President of the National Association of Families of Martyrs
Oradour-sur-Glane, France, April 2023
On 10 June 1944, four days after the landing of allied troops in Normandy, a company of troops belonging to the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, a Waffen-SS unit of the military forces of Nazi Germany destroyed the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, located near Limoges, in Central France. In the space of a few hours, 643 of its inhabitants, including 247 children, were massacred. The following day, part of the SS returned to dispose of bodies in mass graves or by fire, making the identification of most of the victims impossible. A new village was built after the war on a nearby site, but the original has been maintained as a permanent memorial. The Centre de la mémoire d'Oradour museum is located beside the historic site.
Oradour-sur-Glane is the ultimate symbol of the massacre of a civilian population. A civilian population, in addition, who had done nothing, since there were no major acts of resistance in the area. In 1945, the decision was taken by General De Gaulle to make it a symbol of Nazi barbarism in France during the Second World War. The village was kept as it was. The French state has since then consistently invested in the village, which is preserved as a historical monument. It is in fact the only monument in France classified by law.
Today, when we observe what is happening two and a half hours from Paris [in Ukraine], we see exactly the images that we saw in Oradour just after the massacre. If this village was kept as it was at the time, it was because it made perfect sense to have a reminder that we must work at bringing people together.
The last survivor from the massacre, Robert Hébras, died in February of this year. He worked hard towards closer ties with Germany. Some considered that his approach came too soon. On the contrary, it made perfect sense. When we cooperate and establish links, it is precisely to prevent such events from happening again. His commitment to a united Europe was very strong and that's in a large part what makes me want to continue this mission, because, somewhere, it's a mission. But I find it hard to say that it is a sacrifice, other than a sacrifice in time.
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