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Posted on Aug 17, 2005 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Oradour sur Glane

Armchair General

The Church.

Almost 500 women and children were herded at gunpoint into the old Church, which was promptly locked and barricaded. Once sporting a proud steeple, only the stonework remains these days, the fire having burned away all wooden structures within and without. The horror of the moment is almost inconceivable, and yet, it happened. As I entered the Church my hands began to tremble at the enormity of the crime that had taken place here. Traditionally, Churches are considered to be places of refuge – and yet this one was used as a death chamber for hundreds of innocent lives, nearly half of them children.

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The first picture here was taken during a sudden downpour of rain, but it amply shows the fine structure of the building, with its twin turrets and stepped stonework. The second picture shows the cross outside the main door, and a sign of remembrance for the tenth of June 1944.


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Inside, the stonework remains intact, including the fine vaulted arch areas of the roof. The main altar still stands. Imagine for a moment the sheer terror of 500 people trapped inside this relatively small space as smoke fills the room and fire begins to lick away at the structure.

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However most of the interior is exposed to the elements, the wooden roof and tiles having been destroyed during the fire. An old metal cross bears testament to the conflagration.

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Here we see a demonstration of the raw power of fire – as result of the intense heat rising up the steeple, the brass bell has totally melted into a shapeless blob of metal. And yet, just a few feet away, the wooden confessional box appears to be totally unscathed. The bodies of two children were found inside, they had taken shelter from the fire, but choked to death on the fumes.

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Only one person escaped from the massacre in the Church, Madame Rouffance escaped through a window and was the sole eyewitness to the events that took place there.

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1 Comment

  1. I heard a rumour that the real reason for the massacre was that there was a great deal of gold bullion that had to be removed very quickly and the massacre was an excuse or cover up for those wishing to hide the fact that they were there to take the gold, and that a day before a crack team of special forces people arrived to oversee the shipment wondering if you could shed any light on this, it was something i learned at school years ago back in the seventies
    best regards
    Sean Schofield