Oradour-sur-GlaneOradour-sur-Glane was a village in the Limousin region of Vichy France that came under direct German control in 1942. As an Allied attack on Europe loomed, the local French Resistance increased its activities in order to occupy the German forces and hinder communications. Nazi responses intensified following the D-Day invasion of the Normandy beachhead on June 6, 1944. To quell resistance, the SS decided to make an example of a village in the heart of the troublesome area.
On June 10 the Fourth Panzer Grenadier Regiment (Der Führer) circled the town of Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants to congregate in a public fairground near the village center, ostensibly to examine everyone's papers. All the women and children were taken to the church, while the village was looted. Meanwhile the men were taken to six barns, where machine gun nests were already in place. According to the account of a survivor, the soldiers began shooting at them, aiming for their legs so that they would die more slowly. Once the victims were no longer able to move, the Nazis covered their bodies with kindling and set the barns on fire. Only five men escaped; 197 died there.
Having finished with the men, the soldiers then entered the church and put an explosive device in place. After it was detonated, the surviving women and children tried to flee from the doors and windows, but were met with machine gun fire. Only one woman survived; another 240 women and 205 children died in the mayhem. Another small group of about twenty villagers had fled Oradour as soon as the Nazis appeared. That night the remainder of the village was razed. A few days later the survivors were allowed to bury the dead.
After the war, General Charles de Gaulle decided that the village would never be rebuilt. Instead, it would remain as a memorial to the suffering of France under Nazi occupation. In 1999, President Jacques Chirac dedicated a visitors center in Oradour-sur-Glane and renamed the site "Village Martyr."