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History Repeats Itself: Oradour-sur-Glane and the 2nd SS Panzer Division

In a small village outside Limoges, France, remains one of the starkest tributes to the atrocities committed by Nazi troops occupying Europe during the second world war.

I last visited Oradour-sur-Glane more than a decade ago. To this day, a mention of the town is enough to send chills down my spine.

The charred remains of homes and storefronts, crumbling staircases, and the twisted remains of child-sized bed springs are the souvenirs of a crime so horrific that General Charles de Gaulle ordered the remains of the town be left untouched - to bear witness to what happened there.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France, destroyed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, World War II

Oradour-sur-Glane, France, destroyed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, World War II

“Souviens-toi,” implores the lone sign at the entrance to the site. Remember.

On June 10, 1944, six days after D-Day, the 2nd SS Panzer Division - known as Das Reich - set out to exact their revenge on a peaceful village in South-Central France. They rounded up the town’s inhabitants - men in barns and sheds, and women and children in the town church - and slaughtered them. SS soldiers shot the men, threw explosives into the church filled with cowering women and children, and then burned the buildings down around them.

In total, 642 men, women and children were brutally murdered by Nazi SS troops in Oradour-sur-Glane that day.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” famously said Spanish philosopher George Santayana.

General de Gaulle hoped that by preserving the town as a memorial, we might avoid this fate. But today, we again find ourselves working to combat those who would act under the banner of Das Reich.

74 years later, more than 5,000 miles away, we are actively engaged in combatting a group of local white supremacists who proudly wear (and tattoo) the Wolfsangel - the emblem of Das Reich.

The t-shirts in the photo below display the symbol (the Wolfsangel) that the SS 2nd Panzer Division wore as they committed the atrocities at Oradour-sur-Glane. When we say Nazis, it’s not hyperbole. There are Nazis in our neighborhood.


Halley Knigge