Remembering France's Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, one heirloom at a time

On 10 June, 1944, a troop of Waffen-SS slaughtered 643 inhabitants of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in south-west France, before setting it ablaze to erase all trace. An exhibit of victims' family heirlooms at once shows the extent of France's biggest WWII civilian massacre and breathes life into those who perished.

Since the death of the last survivor Robert Hébras last year, there are no more eyewitnesses to recount the tragedy of the Oradour massacre. But the objects on show at the village's Memorial Centre each have their own story to tell.

Penknives, clocks stopped in time, scorched documents, melted glass, a pram riddled with bullet holes – the 200 objects bear witness to the blaze and machine-gun fire that rained down on the "martyred village" when Nazis troops set out to wipe it from the map and send a message of terror four days after the D-Day landings.

Collected in the aftermath of the massacre, most of the objects were placed in the village memorial. Others remained in victims' families and have been loaned for the temporary exhibition “Oradour, objets en héritage” (Oradour, Heirlooms).

"We know where some of the rare objects came from," says the centre's director Babeth Robert, pointing to a handbag and purse donated to the centre by the owner's daughter. "But most objects are anonymous and it's interesting to show that.

"Of the 643 victims, only 52 bodies were ever identified."

Some pieces testify to Oradour's bustling commercial activity – a thimble and pair of scissors probably belonged to one of the village tailors, while a razor and curling tongs likely came from the hairdressers.

Read more on RFI English

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