A former village in France
which in WWII
was virtually wiped out on 10 June 1944 when SS
-soldiers (of the "Das Reich" unit) massacred nearly the entire population and all but razed the village to the ground. The operation is said to have been an act of reprisal for increased resistance in the area (esp. since the Normandy D-Day Landings
on 6 June), but clearly must have been an out-of control wild killing frenzy. Most of the women and children died locked in the church. The SS men then set the church ablaze and blew up the spire, which crashed into the nave. The male villagers were mostly shot. Only a small handful of villagers escaped the atrocity. The death toll was 642 – the vast majority women and children.
After the war, the village was rebuilt nearby and the ruins of the old village left as they were. This is now something like a national shrine – bearing the official full name of "Village Martyr D'Oradour-sur-Glane". It is certainly one of France
's most gripping and sinister dark tourism destinations.
In addition to walking through the ghost town of the ruined village, where even some rusting burned-out old cars lie in the streets, a visit to the place includes a very modern museum, or Memorial Centre, that tells the story of this tragic place (including a short film in English).
See also the Alsace-Moselle Memorial
, which has a section about the involvement of soldiers from Alsace drafted mostly against their will and whose post-war trials cause a deep rift between the two regions of France
until more recent reconciliation efforts.
Opening times: The Memorial Centre is open daily between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. in summer (16 May to 15 September – closes one or two hours earlier outside the summer high season), closed between 16 December and 31 January.
The old village ruins are theoretically accessible for free at all times, only some parts may occasionally be blocked off for maintenance work (no contradiction – the ruins are being preserved in as permanent a state as possible, otherwise they'd decay beyond recognition). You can go inside the ruins of the church, all other ruins have to be viewed from the outside only.
Admission: 7.80EUR (some concessions apply)
Location: a bit under 15 miles (21 km) north-west of the south-central French city of Limoges. To get there take the D941 and N141 (E603) in a north-westerly direction, first towards Saint Junien, but where the road forks at Beauvalet, turn right on to the D9, which takes you straight to Oradour-sur-Glane.