Since 1946 the government has allocated the equivalent of 200,000 euros annually for maintenance. (file)

Oradour-sur-Glane, France:

A French village has been preserved as a reminder of Nazi atrocities since Waffen-SS troops murdered 643 people there in 1944, sparking efforts to preserve the site.

On June 10, 1944, Oradour-sur-Glane in German-occupied central France became the scene of a massacre of civilians that still shocks the nation today.

Presumably as punishment for the murder of a high-ranking SS member by the French resistance, German soldiers rounded up everyone they could find in the village and machine-gunned or shot alive men, women and children. Burned, burned or demolished buildings and destroyed a church. .

Post-war President Charles de Gaulle said that the “Village of Martyrs” should never be rebuilt, but rather be kept as a permanent reminder for post-war generations of the horrors of the Nazi occupation.

‘Family left’

But 80 years later, the village’s buildings are crumbling, roofs missing and walls covered in moss, prompting local politicians and descendants of villagers to push for a major conservation effort to keep the memory alive.

“All have survived, the only witnesses to the massacre are these stones,” said Agathe Hebras, whose grandfather Robert was the last of six survivors to survive the killing spree of the SS. He died last year.

“I am very attached to these ruins, like many people here, we cannot let them wither away,” the 31-year-old told AFP. “We need to take the best care of them for as long as we possibly can.”

A new, eponymous town built nearby after the war is bustling, but the old ruins — owned by the French state and a listed heritage site — are eerily quiet.

‘urgent action’

Some of the dilapidated, blackened buildings bear signs such as “Hairdresser”, “Cafe” or “Iron Mangery”, reminding visitors of where people lived their daily lives until the assassination.

Scattered over 10 hectares are the odd rusty bicycle, sewing machine or period car shell.

“We need very, very urgent action,” said Philippe Lacroix, mayor of Oradour-sur-Glane. “As this setting disappears, so will memory slowly.”

Karin Valdeau Renaud, 47, the granddaughter of the couple’s sole survivor of the massacre, often walks past the ruins on her way to New Town, remembering her grandmother who lost her mother, her sisters and her four-year-old daughter in the massacre. was lost .

“She would take me for walks among the ruins,” he said. “We would pick flowers and she would tell me about her old life.”

While grandmothers told their stories “without taboo,” other survivors only felt able to talk about the massacre decades later, if at all.

Hebras said his grandfather, who lost two sisters and his mother in the murder, only started talking about the events in the late 1980s.

“The first generation of children born in Auradur after the massacre, including my father, had a very difficult time because their parents remained silent, believing that they had to be forgotten in order to survive,” he said. Should.”

‘Global Importance’

Since 1946, the government has allocated the equivalent of 200,000 euros ($216,000 at current rates) per year for maintenance, in addition to ad hoc expenses, such as the 480,000 euros allocated last year for the restoration of the village church.

But more is needed, said the regional deputy director for heritage and architecture.

“We don’t want to bring back what was destroyed,” he told AFP. “We want to maintain the state of destruction, because that helps people understand this war crime.”

About 19 million euros are needed, and efforts are underway to raise this amount through donations and state funding.

Benoît Sadri, president of an association grouping the victims’ families, said Oradour-sur-Glane could eventually take on “a certain universal significance” beyond the 1944 massacre and World War II.

“It is important to have evidence that the civilian population always pays the highest price for mass crimes committed during wars,” he said.

(Other than the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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