Today I visited Oradour-sur-Glane.
Oradour-sur-Glane is the site of one of the worst, if not the worst, Nazi atrocity to take place in France during the Second World War.
On 10th June, 1944, Waffen-SS troops, acting in retaliation of local resistance activities, including the kidnapping of a high ranking SS member entered the village, capturing its inhabitants before brutally murdering 642 men, women, and children.
Today, under the orders of French President Charles De Gaulle, Oradour-ser-Glane stands much the same as it did on that fateful day in 1944; cars are left in the street, the shells of burnt out buildings still stand, and even the tram rails lay in the streets.
The only thing missing, is life.
Despite the building of a new Oradour-sur-Glane but a stones throw away from the site of the massacre, the Villiage Martyr stands quiet. Left as a memorial for all those lost through atrocities carried out by the Nazis, and many others, Oradour-sur-Glane has an ethereal quality to it.
Aside from the tourists, there is no life. There is no sound. Anywhere else in the world, out in the country side, you can hear the birds chirping, or see them soaring through the sky. In Oradour-sur-Glane, there were no such sights.
Oradour-sur-Glane has been left as a time capsule of sorts. A pocket of the 1940s, of war time Europe, left as a reminder for our generation, and the next, of what can happen when the wrong people are given the reigns of power.
Much can, and has, been written about making sure we don’t repeat our mistakes, but if a picture speaks a thousand words, then a walk down the main high street of the Martyred villages shouts volumes.
We must never forget those who fought and died for the freedoms we experience today.
We must never forget those that were persecuted and killed in the Concentrations camps.
We must never forget all of the other innocents, mere bystanders in a world that burst into flames around them. Those who suffered in London, and Sheffield, and all the other cities that were attacked in the blitz; those who suffered in turn in Dresden and the other cities who felt the wrath of Britain and America as the tide began to turn the other way.
We must never forget those in places like Stalingrad, who saw their livelihoods and families decimated, and those in all the other theatres of war, in conflicts and skirmishes, those who have suffered at the hands of dictators and despots, and those that have simply had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We must never forget the 190 men, 247 women, and 205 children who died at Oradour-sur-Glane.