Chilling and haunting. Oradour-sur-Glâne, the village where time has stood still. Following a horrendous massacre during WWII, the town remains as a memorial village to an atrocity committed during the Second World War. On 10th June 1944, the village of Oradour-sur-Glâne was surrounded by a Nazi SS company, the inhabitants were killed, its buildings looted and then set on fire. Today it’s possible to visit the village which serves as a memorial to those that died here.
Details of the attack are a reminder of the horrors which occurred during the 2nd world war and the brutality that humans are capable of. As with the concentration camps of Poland, we think it’s important to visit such sites and to learn what happened, even if it’s just to ensure that this type of evil never happens again.
It is thought that the Nazis selected Oradour-sur-Glâne for the massacre, because they believed that members of the French resistance were hiding out there, following a kidnapping of a high-profile Nazi commander. First, soldiers sealed off the village to stop anyone entering or exiting, then they proceeded to round up all the men into a barn and all the women and children into the church. The men were then machine gunned in the legs and the barn set on fire with petrol and straw. There was a similar fate for the women and children – an incendiary device was set off in the church, those that survived were shot and the building set alight. You can still see the machine gun bullets inside church. Horrific.
In total, 642 people were murdered, sending a clear message to the French Resistance. Only one person managed to survive the church – Marguerite Rouffanche, who escaped through a window and hid in bushes until the following day.
Where’s Oradour-sur-Glâne and how do you get there?
The village is located in the Haute-Vienne department, close to Limoges airport and a 25-minute drive from the town centre. To place it on a map of France, it’s a 4hr drive in a south west direction from Paris. The best way to visit is by car as this area of rural France has very limited public transport available. There is a large free car park right next to the visitor centre with toilets.
Access to the village is through the visitor centre and a short tunnel that displays photographs of all the individuals that died here in 1944.
Do I need to book tickets?
There is no need to book tickets although it can be busy in the summer so it’s worth turning up early to get a parking space. If you happen to be travelling as a group there is an option on the visitor centre’s website to book online.
How much do tickets cost?
On arrival you will be presented with two options, either visit the village only or the village and the exhibition at the visitors centre. We chose to visit just the village as a family and I went to exhibition alone, as we felt the children might find the exhibition disturbing. Visiting the village is free, while the exhibition costs 7.80€ for an adult or 22€ for a family ticket.
How long does it take to visit Oradour-sur- Glâne?
From our experience, I would recommend allowing around an hour and half to visit the remains of the village. It is quite a big site and there is lots to take in and explore including the memorial in the graveyard. If you intend to experience the exhibition in the visitor’s centre, then we recommend adding another 30 minutes.
What will I see?
The remains of the village have been preserved in time, nothing has been taken away. When you visit the garage there are wrecked cars, oil cans. At the butcher’s shop, the scales used for weighing the meat are visible. The hotel has iron bedsteads, a stove and tea pots lying amongst the moss.
Take a walk down the main street and the rusty tram tracks are still set in the tarmac, electric cables are attached to their wooden pole’s overhead. In the square, close to the church, the doctor’s car is parked, perhaps one of the most recognisable images of Oradour-sur-Glâne The iron door of the bread oven hangs on its hinges at the baker’s, there are rusty frames of little bicycles at the village school, it’s an unsettling feeling.
It’s all very respectful and understated, but every so often there is a little faded sign explaining who once lived here and how they died. If you don’t plan to see the exhibition at the start, then we recommend reading up a bit before you visit in order to get the most out of your time here.
What are the opening hours of Oradour-sur-Glâne?
The visitor’s centre is open 7 days a week and opening hours in the summer are from 9am to 6pm. The hours are reduced in the spring and autumn from 9am to 5pm and in the winter, it closes at 4pm. If you are looking for something to eat or somewhere to stay, then the new village of Oradour-sur-Glane, constructed close to the original settlement has a number of possibilities.
Is Oradour-sur-Glane suitable for children?
The village itself is fine for even younger children, however, it’s really up to you as an adult, how much you tell them about what went on here. With regards to the exhibition in the visitor centre, I would say children should be at least 12 years old, but every child can be differently affected by stories and images.