The Ever Present Past

On June 10th 1944, German troops arrived at the village of Oradour sur Glane. The villagers were rounded up outside cafe Chez Compain. The women and children were taken to the church. The men were taken in groups to various garages and barns. Grenades, then submachine gun fire. 642 people died. The village was set on fire.

Apart from the burial of the dead, the village has been left untouched. The open topped ruins slope down the hill, looking like giant gravestones. We walked round, reading discreet plaques that gave profession first, name second. Oradour had two hotels, two blacksmiths, two clog makers, several hairdressers, more than half a dozen cafes, two accountants, a garage, two carpenters, a tiled butchers, patisseries, an undertaker, and about 25 cars. We saw little brass beds, ironwork tables and chairs and countless sewing machines. Whispered echoes of bustling life. Any emotion I paddled in was inadequate to the brutal horror of what had passed.

Passed.

Only not really. In this moment someone is being separated from their family, someone is walking towards a barn, someone is smelling the smoke.

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