Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Oradour has no more women
Oradour has no longer a man
Oradour has no more leaves
Oradour has no more stones
Oradour has no church
Oradour has no more children.

More smoke more laughter
More roofs more attics
More breasts more love
More wine more songs.

Oradour, I am afraid to hear
Oradour, I do not dare
To approach your wounds
The blood of your ruins,
I cannot I cannot
See or hear your name.

Oradour, I scream and shout
Each time a heart bursts
Under the blows of assassins
A terrified head
Two broad eyes two red eyes
Two grave eyes two large eyes
Like the night of madness
Both eyes of small children:
They will not leave me.

Oradour, I no longer dare
To read or speak your name.

Oradour shame of man
Oradour eternal shame
Our hearts will not find peace
That the worst revenge
Is hatred and shame forever.

Oradour no longer has form
Oradour, women nor men
Oradour has no children
Oradour has no more leaves
Oradour has no church
More smoke than girls
More evenings than mornings
More tears than songs.

Oradour is now nothing but a cry
And this is the worst offence
To those who lived in the village
And this is the greatest shame
Not to be more than one cry,
Name of the hatred of man
Name of the shame of man
The name of our revenge
That through all our lands
One listens shivering,
A mouth without body,
Howling for all time.


Apologies for the translation, which is a mixture of google and babelfish, and neither.

From the original poem "Oradour" by Jean Tardieu (1903-1995), a denunciation of the horrors inflicted by the Waffen-SS on the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in 1944.

You can read all about the history here, here and here, but briefly, on June 10 1944 German soldiers murdered almost all the men, women and children of the village and set fire to all the buildings. There is some controversy about the reason why this occurred, but the commonly held view today is that the village was mistaken for another nearby, which the Germans believed was harbouring members of the resistance.

Oradour remains now intact, as it stood nearly seventy years ago after the massacre, and is a unique monument to those people who died.

We're not particularly interested in WWII history. We don't go out of our way to watch war movies, to read books about war, or to seek out anything that depicts or glorifies war. But while in Japan a few years ago, we purposely made the trip to Hiroshima and visited the Peace Park. And while that was a very moving experience, Hiroshima is a large, modern and sophisticated place, and the Peace Park and "Ground Zero" is now just another big park, almost lost in the midst of the surrounding city.

In contrast, the approach to Oradour-sur-Glane is through open countryside and other small villages, and the place still sits in its environment just like any other Limousin village. And so because the context seems right, while walking around the ruins today it is still possible to imagine what it may have looked like prior to its destruction. But it is still a surreal experience - possibly like walking around Chernobyl - and somewhere which demands plenty of time to be wandered around and made sense of.

Mostly it has been a luxury to upload large photos for this blog, but we have plenty of bandwidth here in France, so if you'd like to see any of these (and many more) a little larger, just click here...

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