First, brace yourself. Visiting Oradour-sur-Glane today is not visiting a place; it is visiting a place in time.
Oradour-sur-Glane is preserved to look exactly as it did after the smoke cleared on June 10, 1944, revealing the charred remains of a village as well as the remains of nearly all of its inhabitants.
Once a quiet farming village in west-central France, Oradour-sur-Glane is now a museum of massacre and a memorial to the senseless loss of life during WWII at the hands of the Nazis.
Why did this happen to Oradour-sur-Glane? Why did a Nazi Panzer Division massacre an entire village?
Nobody really knows. The maddening truth is that nobody was safe from the horrors of the Nazi atrocities. For photos of the Oradour-sur-Glane memorial and for the full story of what happened to Oradour-sur-Glane in June of 1944, visit here.
The village is near Limoges in the sparsely populated Haute Vienne department of France. It is a 4.5-hour drive southwest of Paris, a 2.5-hour drive northeast of Bordeaux, and a 4.5-hour drive due south of Normandy.
Visiting this martyr village does mean driving. You can take the train to Limoges and rent a car there. Europcar is available at the Limoges Railway Station. There is also an airport in Limoges. When I visited the Oradour-sur-Glane museum and village memorial, I was coming from France’s Loire Valley. I hired a car at the train station at Saint Pierre des Corps and drove 2.5 hours south, doing it in a long but impactful day trip.
The village is free of charge. There is a charge to enter the Centre de la Mémoire. Information is outdated online, but I recall paying 8 euro. Budget 10 euro since prices may have gone up and sometimes there is a cost for parking (depending on the season). I found the audio guide unnecessary as all information is printed on the information panels throughout the museum.
The village and museum opens at 09:00 and closes between 17:00 and 19:00 depending on the season.
When you enter the former village, you will see a sign requesting silence. Not that you will need a reminder. The village is tragically beautifully with its remnants of daily life frozen in time by senseless flames and gunfire.
Wandering through the village, you will see a former café that likely bustled with activity on June 10, 1944. It was a busy day in the village because it was tobacco rationing day. You will see the remnants of daily life: a sewing machine, a car parked in front of a house, and the village church.
Inside the church, you will see where the women and children were trapped and burned alive. For more on the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre and my experience visiting the village, click here.
The Oradour-sur-Glane museum takes you through the entire day of June 10, 1944, and the events leading up to the massacre. Here you will learn about the villagers who died and the very few who survived. You will also learn about the Nazi Panzer Division that committed this WWII atrocity.
Do not expect answers. There are none.
It is our duty to remember. It is our responsibility to never forget.
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