The men were separated and taken to six sheds and barns. The 500 women and children were taken to the village church.
The men were machine-gunned, shot in the legs first to prevent them from fleeing. Those who showed signs of life were shot point-blank. The Germans covered the bodies with wood and straw and set it afire, while those not yet dead screamed in agony. Several men escaped in the smoke and flames.
|A building where men were executed.|
Soldiers then went to the church, where the women thought they and the children might be released. Instead, two soldiers lit a poisonous device and hurried out the doors, which they locked behind them. The troops shot women and children who tried to escape or hide, including a boy and girl later found in the confessional. Only one woman escaped, by jumping nine feet out a window. None of the 246 children survived. The only child in the village to live was a refugee boy who knew to flee when the soldiers first arrived.
Before leaving, the Germans torched the church, barns, sheds and most every building.
|The church where the women and 246 children died.|
|The school for girls.|
Walking the streets of Oradour where at one tick of the clock were filled with the peaceful sounds of ordinary life on a warm June afternoon, of men and women chatting or going about their work and children playing after school, and the next transformed into a silent tomb, was overwhelming.
About 30 residents avoided death by fleeing when the Germans arrived or being away from the village. Six unfortunate young people who happened to bicycle through the village while the Germans were there were were seized and killed.
|Entire families were killed.|
The officer who ordered the massacre and many soldiers who partcipated were killed in the Battle of Normandy.
Surprisingly, several German and Alsatian troops (the latter from the Alsace region of France at the German border) convicted in the 1950s and sentenced to death or prison terms, were later pardoned.
The Germans either denied involvement in the attack or said it was retaliation because the village was a hotbed of French Resistance activity. Historians said if the latter excuse was the case, the Germans likely attacked the wrong village. Another French village, Oradour-sur-Vayres, was an important Resistance center.