The Horrific History Of Oradour-sur-Glane

Video highlights from Remembering Hell

During WWII, an entire village was brutally massacred by the Nazis

Among the many, many atrocities committed during World War Two, the events at one French village stand out.

Oradour-sur-Glane, near the city of Limoges, was the site of a brutal massacre that killed nearly every man, woman and child in the village.

On the afternoon of 10 June 1944, members of the SS Panzer Division entered Oradour-sur-Glane to avenge the kidnapping of a German soldier by the French Resistance.

SS troops herded more than 400 women and children into the village church. The soldiers soaked the church in petrol and blocked all the exits before setting everything on fire.

Just one woman, Marguerite Rouffanche, managed to escape the church. Her court testimony reads, “Firing burst out in the church then straw, faggots and chairs were thrown pele-mele onto bodies lying on the stone slabs. I had escaped from the killing and was without injury, so I made use of a smoke cloud to slip behind the altar.

“In this part of the church there are three windows. I made for the widest one in the middle and with the help of a stool used to light the candles, I tried to reach it. I don't know how but my strength was multiplied. I heaved myself up to it as best I could and threw myself out of the opening that was offered to me through the already shattered window. I jumped about nine feet down.”

Meanwhile, the men of Oradour-sur-Glane were moved by Nazi forces into the village’s barns, shot so they couldn’t move, doused in petrol and set ablaze.

By the time the bloodshed was over, the death toll stood at 642 people including 254 women, 207 children and 181 men.

Oradour-sur-Glane has remained untouched since the massacre, serving as a reminder of the inconceivable evil of the Nazis and a shrine to those who died.

In late 2014, a German court threw out the case against a man accused of taking part in the village’s annihilation, with the Cologne Regional Court saying it was unlikely the case would be provable.

Explore more World War II history here.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay