Visitors to the hallowed ground of Oradour
sur Glane are greeted by a single phrase - SOUVIENS-TOI
It is in many respects an ominous greeting in this peaceful and tranquil countryside. However, what transpired in this town, epitomizes the barbarity of warfare and the tyranny of the Nazi regime.
Few events in World War Two evoke such emotion as the tragic tale of the massacre of the villagers of this quiet village along the river Glane. Oradour was not unlike many French villages. Known for its pleasant surroundings and its prosperous Limousin market, Oradour was in many respects unmistakable from the next village down the road.
Then came the 10th of June, 1944. On that day, Oradour entered the annals of history as one of the great tragedies of the Second World War.
In 1944, the Oradour towns people would have heard of the allied landing in Normandy within a day of that momentous June 6. But the invasion beaches were far away, and Oradour remained quiet. That would change with the arrival of members of the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich".
When the allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the German units stationed in France were placed on high alert. Most of the mobile units, including Das Reich, began a hasty advance to stem the flow of Allied troops beginning to gain a foothold in France. At the same time, the French resistance also went through an increased period of activity in an attempt to delay the advance of the Panzer divisions, in order to allow the Allies to secure their position even further.
One such Resistance activity occurred just 10km from Oradour. On June 7, partisans blew up a railway bridge at Saint-Junien in an attempt to slow the movement of the 2nd SS Pz. Division toward the front. Several German soldiers were killed and an officer was taken prisoner in another local Resistance action.
Interested in avoiding any large delays, the soldiers of Das Reich ignored St-Junien which was thought to be a large resistance strong hold, and instead diverted their attention to Oradour. Why Oradour was selected is still a mystery. Perhaps it was because the village was so quiet, so inoffensive, and there had been no rumor of partisans there.