Oradour-sur-Glane Fairgrounds

Around 2:15 p.m. on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the 10th of June 1944, all the people living in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, and others from the farming hamlets south of the village, were ordered from their homes and forced to assemble on the Fairgrounds by Waffen-SS soldiers in the elite German army which had invaded the peaceful town. The photo above shows the entrance to the Fairgrounds, located off Rue de Emile Desourteaux. The old car belonged to Dr. Jacques Desourteaux, who returned from his rounds just as the villagers were being lined up, ostensibly to check their identity papers.

The Fairgrounds, with the rusty old car slowly sinking into the ground, is the most photographed spot in the ruined village. The photo below, which shows Rue de Emile Desourteaux in the background on the left and the Beaulieu garage on the right, behind the car, was taken early on a foggy morning before the tourists arrived.

The photo below shows the ruined buildings on the side opposite the car. The men of the village were lined up in three rows and told to sit on the grass of the fairgrounds, facing a wall on this side. Robert Hebras, one of the 5 men who survived the massacre, wrote that "...during the events leading up to the massacre, I did not sense the slightest sign of brutality on the part of the Germans."

The SS commanding officer, Major Adolf Diekmann, had asked the mayor, Dr. Paul Desourteaux, to choose hostages; he offered himself and his four sons, including Dr. Jacques Desourteaux, but this offer was declined. Hubert Desourteaux, one of his sons, was among the survivors; he was an escaped POW and he had the good sense to hide while the people were being assembled. Nineteen year old Andre Desourteaux, the grandson of Dr. Paul Desourteaux, also survived; he was a postal worker in Limoges who lived in the village.

According to Sarah Farmer, in her book "Martyred Village," Andre Desourteaux joined the Maquis, as the French Resistance was called, at the end of June, following the massacre, and after the Liberation of France in August 1944, he joined the French Army.

The photo below shows a sign on one of the buildings on the other side of the fairgrounds, the side nearest the car. The sign tells visitors that this is the place where the population was assembled. In the background of the photo is the remains of the Laudy barn.

On the side of the Fairgrounds across from the car is the house shown in the photo below. I was intrigued by this house; I kept returning to it again and again. I stopped to rest here for a long time, sitting on the wall to the left of the gate. What a delightful place to live, right on the village green, near the town well, in an idylic rural community in France, surrounded by peaceful neighbors, and far removed from the activity of the French resistance in World War II. Notice the electrical wiring going into the wall of the house on the left side. This is a very small house, but beatifully constructed, and it has a nice yard, which is shown in the second photo below.

There were at least two survivors whose homes faced the Fairgrounds. One of them was Monsieur Faure and the other was Armond Senon, who hid because he had a broken leg, sustained in playing a game of soccer. Gabriel Senon, the postmaster, also survived.

Life went on as usual in this rustic French village in the Summer of 1944, despite the battles raging on all sides, since the villagers had nothing to do with the Communist Resistance movement that was desperately trying to defeat the Nazis and liberate Europe. I would like to think that the person who lived in this house was among the survivors.

Among the 642 people who were massacred in Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944 were 393 people living there, including long-time residents and 84 refugees, according to Sarah Farmer, who wrote a book called "Martyred Village," first published in 1999. The refugees included 26 Communist loyalists who had fought in the Spanish Civil War which ended in 1939.

Also among the victims were 167 people from the surrounding hamlets, including many school children who were in the village that day for a medical exam. There were 33 people from Limoges who were visiting the village and 25 others who were visiting from other towns; all were killed along with the inhabitants of the village. There were 80 residents who survived in one way or another, according to Sarah Farmer's book. Of these 80, there were 36 who were gone for the day and 28 who hid in their homes or gardens and did not go to the Fairgrounds that day. There were 5 men and 1 woman who survived the shooting of the villagers, including 2 men in the Laudy barn who were not wounded. The other 10 survived by some unknown way.

The photo below shows the far end of the Fairgrounds. On the left is part of the Laudy barn, and on the right is one of the many wells in the village. The Fairgrounds ends at the road to the cemetery which is shown in the second photo below.

The photo above shows the far end of the Fairgrounds with the road to the cemetery on the right.

According to an exhibit in the Center of Memory, General Charles de Gaulle, head of the provisional French government, visited the ruins in March 1945 and paid his respects to the victims. "From this moment on Oradour was to hold a special place in the collective memory of the French." The preservation of the ruins began in the fall of 1944 and in 1946 a law was passed which guaranteed that the ruins would remain "as found."

Desourteaux garage

Laudy barn

Denis Storehouse

Beaulieu garage

Milord Barn

Bouchoule Barn