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.

Advertisement

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:

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.