Oradour-sur-Glane, Limousin: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Oradour-sur-Glane in Haute-Vienne

Visit Oradour-sur-Glane (Limousin, France)

PHOTO GALLERY MAP & PLACES TO VISIT

Oradour-sur-Glane is a village and historic memorial site 25 kilometres to the north-west of Limoges, in the Limousin region of central France.

History

Before the second World War Oradour-sur-Glane was a small traditional French village centred around its church. The village gained its importance in French history when it was completely destroyed by the retreating forces of the German SS on the 10th June 1944.

The destruction of the village also included the murder of all its 642 inhabitants (except a very few who managed to escape) and also some others who were just passing through the village.

Oradour sur Glane, wrecked car

The murders were carried out for reasons that remain partly unclear, but were in part in retribution for the activities of the local resistance during the war; in part due to a confusion over which town was involved in these activities; and in part due to a sadistic German army officer*. There is a very readable account of the events here.

The men of the village were all shot and the women and children burned to death in the church before the village itself was razed to the ground.

Note 1: the officer in charge of the massacre, Sturmbannführer Diekmann, was apparently not following orders when he carried out this attack. Proceedings were started against him by the German authorities shortly after the events took place, although these were never finished because he and most of his company were killed in action several days later.

Note 2: many of those involved were put on trial in Bordeaux in 1953. Apart from one German and one Frenchman who were both sentenced to death, the French nationals involved (many SS members were from Alsace) received sentences of 5-8 years hard labour, while the Germans involved were sentenced to 10-12 years hard labour.

Centre de la Memoire d'Oradour sur Glane

There are now two parts to the village of Oradour dur Glane: the ruins of the original village as destroyed by the Germans which is now a Memorial Centre called the 'Centre de la Memoire d'Oradour sur Glane', and a new village of the same name that has been built a short distance away.

A place to visit in quiet contemplation, the remains of the original village have been retained exactly as they were at the end of that terrible day, as a tribute and memorial to those who died.

As you explore the village you can still see the wrecked cars and machinery and the gutted buildings, including the church where more than 400 people lost their lives and the barns where many of the men were killed, exactly as they were left on that day.

Oradour sur Glane church

It is hard to explain the experience of visiting Oradour. At times as you walk along the streets you could almost forget you are in a destroyed village, and expect children to come running around the corner or an elderly Frenchmen to pass on his way back from the bakers, and then you come to another of the signs reminding you that yet another building was the site of a massacre to bring you back to reality. An eerie and very moving experience.

The village also has a tribute to the dead and a small memorial garden inscribed with the names of all the victims in the Oradour-sur-Glane cemetery.

It is free to visit the village but if you would like more information about the massacre there is also an exhibition centre at Oradour with detailed information, photos and witness accounts about the massacre as well as about the rise of nazism in general.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Haute-Vienne guide and the Limousin guide.

See also:

Map of Oradour-sur-Glane and places to visit

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Address: Oradour-sur-Glane, Saint-Junien-Est, Rochechouart, Haute-Vienne, Limousin, 87520, France || GPS: latitude 45.932, longitude 1.0325

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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Abbaye de Saint-Amand (Saint-Junien): religious monument (11km)
  • Site Corot: site of natural beauty (11km)
  • Jardin de Liliane: remarkable garden (19km)
  • Limoges: town of art and history (21km)
  • Bellac: village d'etape (21km)
  • Aquarium du Limousin: aquarium (21km)
  • Abbatiale de Saint Pierre (Lesterps): religious monument (21km)
  • Lac de Saint-Pardoux: site of natural beauty (23km)
  • Abbatial church de Saint Pierre (Solignac): religious monument (27km)
  • Réserve naturelle régionale Étang de la Monnerie: site of natural beauty (28km)

The French version of this page is at Oradour-sur-Glane (Francais)