The Chilling World War II Ghost Village of France

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
April 15 2014 2:09 PM

Oradour-sur-Glane, France's Chilling World War II Ghost Village

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

The village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France has stood in ruins since 1944. Among the scorched, crumbling buildings are things owned by the people who lived here 70 years ago: burnt shells of cars; browned sewing machines; bed frames; the skeleton of a stroller. All sit quietly, at the mercy of nothing but weather and time.

On June 10, 1944, the Waffen-SS, an armed division of the Nazi SS, stormed Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered every resident to assemble in the village square in order to have their identity papers examined. The promised inspection never happened. Instead, the SS unit led the men to barns and sheds, where they had set up machine guns. They took the women and children to the church, locked them in, and set the building on fire. Anyone who tried to escape through a window met with a hail of gunfire.

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Within hours, the Waffen-SS had murdered 642 residents of Oradour-sur-Glane. Satisfied, they left, but not before torching every structure in the village.

When World War II ended, then French president Charles de Gaulle declared that while a new Oradour-sur-Glane would be built next to the original, the old one must be kept in ruins as a reminder of the atrocities of war. Apart from the addition of signs, plaques, and a museum, the ghost village is untouched. A sign above the entrance reads "Souviens-Toi" — "Remember."

Other remnants of World War II:

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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