A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane

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The town of Oradour sur Glane in France was the scene of one of World War II’s most senseless atrocities.  Oradour was ransacked by a German Waffen-SS company in June of 1944 – they killed all 642 of the town’s inhabitants.  Rather than rebuild the town in the same location, the new Oradour was built a couple of kilometres up the road.  The ruined town was kept as a reminder and a memorial.  We took a sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane in the summer of 2014 – it was a stark reminder of the inhumanity of war, and the fragility of human life.

Reverent Silence - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel

It is a stark and poignant reminder of a savage moment in history.  The old cars and buildings remain, albeit with some modern stabilisation to preserve the structures.  With everything left exactly where it was after the massacre, it adds to the eeriness of the place – it’s very post-apocalyptic!

Car Remains - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


The Church

You can see the bullet marks in the walls of the church – where women and children went to hide, but were brutally shot in this place of worship. The church was one of the most moving places in the town for me – the sombre juxtaposition between this holy place and the bullet marks was very overwhelming.

Bullet holes in the church - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


Ghost Shops

Walking along the still-intact streets, looking through shop windows (although the glass is gone!), you can still see every day items lying around. Singer sewing machines in the tailor shop; cars in the garage; and school gates ready to receive children, no longer in residence. I don’t think words can even begin to cover how this site leaves you feeling.

Singer Sewing Machine - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


School - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel




The Memorial

They have built a memorial on the site which sensitively displays the smaller possessions of the inhabitants, and also lists each and every name – lest we forget these 642 poor souls. The boning from the women’s corsetry, little toy figurines belonging to the children, and men’s belt buckles. When a person’s existence is reduced to these artefacts it definitely puts things into perspective.

Trinkets - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


Corset boning and belt buckles - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


642 names memorialised - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


The beauty

Amongst the deeply saddening ruins, there is a reverence and beauty to Oradour. The care and respect to keep it as a memorial, and therefore the soul that remains in the walls of this town is palpable – there is beauty in these streets.

Abandoned ruins - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


House Remains - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


The Exhibition

There is an exhibition in the visitor centre, which gives you more background and information – it is well worth paying for this extra context before entering the town itself. You can get more information about visiting Oradour sur Glane at the official tourist website.

You can read more about our visit to the Limousin and Poitou-Charentes here


Car remnants - A sombre visit to Oradour sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel


All photos & content © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!). Images shot with a Canon DSLR T3i Rebel + Canon EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6 III; and an iPhone5.



A sombre visit to Oradour Sur Glane - HH Lifestyle Travel

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  • anu says:

    Your post reminded me of my visit to Jalianwala Bagh in Amritrsar where thousands of Indians were killed by a british General. You can still see bullet marks on the walls though no other details remain. These kind of places used to feel educative but now they depress me. What can be so important that we kill each other. So they serve as lessons – does not look like. Haunting they are.

  • Danijela says:

    Oh, didn’t even know about this town and look how interesting it is!
    Love how the citizens actually built another town a bit further away after the atrocities, leaving the old town in the exact same state. one great reminder of what a man is capable of and what shouldn’t be done ever again.
    judging by your photos, i’d say that you’re right, it sure seems like a scenery with a soul. Would love to stroll around in person! 🙂

  • danik says:

    I heard about this town before and is one of the places i want to check out on my next visit to france as I am into history. i am very glad they left this town as it is. they will not be forgotten. fantastic post and a great read of your experience.

  • divyakshi says:

    History narrates so many lessons of human mistakes and gives us constant reminders to understand the mindlessness of war and political divides that ruin humanity . Your visit to this place was one such reminder and it is just so sad that despite these sombre reminders, people still fight over petty and insignificant matters not realising the importance of human lives. The place is certainly sombre and eerie too. The bullet marks gave me chills.

  • Leah says:

    I live in paris and was unaware of Oradour-sur-Glane. I’ve seen several villages destroyed from WWI in the northeast of france, but not this one from wwii. I’m going to find my way to this place in the near future. Thanks for the information.

  • Medha Verma says:

    I have never heard of this town to be honest and it looks quite eerie yet i’d really love to visit it. it reminds me a little bit of pompeii, although that tragedy was more to do with nature than human cruelty. interesting to see how they’ve preserved the walls with the bullet marks, the cars, the belongings of people such as toys, etc.

  • I feel embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of Oradour until now – though sadly there were so many places devastated by WWII, with tragic stories and a history I’m sure they would rather forget. Definitely a savage moment in history. I can’t even imagine the feeling which would come from exploring a town like this and seeing first hand the devastation. I think it’s incredible that they left the old town as a memorial, because once we forget our history, we’re doomed to repeat it again.

  • Ami Bhat says:

    This is one hell of an emotional visit. I would be choked with emotion as I see those school gates and ruined buildings. The eerie silence here is felt through your pictures. I would definitely brave to see this… More as a 2ay to honor these souls

  • Nisha says:

    All wars are senseless. This is the first time I have heard of an entire town converted into a memorial. I am sure it is a emotionally draining experience. I recently visited Auschwitz and I had goosebumps all through.

  • I am a huge fan of visiting the sites of world war ii. Unfortunately i had never visited The town of Oradour sur Glane in France. It breaks my heart to read that it was a place where horrible atrocities happened. I am gonna try to visit this town on my next visit to france.

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