"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind."
French school children and families alike come here to pay their respects.
It's been over a decade since I last walked the sad, dead streets of Oradour-sur-Glane, my eyes open wider than ever before to the horrors of war.
On June 10, 1944, six hundred forty-two men, women, and children were
massacred here. Just days after the Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy,
a furious German SS unit took their frustration out on a sleepy little village
in the heart of France.
The heartless slaughter of an innocent population is forever written in stone and decay. President Charles de Gaulle preserved the horror in its original state,
forever marking the spot of the savagery imposed by the Nazis.
It reminded me of a ruin like Pompeii, except instead of preserving the beauty of a town suddenly buried by volcanic ash, this illustrates the crass ugliness of war.
Silence reigns but not just for reasons of respect.
My throat was bone dry as I experienced an overwhelming sick feeling,
my thoughts grappling with real life death and destruction. Bearing witness to a completely annihilated ghost village is far more wrenching
than anything you've seen on the silver screen .
part of the narrative of war atrocities for all time.
Schools, cafés, and shops were full of life.
Out of nowhere, the SS arrived, wanting to make a statement, submitting to their bloodthirsty urges. They brutally rounded up every villager and visitor alike, separating the men from the women and children. The men were led to several outbuildings and shot on the spot, supposedly first shooting the victims in
the leg to incite agony and bring about a slow death. Afterwards, they set the same buildings on fire to cover up their crimes.
The women and children were taken into the church and burned alive.
Burned alive, not in some medieval tale of woe but in a civilized hamlet populated with the kind of people who are your next-door-neighbors.
Only a few people escaped, eventually telling the story of the martyred town.
SS unit has been charged with murder connected to this travesty 70 years
after the fact. In January 2014, an 88-year-old German national was charged in connection with the massacre. He denies his involvement.
Makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?
In 2013, German President Joachim Gauck and
French President Francois Hollande visited Oradour-sur-Glane.
Gauck was the first German president to step foot into the ruined town.
It's good to remember ghosts of the past and noble to pursue
demons who deserve to be behind bars.
Can we ever bring peace to such a miserable place and time?
The best we can hope for is to REMEMBER the town, its people and the reasons we pray for peace.
"Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one."