Outrage in France after Nazi massacre memorial defaced

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday vowed that everything would be done to find out who defaced a memorial for one of the worst single massacres in France by the Nazis during World War II.

Outrage in France after Nazi massacre memorial defaced
The word 'martyr' was crossed out and the word 'liars' written in its place. Photo: Pascal Lachenaud/AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday vowed that everything would be done to find out who defaced a memorial for one of the worst single massacres in France by the Nazis during World War II.
Politicians from across the spectrum denounced the desecration of the main entrance sign for the memorial at Oradour-sur-Glane in central France, where 642 people were slaughtered on June 10, 1944 by a German SS division.
The word “martyr” was crossed out in the sign with white paint.
A blue cover was placed over the sign on Saturday, but images on social media accounts indicated the word in French for “liar” had been added next to it along with other slogans claiming to deny the massacre had taken place.
The inscriptions were discovered on Friday morning when the memorial centre opened, its president Fabrice Escure told AFP.
“It is a complete outrage,” he said, adding that a legal complaint had already been filed and security cameras may be able to provide evidence.
On June 10, 1944, Nazi forces sealed off the village after reports a senior SS commander had been captured by the French resistance.
They grouped together all the men of the village in barns and shot them and then forced the women and children into a church which was set on fire.
 After the war, resistance leader and later president Charles de Gaulle ordered that the village not be rebuilt but left in ruins as a reminder. A new village was built nearby.
The memorial centre, now visited by 300,000 every year, was later constructed to assist visitors.
“Everything will be done to ensure that the authors of this are brought to justice,” Macron said in a statement released by the Elysee Palace, adding that he condemned in the most vehement terms this “unspeakable” act.
“To violate this place of reflection is also to violate the memory of our martyrs,” added Prime Minister Jean Castex.
The incident comes amid growing concern in France over remembering World War II, after repeated vandalisation attacks on Jewish cemeteries.   
“What shocks me is that we do not realise that children and women lost their lives in excruciating pain,” Robert Hebras, 95, the last man still alive among half a dozen men from the village who survived the massacre.
“What I fear is that everyone will now talk about Oradour for 48 hours and then that we stop and then we will forget,” he told AFP.

Member comments

  1. I have visited Oradour in the past and it is a very special place!
    The individuals that did this must be brought to justice.
    M.Robert Hebras, my heart goes out to you and your family.

  2. Oradour-Sur-Glane is one of the saddest places I have ever visited. So disappointing some people are still in denial over the atrocities which took place during WWII. Their ignorance is inexcusable.

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Inflatable tanks and ‘fake news’: What you probably didn’t know about D-Day

Exactly 75 years ago, on June 6th, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops invaded the northern French coast, marking the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany.

Inflatable tanks and 'fake news': What you probably didn't know about D-Day
The British Normandy memorial. Photo: DPA

To commemorate the momentous event that occurred three-quarters of a century ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a ceremony in Portsmouth, England, along with other world leaders. 

“The fact that I, as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, can be here today and that we stand together today for peace and freedom is a gift of history that must be protected and nurtured,” she said. 

Meanwhile, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, who is father of President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, got himself into hot water on Twitter by criticizing Merkel.

As world leaders gathered, Huckabee said that it “must have been an ‘awkward’ moment for Angela Merkel”.

But his tweet backfired, with many people biting back at the Republican.

As commemorations continue, here are some little-known facts about “the longest day”.

'Erotic adventure'

“When the Germans came, we told the men to hide. But when the Americans came, we had to hide the women!”

The French joke refers to the “erotic adventure” which the US military promised American soldiers fighting in France, historian Mary Louise Roberts writes in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France.”

Propaganda painted France as “a tremendous brothel inhabited by 40 million hedonists”.

Readers of the military newspaper “Stars and Stripes” could learn the French for “you are very pretty”, “I am not married” and “are your parents at home?”, whereas the German vocabulary section offered phrases such as “No cigarettes!” and “Line up!”, Roberts explains.

American promiscuity sparked outrage in cities like Le Havre and Reims, where sexual acts “took place in parks, cemeteries, streets and abandoned buildings”.

More than 150 American soldiers were tried for rape, most of them black men, underlining the racial discrimination at the time, Roberts said.

READ ALSO: 'D-Day anniversary: 'We had a funeral every day'

Threat of defeat

With D-Day looming, the Allies prepared for the worst.

Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and future US president, Dwight Eisenhower, prepared himself in advance for announcing a failure.

Actors representing soldiers in World War II gather at dawn on Omaha Beach on northern French coast on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Photo: DPA

He penned a statement on June 5th entitled “In case of failure” which said that “any blame or fault… is mine alone”.

“My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available…. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.”

Allied forces quickly gained control of five points along an 80-kilometre (50-mile) front on beaches codenamed Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword.

But at Omaha, heavy casualties earned the beach the sombre nickname “Bloody Omaha”.

READ ALSO D-Day anniversary – How France will commemorate 75 years since the Normandy landings

High cliffs there gave the Germans an immediate advantage.

Americans were left waist deep in rough seas as crashing water sank their landing craft, and some drowned. Of the 34,000 Americans deployed, 2,500 were killed or wounded.

Some paratroopers drowned in “catastrophic” jumps, said French historian Jean Quellien, author of “The Battle of Normandy”. Heavy equipment weighing 30 to 40 kg (65-90 lbs) pulled them underwater.

Inflatable tanks

“Fake news” might be considered a modern phenomenon, but the British led a deception campaign, codenamed Operation Fortitude, to try and fool the Germans into thinking the Allies planned to attack Scandinavia, then France's Calais region, rather than Normandy.

Inflatable tanks were positioned on the British coast facing Calais, and metallic lures were used to make it appear to German radar that a large force was about to land near Calais. Fake radio messages were leaked to German
intelligence services.

Even after the D-Day landings on June 6th, the Germans believed a second attack was planned in the Calais region. Hitler eventually ordered troops to join the Normandy front.

Native American 'code talkers'

Communicating through coded messages would have taken too long during the landings and commanders couldn't speak in English in case they were intercepted by the Germans.

Instead, the Americans used Native American “code talkers”, especially the Comanche, who worked in their indigenous language.

A small wooden cross with the inscription “In memory of a fallen soldier, no matter which nation” stands on the war cemetery Bayeux at the grave of a soldier who fell during the Second World War. Photo: DPA

John Parker, son of “code talker” Simmons Parker, remembers that “bomber plane” was translated as “pregnant bird”.

He said his father told him that in the Comanche language, “crazy white man” meant Hitler.

Landing in… Indonesia

In December 2018, the British postal service, Royal Mail, apologized after releasing a stamp commemorating D-Day's 75th anniversary showing American troops landing in Indonesia, then known as Dutch New Guinea.

“We would like to offer our sincere apologies,” Royal Mail said.