Oradour, a silent witness of Nazi atrocities.
The 2nd SS Pantser Division an elite division of the Nazi Waffen SS was stationed in Southern French waiting to be resupplied with new equipment and fresh troops. Their mission was to stop the Allied advance in the north. One of its units was the 4th SS Pantser Grenadier Regiment Commanded by Sylvester Stadler. While SS Storm ban fuhrer Adolf Diekmann commanded the 1st Battalion . Otto Weidinger was with the regiment for familiarisation.
Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, Diekmann informed Weidinger that he had been approached by two members of the Militia,a paramilitary force of the Visie Regime.
The Militia claimed “ a Waffen SS officer Helmut Kampfe is held hostage by the Resistance in Oradour a nearby village, captured yesterday by the Resistance group Maquis du Limousin “ .
Stadler ordered Diekmann “ The mayor of Oradour is to choose thirty citizens as hostages in exchange for Kampfe”.
On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour and ordered all the inhabitants and anyone who happened to be in or near the town to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. Men were separated from women and children ,and escorted at gun point to six barns.
As they arrived, They were violently forced into the barn. Minutes later the SS troops aimed their machine guns at the mens legs and opened fire. The men fell down in an agony of pain, unable to stand or move.. But the hell wasn’t over yet, SS storm troopers entered the barn with jerry cans of highly flammable feul. They soaked the victims and ignited the fuel. The men burned alive ! Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and shot dead.
In all, 190 Frenchmen died in the inferno.
Meanwhile the women and children had been locked up in the church. Fearfully awaiting their ordeal. An incendiary device was placed and ignited, high flames and smoke caused a hysteria and panic amongst the women and children who tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack.
Marguerite Rouffanche a 47 year old woman escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Marguerite, heavy wounded crawled to some bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. That night, the village was looted and put on fire. a roaring blaze took over and destroyed the village. the hell of Oradour. Several days later, the survivors buried 642 victims .
Adolf Diekmann said later “ The atrocity was in retaliation for the partisan activity in Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kempfe”.
Until today The village remained untouched as it was on that fatal day in 1944, a silent witness of the Nazi atrocities .
Thanks for reading, Stephan Fouquaert
Pictures S. Fouquaert.