The Truth About Oradour sur Glane
(Oradour: A Counter-Investigation)
by Vincent Reynouard
(sound track of video - posted here by permission)
Translated by C. Porter
The death of women and children is always a tragedy. Oradour-sur-Glane, of course, is no exception.
Everyone is saddened at the thought of young lives cut brutally short... innocent victims of a conflict which they did not understand.
For the immense majority of today’s public, there is no dispute about what happened: on the morning of 10 June 1944, Oradour was a peaceful, happy little village.
But that same evening, after the passage of a Waffen-SS company, Oradour was in ruins, with hundreds of bodies lying among smoking ruins. To most people, this is enough for us to be able to identify the criminals: the “Nazi hordes”. This may seem a reasonable deduction.
But if we examine the tragedy step by step, we find ourselves faced with a riddle, only the first and last stages of which are known with certainty.
Everything else we know, or think we know, was determined by after-the-fact investigation, perhaps distorted, perhaps entirely mistaken. There is not enough clarity about what actually happened. This is why we believe in the need for a counter-inquiry.
If, for any reason, you want to believe the theory which has been commonly accepted since 1944; if you believe that the Waffen SS were solely responsible for the tragedy and that their guilt is not subject to question, then stop watching right now. This is not for you.
But if you believe it is possible to doubt; if you think the sole guilt of the Waffen SS can be questioned, then you are invited to a counter-inquiry on the tragedy of Oradour. To that end, we are going to adopt a traditional method of inquiry, rather as depicted in a detective drama like “Inspector Columbo”. Here we are at the scene of the crime; teams of technicians have already conducted an initial investigation, interrogating the first witnesses. This is the information which will serve as the basis for our inquiry.
In particular, we will study the physical evidence, without regard for the political context (in this case, the Occupation), or the identity of the presumed culprits (here, the Waffen SS), so as to understand what could have happened.
The facts as presented
The standard version of the facts is as follows:
“In the early afternoon, the peaceful village of Oradour is suddenly surrounded by troops from the Waffen SS. Everyone at work in the fields is herded into the centre of town...
The whole population is then corralled in the town square (known as the “Fair Ground”) on the pretext of examining their identity documents. The men are separated from the women and children, who are taken to the church.
The men are divided into six groups and taken to the biggest garages or barns in Oradour, where German machine gunners are waiting.
“In just a few seconds, at 4:00 P.M., the men are suddenly shot to death, without ever understanding why. Some of the victims are finished off with pistol shots to the head. The bodies are sprinkled with inflammable liquid and the buildings in which they were killed are set on fire, along with the surrounding houses. Five men, just five, barely escape with their lives from the Laudy barn.
“At 5 P.M., it is the turn of the women and children (400 people) are crammed together in the little church. In the midst of the crowd, in the middle of the building, the Germans place a chest, from which a fuse protrudes. The fuse is then lit by the Germans. The chest is intended to asphyxiate the victims. Instead, it explodes, shattering the stained glass windows. The attempted asphyxiation proves a failure, the Germans begin firing on the women and children.” (Bullet holes are still visible in the interior walls of the church today). One woman, Madame Rouffanche, succeeds in escaping through a stained glass window, followed by another woman and her baby. The baby’s cries alert the Germans, and all three are machine gunned. Madame Rouffanche alone, though wounded, survives by hiding in a row of green peas in the presbytery garden.”
It should be added that, according to information obtained during the initial inquiry, the Waffen SS are also said to have burnt the women and children to death inside the church, causing a fire, which spread throughout the building.
This stamp -- issued in October 1945 -- depicts the official version of the event.
The objective of our inquiry is to confirm or disprove this version of the facts. To this end, we will use photos taken at the time. First, we will:
1°) study the condition of the bodies when they were found, and, secondly,
2°) draw up an inventory of the premises after the tragedy.
This information should permit us to formulate some preliminary hypotheses concerning the actual course of event on this tragic 10 June. Then -- and only then -- will we concern ourselves with the various eyewitness testimonies.
The first thing to do, therefore, is to open our eyes and look around.
The physical evidence
The condition of the bodies
Let’s begin by examining the bodies of the men. There are not very many photographs in the public domain and we do not know exactly where they were taken. But let’s count them.
This body is burnt beyond recognition. It totally unrecognizable.
Same remark for these three bodies. Note, as well, in the foreground, the missing extremity (a foot). The visible face has neither features, nor hair, nor lips, hence the visibility of the teeth.
This last body confirms what we just said. The face is unrecognisable, the flesh has been totally burnt away, a foot is missing... All these bodies were obviously destroyed by fire.
These are the remains of a crew member of a Hercules C-130, an Army transport plane which crashed in Iraq. The body was exposed to very violent combustion for a very long period of time and was discovered in the debris, in its entirety, although one extremity is missing, totally destroyed by fire. The clothes have disappeared and the flesh is entirely burnt away.
Here is another crew member of the same air plane. The facial features and hair have completely disappeared, rendering identification difficult or impossible. The flames have devoured the lips, hence the visibility of the teeth.
The bodies you see now are those of prisoners who died in the gigantic prison fire in Honduras in February 2012. Unable to escape from the building, they were trapped in the burning building for a very long time, hence the characteristics typical of death by fire.
The striking similarity between the victims of death by fire and the bodies of the men killed at Oradour leave very little room for doubt. The official theory is correct when it says that the bodies of the male villagers were exposed to fire for a long period of time.
Having said this, now let’s examine the bodies of the women and children taken found in the church.
What is immediately striking is that their shoes are intact. These are not shoes which have been exposed to very violent combustion for several hours.
This same photo, circled in red, shows that a great many other shoes and/or other extremities also remain intact, that is, without any trace of having been exposed to fire. What is more, these are not entire bodies, but rather, fragments of bodies.
Same remark for this photo. The shoes and legs, circled in yellow, are completely intact. Stockings, circled in red, are still clearly visible on both legs. Finally, circled in green, we see the fragment of the body of a little girl whose dress is intact.
Now look at this poor little boy. His clothes are intact, his hair is still there, and so is his ear.
Here’s the same body from another angle. His shorts are perfectly intact, but the flesh on his legs is carbonised and his shoes have been superficially burned. Death seems to have been caused by the fact that his head was blown partially off. No ordinary fire could do that. Whatever the cause, it must have been very violent, and very quick at the same time. And that’s not all:
The short pants and sandals of this other little boy are also intact...
This poor little boy has been literally cut in half.
This little girl was also cut in two. But her shoes are still there, including the laces (yellow arrow). There, again, how can we believe that an ordinary fire could ever do that? Note as well that the shoes are intact (yellow arrow) and so is the hand of the body lying immediately adjacent (green arrow).
As to these other victims, they were found in the state of human fragments.
This little baby is no exception.
Their arms and legs have been torn off, pulverised...
These poor fragments were transported in carts and buried in common graves. It is obvious that the women and children didn’t die of the same causes as the men. Therefore, let us look at a selection of other bodies killed in various other ways.
This is a soldier killed by an explosion during the First World War. His legs have been blown off, but his uniform is intact and his face is perfectly intact and can easily be identified.
This is the body of a man whose head was blown off during a bombing attack in Pakistan. Note that the clothing is intact and that the flesh – which can easily be seen, in the region of the abdomen -- is still intact.
This other body is that of an Iraqi insurgent killed by the accidental explosion of his own bomb in 2006. Once again, with the exception of the left leg, all the extremities have been blown off, but his clothing, and all flesh and body parts not directly destroyed by the explosion, is still there.
The body of this woman -- killed in the explosion of a German artillery shell during the First World War -- shows the manner in which explosions can cause horrible mutilations but no burns. Here, the body has literally been cut in half, but the hair is still there.
Finally, to help us understand the photos of the victims at Oradour, is this victim of a double bombing attack in Karashi (Pakistan) on 5 February 2010. The sandals are intact.
The bodies which we’ve just seen were badly mutilated, even torn to pieces, of course, but their clothing is still there, the facial features (if the head can be found) are recognizable and intact; so is the hair… Therefore, the conclusion is obvious: the bodies of the women and children in the church were killed by one or more powerful explosions. These are not the victims of people killed in a violent fire where they were caught in the flames for several hours.
To get a clearer idea, let’s visit the church and examine the ruins…
The ruins of the church
This is the church of Oradour before the tragedy.
Here is the church afterwards. What is immediately striking is that the roof has completely disappeared. This seems to indicate a generalized conflagration -- a fire like this one, that destroyed an American church, blowing off the roof and roof cladding. But let’s not jump to conclusions.
This is the collegiate church of Nivelles after a bombardment in May 1940. It was hit by several bombs and the building was shaken by explosions, which blew off the main roofs. The resemblance with the church at Oradour is undeniable.
This is the church of Saint-Gildas des Bois, in Loire-Atlantique. On 12 August 1944, a bomb fell almost vertically down the steeple, after which the steeple was shaken by an explosion inside the building.
Compare this photo of the church at Oradour taken from a similar angle. The resemblance between these two steeples is so striking that it is easy to imagine that the interior of the church at Oradour was also shaken by an explosion.
This hypothesis is supported, moreover, by one fact. Look at this side of the steeple taken after the tragedy. I’ve drawn circles around the apertures. There is no trace of soot on them.
Same comment with regards to the other side.
Same comment here, too. The distinctive trace of black smoke originated from the fire in the little lean-to shop next to the steeple. The fire caused the roughcast to collapse where it was exposed to the flames. It also caused this trace of black soot…
I will finish with the only known photograph of the fourth side of the steeple after the tragedy. The two openings are indicated by red arrows. There is no trace of soot here, either. The two brown arrows show the trace of the roof of the nave.
Note once again the absence of soot, indicating, perhaps, that the roof was blown off by several explosions.
The openings in the steeple show no trace of soot.
Now, if the Germans -- as claimed by Mme Rouffanche – had really set fire to the church by placing combustible materials (chairs, sticks, etc.) on top of the bodies of the women and children, the fire would have reached the steeple by spreading upwards.
And if we claim -- with Stone Poitevin -- that the Germans climbed up into the steeple and placed their mysterious “incendiary pellets” in the steeple, the spiral staircase would have taken them no further than the base of the steeple. This is why they would have had to place their incendiary pellets there, at the bottom, in which case the fire would have started there, before spreading towards the roof.
The smoke, therefore, would have exited the only openings available for quite some time -- the openings pierced during the construction of the steeple. So there should be some soot, as was the case, for example, at Chevry, in Ain, where the church burnt on 7 May 2012.
This is confirmed by this other view of the steeple. Since the roof did not collapse at all, the smoke was forced to exit via the openings, leaving extensive traces of soot on the walls.
The film you’re about to see shows the church at Vaaler, Norway, after it was destroyed by arson. The fire started at ground level before spreading upwards.
Look at the steeple. The interior was destroyed by fire, but the roof hasn’t caved in at all. This means that the smoke had to exit via whatever openings were available.
It is even more obvious on these photos, since the fire has spread much further. It would take a very long time, many minutes, for the roof to collapse, after which the flames and smoke could then exit vertically.
Of course, different parts of Oradour were subjected to fires of greater or lesser intensity, as attested to by the trail of black soot indicated on the photo by the red arrow. But it is undeniable that these were not the principal causes of the destruction of the building.
The appearance of the steeple shows that one or more explosions shook the church on 10 June 1944. This hypothesis is also supported by another fact.
The ridge tile cross
At the very top of the steeple (circled in blue), you will see what is called a ridge tile cross. Above it, indicated by a green arrow, was a thin brass hollow sphere; below it, indicated by a red arrow, is lower, larger one, also hollow, and also of thin brass.
This cross is still visible inside the ruins of the church. The green arrow indicates the location of the upper sphere (which has disappeared) while the red arrow indicates the lower one. Let’s move closer.
Here, indicated by green arrows, are the four metal bars used to fasten the cross to the top of the steeple. The sphere, which was hollow, is in very poor condition. But it is still there; it only dented. Despite the thinness of its constituent material, did not melt. This is very important, since, look at the inside of the church.
In this case, the fire reached the roof and burnt the base of the ridge tile cross for a very, very long time. In this case, the cross was of stone.
But what would happen to a sphere of thin hollow brass? Subjected to extreme heat through the air and through thermal radiation, surely it would have melted…
This same thin sphere is perfectly visible today: cut in half and badly dented, of course, but it shows no signs of melting.
The ridge tile cross was not exposed to a blazing inferno for hours, that is obvious. So what happened?
Perhaps it was ejected from the building during the explosion of the steeple. According to this theory, it was broken in half and got dented when it hit the ground.
Thus, the condition of the ridge cross is consistent with the hypothesis of an explosion, but not a generalized conflagration.
The partially melted church bells
Now let’s enter the church. We the steeple is accessed by way of the square in front of the church. The first thing we see is the two melted church bells. In one of them, the hammer of the bell itself as melted and hardened into the melted bronze of the bell itself, forming one solid mass.
But church bells do not melt when the steeple burns. This is a photo of the Victory Tower in the Parliament building at Ottawa, destroyed by fire on 3 February 1916. Despite the fire, the bell rang every hour, until midnight, while the whole area was ravaged by flames. The bell fell to earth just after midnight but it didn’t melt.
Here it is, today, after restoration. Though rusted and in bad condition, the bell survived the fire.
This church was in Ohio, was totally destroyed by fire on 16 August 2012.
But the bell survived the fire in this case as well. Here it is, among the ruins.
The two bells you see here are from the church of The Holy Trinity, in Downton, Indiana. The church was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1975. The bells are cracked, even broken in places, but not melted.
This is the church bell from the old Cathedral de Notre Dame de Bon Port, destroyed on 8 May 1902 during the eruption of the Mount Pelée, a volcano.
Despite the thick cloud of burning vapours and the ensuing fire, it was merely deformed somewhat, before falling to earth and being torn in half longitudinally.
This is the St Mary’s Church at Lübeck, destroyed during an English aerial bombardment in late March 1942.
The church bells fell and broke in half when they hit the ground, but they didn’t melt. Having said that, here is an article dedicated to the fire which destroyed the church at Brunehamel, Aisne, France, in 1996. In this case, we see a small church bell, only the upper part of which has disappeared as a result of melting.
Another interesting church bell is the bell from the old Plantation House Depaz on the island of Martinique, entirely destroyed during the eruption of Mount Pelée.
As at Brunehamel, the top of the bell has disappeared while the lower part is intact, so perfectly that you can read the inscriptions.
I explain this fact as follows: on the screen, to the left, is a cross-section of a church bell. The red indicates the thickness of the metal. We see that the greater proportion of the mass is located towards the bottom of the bell.
This is a church bell installed in a steeple. The large piece of wood holding the bell in place is called a “sheep”. What would happen if the steeple were destroyed by fire?
The church bell absorbs heat from all sides by thermal radiation, as a result of which the bronze will get hot. But since the bronze is much thinner towards the top of the bell, the top of the bell will be the first to lose its mechanical properties.
After a certain amount of time, the bell will fracture towards the middle of the bell, since the bottom of the bell is much heavier… causing the bottom part to fall to the ground. In some cases, the impact of the fall itself will cause the fragment to roll away from the fire…hence, the bottom part of the bell will be found intact, while the top part will have disappeared.
There is none of this at Oradour. There is almost nothing left of the two church bells which originally existed in the steeple on 10 June 1944, except for the two fragments of the bottom edges, circled here in red and black.
As may be seen here, these two fragments correspond to a very small part of the bell, compared to the bell as a whole.
Some people will object that there were two church bells in the steeple at Oradour. The diagram on the screen (seen from above) shows that when the fire was raging at full strength, and the thermal radiation (symbolised by the orange arrows) reached the church bells, there was nevertheless a small area (marked in blue) where this radiation was less intense. This could explain the continued existence of a small part of the base. The argument is pertinent to the problem, but is contradicted by three other facts:
The fragments of church bells which still remain are too big compared to the zone of lesser thermal intensity.
If we inspect the small, highly visible fragment, we will see that the edges are soft and rounded, an indication of melting.
Compare that with the edge of this church bell from the Plantation House Depaz in Martinique. This bell shows very marked angles, caused by metal fracture.
This is even clearer with the church bells from Lübeck. The angles are clearly marked and the surfaces are rough. Here, again, there is a fracture.
At Oradour, what we see is not a facture, but a rather clear-cut border between the melted areas the areas remaining intact. What does this indicate? I’ll explain.
The blue rectangle at the top of the screen represents a metal bar at ambient temperature. If you heat it, energy will be added to the bar. The temperature of the bar will rise at the point directly exposed to the source of heat, and this heat will be evacuated in two ways: by heat loss towards the exterior (left-hand arrow) and by conduction inside the component material of the bar (right-hand arrow). This conduction means that, after a while, the entire bar will be hot, although it has only been heated at one end. If the heating is not very violent, the bar will cool down without undergoing the slightest change as soon as the source of heat is withdrawn.
On the other hand, if the fire is more violent, not all the stored energy can be evacuated. The proportion evacuated by conduction will cause a rise in the temperature inside the bar. The remaining surplus heat will destroy the internal structure of the metal, which will begin to melt. When the source of heat is withdrawn, the bar will cool down, but clearly visible traces of melting will to some extent remain.
The total melting of one end of the bar without melting any of the rest of the bar would require a very, very powerful fire. The energy it would give off would be so great that a large part of the heat could not be evacuated, causing the rapid melting of the end of the bar. The rapidity of the phenomenon would mean that the heat would hardly have time to flow off along the bar by conduction. This would result in a rather clear dividing line between the area which has been destroyed (or has disappeared) and the area which has been preserved. The problem is that it is very difficult, or even impossible, to achieve such intense heat using nothing but wood for fuel (which would be the case inside a steeple).
Consequently, the manner in which the church bells at Oradour were destroyed may seem a mystery. What could have caused this clear dividing line between the parts of the bell which remain intact and the parts of the bell which have disappeared? The possible answer: an explosion.
In the context of our investigation, an explosion may be considered to resemble a fire which has gotten out of control. The energy is liberated immediately in the form of a shock wave (sudden increase in pressure).
Some of the energy released in this way will be absorbed by the metal, causing an almost instantaneous melting and a scattering of the molten metal. This will happen so quickly that no diffusion of heat by conduction will occur, resulting in a very clear borderline between the part which has disappeared as a result of melting and the part remaining intact.
The condition of the church bells visible in the church at Oradour therefore confirm the theory of a violent explosion inside the steeple.
The vault of the steeple
Some people will object that if a violent explosion shook this part of the church, it would have damaged the vault as well.
But, they will then say, the vault is still perfectly visible, with its circular central opening in the dome. That is, of course, what they want to make you believe.
But look at the stones of the rib vault – circled in blue – and compare them with the ones circled in brown. You don’t need to be a specialist to see that the second set of stones is modern -- proof of subsequent reconstruction of at least part of the vault.
If you doubt my word, then just consult one of the first books ever published on the matter: …
The author speaks of “fallen stone from the vault”. The fact that it lies on the doorstep of the church shows that it fell from the vault of the steeple.
Further along, moreover, he published a photograph which shows “stone from the vault of the collapsed steeple”. He couldn’t have said it any more clearly.
The stones of the rib vaults are also visible in this other photo, as well as a fragment of church bell.
Since the vaults of the nave collapsed in November 1944, these stones can only have come from the steeple.
I might add that, in June 1945, the Government published a report issued by General Intelligence, dated 4 July 1944, on the tragedy of Oradour.
The editor clearly wrote: “the vault of the steeple which overhung the church has collapsed”.
The vault as it may be seen today is the result of a reconstruction, at least in part. Far from contradicting the theory of the explosion in the steeple, its condition on the evening of 10 June supports the contrary theory.
The nave and the choir
Now let’s proceed. Here we are in the nave. At the end, the heart of the church, with its high altar.
Here we see one of the few rare photographs taken shortly after the tragedy, showing this part of the church. We see that the seats and pews used by the faithful while attending Mass have disappeared.
A photograph taken in October 1944, i.e., four months after the tragedy, shows the traces of soot below the three stained-glass windows located behind the high altar. Obvious evidence of fire… Having said that, let’s go back inside.
The floor is strewn with wreckage, including many stones.
This more obvious in this other photograph. The stones on the ground are clearly visible.
Let us now consider the statue surrounded by a circle. This is the statue of the parish priest of Ars. The top of the statue has been pulverised but the bottom hasn’t fallen off. What could have done that? Let’s look at it from a different angle.
The projective responsible for the destruction has left quite a visible impact. The outline looks like it was made by a stone, not a bullet.
Here’s what they tell you is the impact of a bullet in a stone of this church, built of Limousin granite. It is much smaller.
This must be considered proof that stones were violently projected through the church on the day of the tragedy.
Incidentally, in this brochure, published only a few months after the tragedy, we read:
“In what became of the church, large rubble stones from who knows where, litter the floor covered with ashes”. If the author was unable to discover their origins, it was because the rubble stones came from far away -- too far away for a man who favoured the hypothesis of arson. Having said that, let us examine the altar.
Here is the design of a traditional mass altar. I would like to draw your attention to the symmetrical nature of the object.
At Oradour, what is striking, first of all, is the widespread destruction. I am not speaking of bullet holes, but of missing parts of the church.
The wooden dais (represented in brown) ascended by the priest to say Mass. There is no trace of it. If it burned, there is no trace of black on the altar. We cannot, therefore, eliminate the hypothesis that it was destroyed by explosion. Another missing item: the left side of the tabernacle with its three arches, all in plaster. It has completely disappeared, as if blown away, pulverised. Once again, no fire could have done this... Let us go closer and consider the bullet holes.
The two impact scars framed in red could have been left by bullets. In fact, they actually resemble bullet holes in the relatively soft stone.
The central, deeper, bullet hole can be seen very clearly here, where the projectile physically struck the wall (in red here), and the periphery, which is damaged due to the impact (in yellow here).
On the other hand, the bullet holes framed in yellow rather suggest stones of different sizes which could have struck the altar. This is particularly visible on the upper level. We cannot make out a single, deeper, hole which a bullet would have left. As to the edge of the altar, the manner in which it is uniformly broken lengthwise may be surprising. We do not know what could have happened here.
Whatever the reason, if an exception be made for the exterior traces of soot above the stained-glass windows, this area hardly shows any trace of fire.
We were expecting, in particular, to find melted or partially melted religious objects (candelabra and crucifixes), which would have left small puddles of solidified molten metal.
But these objects are still quite visible in the “souvenir crypt” and there is not the slightest trace of molten metal on the altar. There are no signs of fire on the high altar.
The mystery of the sacristy
From the choir, let us enter the sacristy. To our knowledge, not one single photograph shows the interior of this part of the church, either before or after the tragedy.
The sacristy was built on two levels. Above is the sacristy properly speaking, illuminated by two windows. Below it, there is a sort of shed, which is said to have led to the outside through a door. The two levels would have to have been linked by a stairway.
Today, the floor, the stairway and the roof have disappeared.
If we believe this photo taken shortly after the tragedy, this part of the church was the focal point of a violent fire. But that’s all one can say…
The Chapel Sainte-Anne
Let us come back to the church to inspect the lateral chapels. Crossing the choir, we see the Chapel Sainte Anne.
Here we see a photo taken shortly after the tragedy.
This is the altar of St. Anne, framed in yellow. Let’s go closer.
The altar is badly damaged. The wall cladding has been removed; the interior brick is visible.
Here is the chapel as it would appear today. To the right of the stained glass window is a door which some people call the “door of martyrdom”.
The altar, to the left, is unrecognisable. Events of great violence have occurred here, that is obvious.
Let’s return to the first photograph. The area framed in red was the theatre of a fire. The white part of the wall has been licked by flames. Above, a characteristic black deposit. Could one say that the chapel was destroyed by fire? The hypothesis is pertinent, but now let’s look at a photograph taken from the outside.
This photo is not very well known. Here it is, just as I photographed it in the Archives de Haute-Vienne.
Here it is as shown in the book by Franck Delage, Oradour. Ville Martyre. We see the stained glass window and, on the left, this time, the frame of the “door of martydom”.
The original photograph, of course, shows a bit of black on the lower part of the door frame. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, around the stained glass window. Not the slightest trace of smoke or soot.
The same is true of the inside. The walls leading to the nave (framed in yellow) look perfectly clean. The hypothesis of a violent fire to explain the condition of this chapel is therefore far from certain.
The chapel of Saint-Joseph
Having said that, let us pass by and let’s enter the chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Here is something surprising: this same church -- which is, after all, supposed to have been destroyed by a generalized conflagration according to the official version of events -- contains a wooden altar, showing no signs of having been damaged by fire…
In his book, Stone Poitevin, who visited the church shortly after the tragedy, declares, without further explanation, that this chapel “was spared by the conflagration”. Hmm…
La Chapel of the Virgin
Let us cross the nave and enter the chapel dedicated to the Virgin. Now here’s another surprise, and a big one at that…
The confessional --- of flimsy wooden construction, some parts of which are only a few millimetres thick -- has survived intact.
Let us add to the fact that at the other end of the chapel, we can see that the altar of the Virgin, in plaster, is also entirely intact.
Stone Poitevin states that, in this chapel, “the draperies, the ornaments, have suffered little”. One must conclude that this corner of the church was also spared by the fire.
In his report, the Military Intelligence officer provides a general summary of the preservation of the chapel of the Virgin writing: “The left-hand part of the church has partially escaped the flames”. Let’s bear these words in mind as we conclude our physical inspection of the church.
We can sum it up this way: the red shows the areas which were the focal point of more or less powerful fires. The blue shows the areas which were spared by the flames, as well as by any other form of destruction. As regards the nave, the photos do not permit us to draw any conclusion. As for the steeple, we are inclined to favour the theory of an explosion. The initial conclusion is as follows:
The theory of the generalised conflagration, as presented since 1944, is incorrect. Of course, it is undeniable that several more or less powerful fires did occur in some areas, but these fires cannot have destroyed the building or caused the deaths of the women and children, whose bodies were obviously not burned. The women and children were obviously blown to bits by several explosions. Therefore, what happened on 10 June 1944 in the church at Oradour? Our initial hypothesis is as follows.
Several explosions shook the church at Oradour. These explosions occurred under the loft of the church and inside the steeple. No doubt there was a chain reaction in which the shock wave caused by the initial explosion caused the subsequent explosions. This hypothesis explains:
- the astonishing condition of the ridge tile cross, particularly, the condition of thin brass sphere at the base;
- the absence of soot on the level of the openings in the steeple;
- the very particular condition of the church bells, with their clear-cut borderline between the parts remaining intact and the parts which have melted;
and the disappearance of the roof, which was blown off by the shock wave.
The collapse of the vaults of the nave, in November 1944. Shaken by the explosions which occurred in the lofts, the weakened structures finally collapsed a few months later.
It is also interesting to compare the church at Oradour with other churches which were destroyed by bombardment -- like this one, and many others. In all these cases, the bombs pierced the roof and exploded on top of the vaults, causing them to collapse.
The resemblance with what remains of the church as Oradour is striking, leading to the possible conclusion that the cause of destruction was the same in all cases. Having said that, let us return to our explosion.
The theory of the explosion and its consequences
The explosion of a shaped charge send a powerful shock wave both upwards and downwards, i.e., as well, on the level of the vault with its circular opening.
This explains the partial or total destruction of the vault of the steeple, since some of the stones were located directly beneath.
The overheated gases caused by the explosion would have been projected downwards into the nave of the church within a fraction of a second. Large numbers of stones torn away from the vault would have been projected at great velocity in all directions. This phenomenon would have been of short duration. This explains:
...the astonishing state of preservation of the chapels of the Virgin and Saint Joseph;
...the destruction of the top of the statue of the parish priest of Ars by a stone, without damaging or destabilising the bottom part of the statue;
..the impacts on the high altar and more particularly the pulverisation of the part at the upper left.
But above all, this theory explains the condition of the bodies of the women and children which we saw in this photo. The shock wave, the projected objects and the burning gases would explain these mutilations.
This gross explosion therefore seems to constitute the cause of the tragedy. Having formulated this conclusion, let us go on to examine the eyewitness testimonies.
Tardy revelations and confirmations
Nine years later after the tragedy, during the Waffen SS trial in 1953, we were able to learn from a witness to whom we will return later, Mme Rouffanche, that, at one moment, “a flame entered the church”. This supports the theory of the explosion in the steeple, followed by the exceedingly powerful projection of burning gases into the nave of the church.
During the same trial, Mme Rouffanche revealed another event which had hitherto been concealed from us: a sudden explosion inside the sacristy is said to have caused the collapse of the ceiling and knocked the women and children off their feet. If this is true, then the bodies found in this area wouldn’t have been burned either.
This is confirmed by police commissioner Hubert Massiera, who inspected the area shortly after the tragedy. The bodies found in the shed, he says, were not burnt.
Here, therefore, is the new diagram of the church, with an added correction for the sacristy. The theory of the generalised conflagration now seems less probable. Having said that, let’s have a look at the other witnesses who arrived on the scene shortly after the tragedy.
Concerning the church, Stone Poitevin writes: “Heads were torn off the bodies, arms, legs lay all over the place, scattered around”. “A stiff hand grasps an iron ornament fastened to the high altar.”[…] “a decapitated body is extended like a cross.”
The bishop of Limoges recalls: “We entered the church […]; here and there were pieces of heads, legs, arms, of body trunks, a foot in a shoe”.
Commissioner of Police André Petit confirms this: “There was horror everywhere. Not a single body was intact. Some of them had been cut in two”.
These testimonies amply confirm our physical observations resulting from the photographs. But there is more.
A French railway engineer, Jean Pallier, who visited Oradour the day after the tragedy, wrote:
“It does not seem that the women and children suffered the same fate [as the men, who were machine-gunned, then burned, since bodies were found in the church of people whom death had surprised in quite normal attitudes.”
An isolated testimony? No.
The men who commanded the Red Cross teams responsible for clearing away the rubble stated as follows in their report:
“Inside the partially destroyed church […] were the remains of women and children surprised by death and burnt on the spot”.
These observations accord with the theory of a sudden explosion, which would have caused the projection of a cloud of burning gases into the nave. The women and children who happened to be inside were taken totally by surprise and many died instantly.
Having said that, let us come to Witness no. 1.
Witness no. 1: Marguerite Rouffanche
Her first known statements
According to the official theory, only one woman succeeded in escaping from the massacre in the church. This was Marguerite Rouffanche, born on 19 December1897, 46 years old at the time of the tragedy.
Here are her first known statements, as they appeared in the report drawn up by Commissioner Massiera of Military Intelligence.
Massiera interviewed her shortly after the tragedy, while she was still in the hospital. Here is what she said:
“For more than an hour, we remained locked inside [in the church] without any knowledge of the fate that awaited us.
“Then, two young soldiers aged 20 to 25 years old entered the church and placed a large chest with fuses protruding on all sides, in the middle of the church; they set fire to it and thick black smoke immediately spread. Women and children began to fall down on the floor, particularly in the right nave.
“To avoid asphyxiation, I went towards the doorway of the sacristy which was located to the left of the high altar, where I rattled the door handle and beat on the door, which finally opened. I entered the sacristy with about thirty other persons. I sat on the steps of the stairway. My daughter, who was sitting by my side, was killed by a bullet from the outside, which hit her in the throat.
“I repeatedly heard the sound of machine guns shooting in the church.
“I then saw the Germans throwing chairs and kindling wood on top of the bodies lying around on the floor in the right nave, near the exit door, and setting fire to them.
“A few moments afterwards, the Germans went towards the sacristy and machine-gunned us at point blank range.
“I closed my eyes and didn’t move, to try to convince them I was dead, and I wasn’t hit by the bullets. As soon as the soldiers were gone, I went to the choir of the church; there, I saw a step ladder standing behind the high altar, and using the step ladder, I was able to reach the central window of the apse, the grillwork of which…
had been partially removed, and I jumped to the ground from a height of about three metres without injury.
“A young mother who was still inside the church saw me and cried to me to grab her baby; she threw it through the window which I had just exited, but I couldn’t reach him; then she herself threw it out onto the ground.
“The sound of our voices drew the attention of the German soldiers, who shot at us; I had gone ahead of the young woman and I ran away, passing behind the presbytery into a garden planted with green peas, located downhill from the church, where I was hit by several bullets. Without crying out, I allowed myself to fall to the ground where I remained until about 5:00 P.M. the next day, when it was possible for me to call for help.”
Mme Rouffanche never mentioned any explosion in her testimony. It is obvious that her account contradicts our theory. But how believable is it?
An impossible leap
Let’s begin by taking a look at Mme Rouffanche’s alleged jump from the window, performed to escape from the church.
Marked on a red X on this diagram, the stained glass window through which the only survivor of the massacre is said to have escaped. Note the height…
It is even more noticeable on this photograph. Although Mme Rouffanche is in the foreground, she seems enlarged, the extent of her jump is immediately apparent, particularly in view of the fact that she was 46 years old at the time of the tragedy.
We took a few measurements on the spot. Not only did our sole survivor fall from a height of 4 metres, but she must have collided with a strongly sloping surface during her descent. Now look at this short sequence:
JUMP FROM A HEIGHT OF 4 METRES: This man, aged about thirty, is about to jump from a height of approximately 4 metres. To cushion his fall, he bends his legs.
If he had landed on a sloping plane, he would have felt irresistibly propelled off balance forward.
This is explained very easily when one takes account of the forces in play at the moment of impact.
The net result of these forces (equivalent to one single force symbolised by an orange arrow) propels the person forwards
and off balance.
Consequently, if this 46-year old woman, who doesn’t look particularly athletic, had jumped through the stained glass window and had landed without injury, she would have fallen forward and hurtled down the inclined plane before falling 2.5 metres further down into the street –
- where the Waffen SS were posted.
Now, Mme Rouffanche claims that, despite the shots fired by these SS men, who hit her with several bullets, she was able to flee and conceal herself in the garden of the presbytery among the rows of green peas.
The story is, therefore, that her fall came to an end at the level of the small parapet. Here is the sketch attached to her report by Commissioner Massiera. Mme Rouffanche’s trajectory is underlined in yellow. We see clearly that our sole survivor did not fall into the street, and that therefore her fall was interrupted on the sloping plane, or, at the last moment, on the parapet? How? On 6 August 1990, I asked Robert Hébras this same question.
Here are my original notes, some of the only ones which escaped the confiscations ordered by the French authorities in 2001.
In front of me, Robert Hébras claimed that there were bramble bushes, blackberry bushes, more than a metre high beneath the stained glass window. The sole survivor of the massacre in the church is thus said to have fallen into this clump of blackberry bushes, which is said to have broken her fall. Injured, she is said to have fainted, and is said only to have regained consciousness towards evening. The problem is that this explanation contradicts the testimony of the witness herself, Mme Rouffanche. Are they going to claim that Commissioner Massiera didn’t transcribe her words correctly?
I will answer by mentioning the “official” testimony of the sole escapee from the church (to which I will return), dated 30 November 1944. We read: “Since the stained glass window was broken, I jumped through the available opening. I jumped more than three metres, after which I fled to the garden of the presbytery. Raising my eyes, I saw that I had been followed in my flight by a woman, who, from the height of the window, was holding her baby out to me. She let it fall near me. The Germans, alerted by the child’s cries, machine-gunned us. My companion and the baby were killed. I myself was wounded in reaching a garden nearby.” Therefore, Mme Rouffanche never pretended to have fallen into any blackberry bush where she allegedly fainted. Robert Hébras’s allegations in his attempt to explain how she stopped her fall were therefore just lies… But that’s not all.
Now listen to the speech given by official guides at Oradour sur Glane to tourists visiting the church in 2006:
This time, there is no longer any question of a blackberry bush 1 metre high, but rather, of a very thick and large bush more than 4 metres high, since it masked the view of the central stained glass window.
Now, not only did Mme Rouffanche never mention any such bush, but all one need do is examine the thin layer of earth on the inclined plane to understand that no large bush could ever have taken root there.
By the way, here is a photo of the church taken before the tragedy. There is no sign of any big, thick bramble bush masking one’s view of the stained glass window.
In his book, Stone Poitevin published a photo taken shortly after the tragedy. Here, again, there are no signs of any bush.
These pitiful attempts to save the testimony of Marguerite Rouffanche by alleging the existence of a blackberry bush, and then a large and very thick bush of some other kind, are simply confessions: confessions that the tale of the sole escapee is just pure fiction.
As a result, the guardians of “Memory” have only one possibility: to cover up her impossible leap. I wish to remind the viewer that, in her official testimony Mme Rouffanche states that she had “jumped more than three metres”.
Well, in their work published in 2001, first director of the Oradour Memory Centre, [Jean-Jacques Fouché]…
published an older version of the testimony, but a very similar version nonetheless. But he takes great care to delete the only passage in which the sole survivor mentions the height of her jump. We are talking about a very short phrase (“I jumped over 3 metres”). The omission served no purpose except to conceal the height of her fall from the reader and to keep people from asking any questions about this incredible athletic feat said to have been performed by a woman of 46 years of age. Here again, all this text-juggling amounts to an admission, a confession. The guardians of “Memory” are admitting that they are unable to shore up the fairy tale of the sole survivor from the church…
Testimony that explains nothing
Let us go on from there and forget the impossible jump. Let’s examine the preceding part of the same testimony, when it is a question of events having occurred inside the church.
Her account attempts to explain the destruction of the chapel Sainte-Anne, which Mme Rouffanche calls the “right nave”. It moreover confirms that these violent events occurred in the sacristy, which was also destroyed. It was the SS, she tells us, who machine-gunned the people and then burned the bodies. That’s the totality of her testimony.
Let us consider the huge bonfire which, according to Mme Rouffanche, the Germans are supposed to have started in the chapel Sainte-Anne. Any fire will either burn out where it started, or it will spread. If it burned out where it started, how do we explain the widespread destruction, all the way from the basement of the sacristy to the roofs of the building?
Now, let us suppose logically that the fire spread throughout the nave (thanks to the wooden chairs and pews) and from the nave to the choir, sacristy, steeple and lofts. This would produce the generalized conflagration required by the official version of events. But how, then, do we explain the perfect condition of the chapels dedicated to Saint-Joseph and the Holy Virgin? In 2006, the authorities of Oradour -- who are familiar with revisionist arguments, answered this way – via the tour guide:
“Now, you may anyway notice that in the other wing, in front of you, there is still a piece of wooden furniture. This piece of furniture was not been added after the events. It was there at the time of the attack. Now, it didn’t burn, simply because we found very few victims down there. Therefore, there were too many flames [sic] [!] [?], and what is more, the oxygen entering the church through the windows was completely used up by the raging conflagration at this particular spot. Whereas, over there, there was an extremely hot atmosphere. […] a small boy hid in the confessional, where he was found dead, completely dried out.”
The explanation is therefore as follows:, the reason why the wooden furnishings in the chapel of the Virgin — most particularly, the confessional — didn’t burn is because the fire couldn’t get started due to lack of oxygen. The only thing to worry about was extremely hot combustion gases.
Now, in a fire, the calorific energy (that is, the heat) is transmitted [away], not just by hot air (convection), but also by means of electromagnetic waves (thermal radiation).
And when a fire burns very violently, thermal radiation becomes the principal mode of transport for the heat involved. The radiating energy is proportional to the temperature cubed. This fact is of capital importance for the following reason:
Let us consider an object located not far from the focal point of a fire. At first, since the fire is very small, we can safely say that the weak thermal radiation will not affect the object.
But later on, the fire increases in intensity. The radiation increases and strikes the object, which gradually heats up until it reaches its ignition point.
Once this point has been reached, the object catches fire in turn, without having been touched by the flames.
In his article, Gilles Leduc reports that, by radiation, a burning house can set fire to another located 300 metres away and separated from it by a river.
As a result, even if we suppose that the flames are directly carried away through the stained glass windows of the façade and by the steeple (chimney effect), therefore they did not reach the chapels dedicated to Saint-Joseph and the Holy Virgin...
The mere intensity of the thermal radiation alone -- symbolised here by the orange arrows -- would have sufficed to bring the various wooden objects to their ignition point. As for claiming that there wouldn’t have been enough oxygen because of the fire itself, that is an obvious absurdity. Oxygen isn’t like a taxi driver in a hurry who fails to see a potential client waving to him from the sidewalk. The laws of physics don’t work that way. And what is more, we mustn’t forget the oxygen at floor level; that alone would have been enough to cause ignition.
Let’s go even further. Let’s forget all about thermal radiation. Let’s assume that the fire actually did pass through the circular hole in the vault of the steeple, and then to the interior of the steeple itself, while failing to burn the two lateral chapels. All this fails to explain…
...the partial melting of the church bells...
...the condition of the thin brass sphere under the ridge tile cross
...or, above all, the condition of the bodies of the women and children.
Mme Rouffanche’s testimony -- which never mentioned any explosion -- does not, therefore, explain the conditions inside the church. Whichever hypothesis you choose (localised fire or general conflagration), you are stuck. The silence of the sole escapee is all the more astonishing since other survivors did mention an explosion.
Mme Rouffanche changes her story
Let’s look at one of the first books ever published on the case. There we find the account of one of the survivors, Robert Hébras.
With numerous other men, he was locked up in the Laudy barn guarded by a few SS men. He says:
“I then heard a violent detonation originating from the market town. It sounded like a bomb.”
Now let’s look at the relevant Military Intelligence report.
The following is the account of Jacques Garraud and Robert Besson, who were concealed on the afternoon of the tragedy:
“Towards 4:00 P.M., we heard cries coming from the direction of the church, followed immediately by a loud detonation, which appeared to come from a grenade or an explosion”. In turn, another survivor, who was also concealed, declared:
“A terrible noise came from the direction of the church, which was a few tens of metres away from us. Detonation followed detonation, followed by an intense clamour and terrifying cries.”
Another survivor, Aimé Renaud, confirms this account: “The only moaning or groaning I heard”, he says,…
… was when the church blew up. I was 40 metres from the church at the time.” The President of the Tribunal responsible for trying the former Waffen SS men interrupted and asked him: “What did you hear? An explosion, did you say?” The witness confirmed this: “A big explosion, smoke coming from the church, a shriek from all the women and children inside”.
Under interrogation by the government Commissioner a few minutes later, Renaud added that he heard “several explosions”. Nothing could be clearer: the church was the focal point of several powerful violent explosions. This was the reason for the horrible tragedy that befell the women and children in the church.
And yet, despite the above, Mme Rouffanche declared, that same month, June 1944, that there was no explosion in the church? What about the mysterious “chest” set up by the Waffen SS? Yes, she repeated that, too. Questioned by Stone Poitevin, our sole survivor from the church states:
“It was a chest of the volume and height of a night table. Nobody wanted to approach it, but it didn’t explode.” The problem here, as we have seen, it that her account fails to explain either the types of damage to the interior of the church or the condition of the bodies of the women and children killed there. What’s more, other witnesses mentioned explosions, too.
Then, the inevitable happened:
On 16 October 1944, Mme Rouffanche changed her story.
The “chest”, which she thereafter referred to as a “box”, was now, allegedly, the focal point of a “small detonation” before it began to discharge smoke. But even this was too timid. Then, two weeks later, Mme Rouffanche was called upon to repeat her story.
And this time, the chest became the focal point of a “huge explosion”. This is a 180-degree turn, in 5 months. But no matter:
This was the testimony fated to become the “official eyewitness testimony” of the “sole survivor” of the massacre in the church, and was therefore widely disseminated in abundant works of literature (at least until 2001).
The general public was never informed of the serious contradictions in the testimony of their “sole survivor”.
In reality, Mme Rouffanche simply changed her story based on an account dated 15 June 1944 and published a few weeks after the tragedy…
...in the underground newspaper Témoignage Chrétien…
before being published in the form of a brochure shortly after the Liberation. Here we read:
“An hour after it was placed there, the chest placed in the church exploded, and started to burn all over the place.” So here we have it: the explosion and, as a secondary matter, the fire, which is naturally blamed on the Waffen SS. There’s just one problem with all this:
The Waffen SS were not responsible for the explosion
Why, then, immediately after the tragedy, did Mme Rouffanche (or, more exactly, those who told her what to say) cover up the explosion which destroyed the church? The answer is obvious: if they covered it up, it’s because it couldn’t be blamed on the Waffen SS. It must have been caused by something else: something so inconvenient that it absolutely had to be covered up. Just for a minute, to verify this allegation, let’s accept the theory of the chest which blew up, causing the fire.
According to Mme Rouffanche, the chest was supposedly placed “in the nave, near the choir”.
The “chest” was therefore located at the top of the church.
It exploded, quickly causing a fire...
The fire burns more and more intensely and begins to radiate intense heat...
causing a generalized conflagration in the nave and lateral chapels.
The authors of the text, therefore, weren’t entirely lacking in common sense when they claimed that, once set alight, the building began to “burn all over the place”.
But here, once again, it contradicts the physical observations made inside the church. The chapels dedicated to the Holy Virgin and Saint-Joseph were spared by the blaze…
Let us add that, even if this same fire originating with the chest had been able to spread to the steeple, this would explain neither the partial melting of the church bells nor the preservation of the thin sphere on the ridge tile cross, nor the absence of soot on the level of the openings, nor the disappearance of the roofs. In short, the mysterious “chest” explains nothing at all, regardless of whether or not it exploded.
During our analysis, we concluded that several explosions had shaken the church at loft level. Two known witnesses confirm what we say about the multiplicity of explosions:
Monsieur Renaud, who heard “several explosions”, and, in particular, Madame Lang, who clearly stated: “Detonation followed detonation, followed by an immense clamour and terrifying shrieks”.
Since the mysterious “chest” could not be responsible for all this, the most reasonable theory is that of powerful explosions occurring very rapidly, one after the other, under the lofts, due to a chain reaction. Once again, if it had been possible to blame the Waffen SS for these explosions, the official version of the story would never have concealed these explosions from the general public; it would never have been necessary to blame them on the Waffen SS by describing a mysterious “chest” which came from no one knows where, containing no one knows what.
What caused these explosions in the lofts of the church if the Waffen SS were not responsible for them? The obvious answer is: explosive materials stored in the lofts. Considering the historical period, everything leads us to believe that these explosive materials consisted of munitions.
The tragedy at Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944 was therefore the result of the explosion of a clandestine arms cache concealed in the lofts of the church by the local Resistance.
Objection no. 1:
The massacre began at 4:00 P.M. in the barns
You forget, people will reply, that the massacre began with the shootings of the men locked up in the barns, therefore, before the tragedy in the church.
This is the argument used by the survivor Robert Hébras. Indefatigable defender of the official theory, he recently told the daily newspaper Le Monde:
“The church burnt after 5:00 P.M., while the massacre of the men and the fires in the market town began at 3:00 P.M.”. OK…
A mysterious “detonation”
But let’s look at this “detonation” which is said to have the beginning of the massacre; that is, which is supposed to have given the order to the Waffen SS to shoot the men. Everything depends on this question. If it turns out that it really took place at the church, then the revisionists are right, that is, that everything began with the unexpected explosions in the church.
In his book, published in 2001 and republished in 2012, the first director of the Oradour Memory Centre, Jean-Jacques Fouché, writes, on p. 15, that the signal for the massacre of the men consisted of a “revolver shot”. Which is somewhat surprising in view of the obvious fact that people do not use the word “detonation” to refer to pistol shots.
I add that, in his book, published in October 1944, Robert Hébras clearly declared as follows concerning the “signal”:
“I then heard a violent detonation originating from the market town. You would have thought it was a bomb explosion. Then the SS opened fire on us”. On 22 January 1953, during the trial of the Waffen SS involved, survivors Darthout, Roby and Broussaudier were very explicit:
Clément Broussaudier spoke of a “big detonation”…
Yvon Roby spoke of a “powerful detonation” and…
Marcel Darthout spoke of a “loud noise” resembling a “grenade explosion”.
This means that Jean-Jacques Fouché was through his teeth when he spoke of a “revolver shot”. The tragedy began when a huge detonation was heard in the market town. But where did it come from? Several witnesses have answered that question. Mme Lang, first of all, who, once again, recalled:
“A terrifying noise was heard in the direction of the church, which was a few tens of metres away from us. Detonation followed detonation, followed by an immense clamour and terrifying shrieks. Machine guns were rattling away.”
It is very clear: the church was the focal point of violent explosions and the machine guns of the Waffen SS began firing shortly afterwards. Since the machine guns were posted at locations where the men were being held prisoner, we must logically deduce that the Waffen SS started shooting when the church suddenly exploded.
Let us quote former Waffen SS man Henri Weber. Interrogated on 19 April 1948, he stated:
“When we were in combat position, behind the church, in the fields, we heard, an hour later, approximately, the sound of a powerful explosion, followed by horrible shrieks of pain from the women and children. Then a few minutes later, a single gun shot, after the gun shot, light machine guns starting firing broken, jerky bursts of fire in the village”. “In the village…” means in the barns, garages and wine storehouses where the men were being kept prisoner.
Let us also mention the survivor Maurice Beaubreuil. On that tragic 10 June, he had concealed himself with his older brother, Martial, at their aunt’s house, who lived in the square in front of the church, where she ran a grocery store. During our interview, in August 1991, he revealed that a “very powerful explosion from the location of the church” had set off shooting in the village, particularly in the barns.
At the time, I wasn’t aware that his older brother, Martial, had made a similar declaration.
That declaration was made in the book by Jean-Jacques Fouché, on page 155. Here we learn that during the preliminary investigation for the Waffen SS trial, Martial Beaubreuil had declared:
“I clearly heard […] an explosion from the church, followed by a heavy burst of machine gun fire from all parts of the market town”.
All these testimonies confirm that the tragedy began when the church was shaken by one or more powerful explosions, causing the deaths of the women and children inside. It was only afterwards that the Waffen SS began shooting at the men.
The lie of a survivor
In an attempt to save the official theory, the survivor Robert Hébras was prepared to stop at nothing, not even the grossest lie. I’ll explain:
In his testimony, which has now become part of the “official” version of events, Marguerite Rouffanche declares: “Towards 4:00 P.M., soldiers, about 20 years of age, placed a sort of large chest in the nave, near the choir, from which fuses protruded, running across the floor. When these fuses were lit, the fire was communicated to the device, producing a sudden, powerful explosion [...].”
Since the chronological plaque opposite the entry to the village declares that the “signal” for the massacre was a “detonation” at 4:00 P.M., we must logically conclude that everything began with the tragedy in the church.
That is why, in his brochure, the survivor Robert Hébras is guilty of dishonesty.
On page 25, he inserted the following passage into an interview with Mme Rouffanche: “Between 4 and 5 P.M., these people experienced a terrifying ordeal, since the noise of the shots, the explosions and the fire could no doubt be heard. Just imagine how they felt?” This short passage leads the unsophisticated reader to suppose that the SS placed the chest at about 4:00 P.M. and that they waited an hour before lighting the fuses.
But that is incorrect. The testimony of Mme Rouffanche leaves no doubt in this regard: everything happened at about 4:00 P.M.
The addition to Robert Hébras’s account is all the more dishonest since, in July 1947, Mme Rouffanche made one essential statement. She stated:
“During the time that I remained inside the church, I neither saw nor heard any explosion”. This statement is of capital importance. In fact, according to the official story, the “massacre” in the church is said to have taken place after the shootings in the barns. As a result, Mme Rouffanche, while she was waiting, is said to have heard everything, particularly the “detonation”, which the SS are supposed to have given as a signal to start shooting. The fact that she heard nothing confirms the following:
- that the explosion mentioned by the survivors took place inside the church (which was being used as a clandestine arms cache by the Resistance);
- that the Waffen SS men shot the men in the barns after the explosion.
Objection no 2:
“But there was no Resistance and no arms cache at Oradour”
It will be said that our theory is contradicted by the alleged fact that there was no Resistance, no weapons, and no arms cache at Oradour. This is what they have been saying since 1944.
Let us stress that, in 2001, in their Bulletin, the Friends of the Museum of the Resistance of the Department of Haute-Vienne recalled the existence, not far from Oradour, of six companies of Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP).
The map on the screen shows the locations of these 6 companies of Resistance members. The closest one was about 7 km away. If we consider that Saint-Junien and Peyrilhac were townships with strong Resistance groups, we realise that Oradour was completely surrounded by these groups. The question which now arises is as follows: was
Oradour simply an oasis of calm in the midst of Resistance agitation?
Resistance members in the village
What first aroused my suspicion was the plaque affixed by physicians acting for various Resistance groups to the memory of the physicians of Oradour. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Messieurs Desourteaux belonged to the Resistance, but, since Paul was also Mayor of Oradour, a mayor appointed or confirmed in his functions by the Pétain government, it is hard for me to see why the Resistance would render homage to a “Collaborator”. Unless this “collaborator” was, in fact, playing a double game by supporting the Resistance… I therefore conducted a little inquiry among the survivors of this horrible tragedy whom I met in the summer of 1991. I learned quite a lot. In particular, I learned that, at Oradour:
Paul Doutre was a reserve member of the Resistance (therefore, without a mission, but a person who could be contacted at any moment);
Léonard Dupic was a member of the Secret Army, a right-wing Resistance group;
Mathieu Borie belonged to the FTP, a Communist Resistance group;
Aimé Renaud had been a driver for a senior Resistance member from Lyon. Having returned to Oradour with a fake identity card saying he was a farmer, he remained in contact with local Resistance members, particularly Mathieu Borie;
Maurice Beaubreuil, a deserter from the Compulsory Labour Service, had taken refuge with his aunt (Mme Mercier) at Oradour. His assignment was to remain in contact with Limoges. Every day, he ate in the company of… Mathieu Borie. The same Mathieu Borie had fabricated a hiding place at… his aunt’s house, Mme Mercier.
Paul Doire, who worked in a bakery, supplied the local Resistance with bread.
Of course, these are just clues, not proof; with the exception of Paul Doire, it could be pretended that these people were just “reserve members” of the Resistance -- stooges of no real importance. But other information must be taken into account.
M. Machefer and Mlle Jakubowicz
Among the survivors was one Martial Machefer, referred to by the authorities as a “well-known Communist and strike leader”. On 10 June, he took flight upon the arrival of the Waffen SS, after burning all the papers which could be used against him. All this before even knowing what was about to happen!
Machefer was therefore a man with a consciousness of guilt, in the possession of documents considered particularly compromising and who feared that the Germans would question him. If he was just a “reserve member” of the Resistance, he would certainly not have acted in this manner. But that is not all.
The body of Sarah Jakubowitz, a young girl of Polish origin whose family had taken refuge at Oradour for a time, was found in the ruins of Martial Machefer’s house.
Macherfer’s brother was a member of the FTP. Was Sarah buried anonymously in a common grave with the other victims? No, her body was identified, and buried with great ceremony by the Union of Resistance and Mutual Assistance of the Jews of France, a communist-aligned organisation.
Six hundred (even eight hundred) persons attended the funeral, during which “un catafalque [was] set up, surrounded by an honour guard [of FTP members] with weapons […]. Wreathes [were] placed in the name of the military formations paying homage to the deceased”.
Let us add that Sarah Jakubowicz’s coffin was covered by the French flag. If she had really been just an anonymous young woman or an unimportant reserve member, she would never have been honoured with such an elaborate ceremony.
The deeper one looks, the more the theory of the peaceful village, with no Resistance connections, crumbles to pieces. The comments of the survivors smash it to bits.
The story of Mathieu Borie
On 23 June 1994, Paris Match, the weekly news magazine, published a unique document: an account of the massacre at Oradour drawn up shortly after the fact by Mathieu Borie.
Why wasn’t it ever published before? We shall soon see. The survivor describes his attempted flight as follows:
“I climbed to the crossroads to take the cemetery road, but the Germans were there, in position. Too late to escape. Since I was in the Resistance, I thought I would go seek reinforcements. I was forced to continue. But gun shots rang out on all sides. I thought: “A few of them don’t want to follow me and they’ve started fighting”.
Where did Mathieu Borie expect to find reinforcements? No one ever asked him that question, which is quite a shame.
It should be noted that during the trial of the former Waffen SS men, in 1953, the witness was very careful not to reveal all these details; he contented himself with saying that the Germans made him go back the other way, that he saw them break a door down and fire a few shots, and that he arrived at the gathering place.
But above all, he concealed from the Tribunal his thought: “A few of them don’t want to follow me and they’ve started fighting”. Since that would have been equivalent to an admission the presence in the village of armed men, i.e., armed Resistance members, capable of engaging in combat with a troop of Waffen SS. This is why Mathieu Borie spoke of seeking “reinforcements” -- i.e., more men -- to assist his comrades who he believed, were already fighting.
This passage from of the survivor’s account is so incriminating that it was carefully omitted by the two editors from the book when published in 1995.
The three asterisks replace the omitted text.
On the screen: a comparison between the original text and the text in Paroles de miraculés [Saved by a Miracle]. The omission is indisputable.
The text by Mathieu Borie is the coup de grâce to the theory that Oradour was neither in the Resistance, nor used as a cache for arms, ammunition and explosives. But I can already hear the response of my adversaries: “Munitions at Oradour? Where is your physical proof?”
The condition of the ruined houses
At first, I mentioned the condition of the houses at Oradour. Those you see on the screen have their walls stained by traces of black soot. This is typical of fire. The white traces under the black even indicate that the flames exited the houses and licked the walls at these locations.
Here are other houses at Oradour which were ravaged by flames. Here again, the black traces of smoke are clearly visible.
Now look at these three buildings. The house of Resistance member Martial Machefer, where the body of Sarah Jakubowicz was found, the Hotel Milord and the Mercier grocery store where Mathieu Borie had set up a cache. Two striking features: the total absence of black stains caused by smoke and soot, and, in particular, the intact vegetation (indicated in yellow). In the case of fire, it would have burned under the effect of the radiation of heat. Everything indicates, therefore, that these houses were destroyed by explosions. Such as bottles of liquid gas which exploded after a fire started?
It is true that I saw at least one gas bottle in the ruins during my enquiry. But I saw no gas bottles that looked like they had blown up, nor have I ever heard of explosions at Oradour caused the explosion of bottles of liquid gas. The official version of events only mentions fires lit by the Waffen SS.
I might add that, in his report dated 4 January 1945, the German judge who investigated the tragedy and interrogated the Waffen SS wrote:
“Upon our approach, the company wiped up some rifle and machine gun fire. Once all resistance was broken, a considerable quantity of arms was seized during a search of the buildings. Up above, the village was set on fire. This was followed by detonations of secret munitions caches in almost all the houses. The detonations were so powerful that the commander in chief had to withdraw his men for their own safety.” The first part of this text confirms that the firing heard by Mathieu Borie did indeed originate with armed Resistance members. This is why he wanted to call for reinforcements as quickly as possible.
As to the second, it explains the condition of many of the houses in the ruined village. They contained munitions caches. Judge Okrent was not the only person to mention explosions in the houses.
In his book, Stone Poitevin reports the story of Louise Compain, who arrived in the vicinity of Oradour with several other people that evening and was arrested by the Waffen SS. Under questioning, they declared that all the inhabitants of the village were dead, and that Oradour was a centre for the Resistance. Faced with the insistence of impatient people, a German added: “We find arms and munitions. OK, then, we blow up everything, burn everything. Listen to the explosions!...”
The fact that Mlle Compain said that he heard nothing does not change a great deal; the condition of some of the houses is entirely consistent with the theory of explosions.
The empty cartridges in the church
Let’s keep going. Yes, let’s forget about the houses that were the focal points of explosions.
In her various testimonies as well as in her official testimony of 30 November 1944, Marguerite Rouffanche always spoke of shooting having occurred in the church.
It is not surprising that the official theory accuses the Germans of wishing to “finish the job” by massacring the women and children who survived the asphyxiating flames discharged by the mysterious “chest”.
According to the report by the bishop of Limoges, “hundreds of spent cartridges” were found in the church.
Incidentally, Guy Pauchou and Stone Masfrand state that the following were found:
-”quantities of shells”, calibre 9 mm, bearing the inscription: “WRA 9 mm” on the bottom;
- 3 spent cartridges bearing the inscription: “hrn St” followed by two sets of two figures.
- several spent cartridges marked: “aso Stf 8-44”;
- 1 spent cartridge marked: “Kam St 42-5”;
- 3 without legible inscription.
Here is the only known photograph of the spent cartridges found in the church. According, therefore, to the information gathered, the immense majority of these shells bear the inscription ”WRA 9 mm” and a dozen others bear different inscriptions. These shells are undoubtedly of German origin.
This is a spent cartridge from the Second World War bearing the marking: “hrn”. These three letters indicate the name of the arms manufacturer: “St”, indicating the nature of the butt (steel butt, reinforced butt, etc.); the first figure is the lot number, the second indicates the year of manufacture. “Hrn” indicates a factory in West Prussia...
...“kam” indicates a factory located in occupied Poland…
...while ”aso” indicates a factory located in Schweinfurt, indisputably another German location.
On the other hand, “WRA” indicates the American company Winchester, located in New Haven, Connecticut.
On a police forum dedicated to target shooting, we read: “This ammunition was manufactured in the United States during the [Second World War] for the account of England. Intended solely for use in machine pistols such as the STEN [machine gun]. Parachuted [into France] for use by the FFI during the [Second World War], they must not be fired in the Lüger [P08] or [Walther] P38”. As these last two weapons were German (calibre 9 mm), we conclude that the Waffen SS did not use these cartridges, even if they succeeded in capturing them.
So then, what should we make of the hundreds of spent cartridges found on the floor of the church? The answer is obvious: they came from the illegal Resistance arms cache. Were they detonated as a result of the explosions? Were they fired (and if yes, by whom)? Without examining the butt, we are unable to tell. But one thing is certain: these hundreds of spent cartridges are evidence ― at the very least ― of the presence of an illegal arms cache in the church at Oradour.
I will finish with this subject with the appearance, 52 years after the tragedy, of a very inconvenient witness for the theory of Oradour as entirely free of Resistance involvement. I am referring to Len Cotton.
Organised resistance at Oradour:
The unwelcome witness
In 1946, a Resistance organisation revealed that, during the war, Allied aviators compelled to parachute into enemy territory were cared for by underground escape networks.
One of these networks, founded by a young 22-year old Belgian, Andrée de Jongh, was called “Comet” or “Comet Escape Line”. The rescued aviators were smuggled into Spain, whence they were able to return to England.
In 1996, one of the friends from Limoges called my attention to a surprising article. It dealt with the case of a former British pilot, Len Cotton.
On 25 November 1942, during a mission, his plane was shot down over Bordeaux and crashed near Confolens. After which, we read: “Luckily, the Resistance networks intervened... English aviators were taken in charge by peasants and smuggled to Oradour-sur-Glane where they were concealed for three days in the market town. RAF members then reached Limoges, Toulouse, and Bilbao”. All this sounds very much like an escape organised by the Comet network.
If this story is really true -- if the resistance networks secretly smuggled downed pilots directly to Oradour-sur-Glane to entrust them to an escape network – then it will be very hard to believe there was no organised Resistance at Oradour.
Was Len Cotton mistaken? One statement made in the article convinced me that he was not.
Len Cotton vaguely recalled the name of a family in the area: Borie or Laborie. Now, by chance…
Mathieu Borie was an active Resistance member at Oradour. I immediately wrote to Len Cotton.
A few weeks later, I received a fax dictated by Len Cotton to his friend Christian Laloz, here, on the right. The aviator gave me details on his stay at Oradour.
After being introduced to a priest, he remained two and a half days hidden in … the sacristy of the church, waiting for contact to be made with André de Jongh. He was fed by… one Madame Rouffanche’s daughters, nicknamed “Danielle”. At Limoges station, he met Andrée de Jongh. This information permitted me to conclude that an organised Resistance network existed at Oradour, that it used the church with the willing complicity of the Rouffanche family, who were members of the network.
I therefore understood how an arms cache could have been organised under the lofts: the priest was in the Resistance…And above all, I understood why, after the tragedy, Marguerite Rouffanche agreed to provide false testimony to conceal the persons really responsible for the massacre; the reason was that her family were very actively involved in the Resistance. Shortly afterwards, I had a telephone conversation with Len Cotton, during which I took handwritten notes, which I still have.
On the screen: the next-to-the last note, taken on 10 September 1996. We read that Len Cotton is “surprised to know that French historians say that there was no Resistance at Oradour-sur-Glane; he says there was ‘great Resistance at Oradour-sur-Glane”“.
I mentioned Cotton’s story in my book, published in 1997...
If the old man had simply been imagining things and had been mistaken, my adversaries would have exploited the situation for all it was worth, denouncing me for my incompetence. They did nothing of the kind.
In 2001, the first director of the Oradour Memory Centre, Jean-Jacques Fouché, published his book on the tragedy of 10 June 1944. As soon as I laid hands on the book, I examined the index of names to see what the author would say about Len Cotton.
I noted that the author, Jean-Jacques Fouché, never even mentioned him. Not once. A complete reading of the book confirmed this initial impression.
He attacks the revisionists several times, calling them “deniers”. But he is very careful never to mention Len Cotton.
Today, I consider their silence to constitute an admission: an admission that the story told by the old former-RAF member is the truth, and that, therefore, organised resistance did exist at Oradour.
Having said that, another question arises: what brought the Waffen SS to Oradour on that particular Saturday, 10 June 1944?
The reasons for the presence of the Waffen SS at Oradour
The Allied disembarkation in Normandy took place on 6 June. On that date, the Das Reich division was stationed in the south of France. The Der Führer regiment, which was part of the Das Reich division, was to play a part in the Oradour affair. Having received orders to move to the theatre of operations, the Das Reich division arrived at Limoges at dawn on the 9th.
During the day, a fateful event occurred:
An officer in the division, Helmut Kämpfe, who commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Der Führer regiment, was captured by Resistance members led by Jean Canou.
The kidnapping took place at La Bussière, not far from Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, east of Limoges. A general search was ordered but found nothing. To the Germans, it was necessary to take all necessary steps to find the missing officer. Two events were to guide the inquiry. On the evening of 9 June:
“The SD intelligence agency at Limoges informed the regiment that information supplied by the French liaison services indicated that a Resistance command post was located at Oradour-sur-Glane.”.
On the morning of 10 June, another officer in the Das Reich division, Gerlach, made his appearance at the command post. Completely exhausted and in his underclothing, he said that he had been kidnapped the evening before by the Resistance, in the company of his driver. The kidnapping had taken place in the Nieul region, were his men were stationed.
From there, he had been taken to a village at the entry of which he was able to make out a sign: “Oradour-sur-Glane”. After remaining there a few tens of minutes, which made him an object of curiosity among the inhabitants and local Resistance members, including women he had been taken further north, towards Bellac, more exactly, to a wood, used as a Resistance execution ground.
But Gerlach had succeeded in fleeing, while his driver was shot to death while attempting to escape with him, and had taken benefit of cover of darkness to reach Limoges.
Without surprise, on the French side, the story of the German officer, captured and taken to Oradour, where he was able to see Resistance members, was simply dismissed out of hand. In the official history, the authors cite…
the log book of the German general von Brodowski. On the date of 14 June, he had mentioned the kidnapping of Gerlach,near Nieul, and his escape. But he assured us that “there was no evidence to confirm” the “incident”. 48 years later, however, everything changed:
In the newspaper Le Populaire du Centre, the journalist mentioned the story of the German officer and stated: “Interrogated a few years later, in 1951 [...], Gerlach recalled his kidnapping and declared: “At the entry to a village, I saw a plaque reading Oradour-sur-Glane”... He certainly mentioned the Oradour-sur-Glane name plate on the evening of 9 June 1944 at Lammerding, and perhaps this was why the SS, who had, at any rate, foreseen an operation in the sector of Saint- Junien (referred to as Saillat or Chaillac), decided to conduct reprisals against the little village, traversed by the Resistance while conducting a German prisoner”. I shall make no comment on the newspaperman’s statements on the “reprisals” which the Germans had decided to conduct. I content myself with stressing that, in 1983, it was no longer possible to conceal the
fact that Gerlach had been kidnapped and taken to Oradour. Having said that, let us return to the Limoges headquarters on 10 June 1944.
In the morning, the head of the first Der Führer battalion, Otto Diekmann, arrived at the Limoges command post. There, he reported that:
“French nationals had appeared at his duty station and indicated that a high-ranking German officer was being held by the Resistance at Oradour, where there was a Resistance headquarters, and where Kämpfe was to have been executed during a public meeting, and then burnt. The civilian population, according to this information, were making common cause with the Resistance.”
Persuaded that the captive officer mentioned by the two French nationals could only be Kämpfe, who was a friend of his: “Diekmann seemed over-exited and asked the Colonel [Stadler] for authorisation to visit Oradour with a company from his battalion to rescue Kämpfe regardless of cost.”
Interrogated in 1947, Colonel Stadler’s adjutant recalled:
“The leader gave him authorisation and ordered the following mission:
1. Annihilate the Resistance command post;
2. Search the village and find Kämpfe;
3. Take as many prisoners as possible, to be exchanged against Kämpfe if needs be.”
This, then, according to the Germans, is the direct origin of the expedition to Oradour: it was not a question of burning the village and massacring the population in reprisal, but rather, of attempting to obtain the release, through negotiations or by force, of a high-ranking officer who was probably being held prisoner there. Acting according to customary procedure, the soldiers separated the men from the women and children. The latter group was locked inside the church for safekeeping.
The men were then taken in groups, to the barns, where it was easier to guard them, with just a few sentinels, while the Waffen SS proceeded to search the dwelling houses. During the searches —which turned up large quantities of arms and ammunition — an enormous explosion shook the church, tearing the women and children in the nave to pieces. Caught in this infernal escalation, the Waffen SS men machine-gunned the men before running to the church.
This is why I maintain, today, that Oradour was a police operation which turned out badly. The error of the German headquarters was that they failed to search the church first...
I moreover wish to stress that, far from being congratulated by his superiors, Dickmann was warned that judicial proceedings would be taken against him. In 1949, Otto Weidinger recalled:
Stadler reproached Dickmann in the strongest possible terms and told him that he would be called upon to render an account of these events to the general commanding the division, which would lead to the opening of a judicial proceedings.
He told him: “Dickmann, that is going to cost you a lot”.
Late in the evening of 10 June, the headquarters of the division coming from Tulle arrived at Limoges. Stadler went immediately to see General Lammerding and rendered an account of the Oradour affair. General Lammerding decided that judicial proceedings would be opened as soon as circumstances permitted.
An inquiry was in fact opened, but Otto Dickmann’s death at the front interrupted the proceedings and the files were destroyed during a bombardment.
Appeal to the authorities
Now, one last question remains to be answered. Why did the munitions cache blow up, causing an immense tragedy. As long as no one speaks out, and as long as the archives remain inaccessible to free researchers (and they are to remain sealed until the year 2053), we will only be able to issue a few hypotheses, two in particular:
- The first, suggested to me during a conversation by Jean-Claude Pressac, involves the possibility of several children, who, locked inside the church, climbed into the steeple, found the munitions and started playing with them, triggering the initial explosion;
- the second involves the possibility of Resistance members concealed inside the church, who attempted to flee upon being discovered (for example, as the result of a denunciation), causing a gun fight, followed by the fatal explosion.
Personally, I favour the second hypothesis. Not to blame the Resistance, but for two reasons: 1°) on the floor level, the most seriously damaged parts of the church are those near the secondary exits: the chapel of Sainte-Anne and the Sacristy. 2°) Bullet holes, numerous enough to be mentioned by Commissioner Massiera, were found near the sacristy window, suggesting that shots were exchanged between assailants and defenders. I therefore wonder whether the Resistance members attempted to flee through these exits and ran into the Waffen SS.
It is, of course, possible to imagine other scenarios. But once again, light will be shed on the affair in the end, because the archives will be opened. This is why I launch an appeal to the authorities: I publicly demand authorisation to consult the archives at Blanc, in the Indre, or elsewhere. If they are so sure that the official version is the true one, they will have nothing to fear.