering how unimaginably dreadful the happenings were, my description of them seems to me to be rather coldly and almost clinically written. As unimpassioned as a recipe or some flat-pack assembly instructions.
'First of all this happened, then that, then this, then that, then….'
But - unbelievably for someone as ‘wordy’ as me - that’s the only way I could do it. The words, and thus the events, had to stand on their own two feet, as it were, without any verbose and emotional embellishments on my part. Any other way of laying out what happened that day - including, perhaps, expressions of shock, sorrow, repulsion and horror - would have seemed patronising to those involved.
Instead - and as I said in the same posting - I would give expression to my personal reactions when I wrote a description of my visit to Oradour.
But now, I can’t do that either. I can’t find the words to describe how I felt as I wandered round the ruins of the village.
I don’t think I’m overstating things here. I think almost anyone would have the same problem of self-expression after such an experience, or after a visit to, say, the ruins of Auschwitz.
Some thoughts and reactions really are inexpressible and, perhaps, ought not be expressed anyway. After all, the events at Oradour and - on a much more brutally extravagant scale - at Auschwitz happened very recently indeed and very close to home (in every sense).
Much too close to home, in fact.
So, instead of a heavily emotional step-by-step portrait of my visit to Oradour, these photographs I took as I walked around the ruins and learned the village’s story will have to speak for me - and for themselves.
At each location where the menfolk were murdered, and their bodies burned,
there is a plaque like this one. It says:
'This is a place of torture
A group of men were massacred and burned by the Nazis
Think about these things'
The garage business of M Desourteaux, with its tinplate advertisements still in place
Many of the buildings have plaques which tell you who lived there and what they did for a living; this is M Beaulieu's forge on the main street. You can still see the churns, wheels, plates and spars he was working on when he was led away.
This plaque says 'This is where the villagers were assembled'.
The plaque on the right says that 6 men escaped from this barn.
(They were caught later and murdered.)
Cars parked in the forecourt of Oradour's second garage.
This is the only 'family' memorial in the village.
It commemorates five members of the same family. The youngest, Renée, was only 5.
This was the grocery and café opposite the church.
Inside the church.
This is where the women and children were slaughtered.
Mme Rouffanche hid behind the high altar and jumped through the centre window's stained glass.
The child's folded pram on the floor is impossible to look at.
Mme Rouffanche escaped through the centre window and ran across the road to the market garden.
A woman who tried to emulate her was seen - her and her baby were machine-gunned.
The tramlines and overhead wires running past the church wall and the bakery.
Memorials to the victims and locations of Nazi brutality have played a regrettably important role in my travels this year....
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