Robert Pike has produced a highly readable and fascinating account of French life under the Occupation, illuminating through the tragedy of Oradour-sur-Glane one of the darkest moments in France’s dark years.
Chris Millington, author of France in the Second World War: Collaboration, Resistance, Holocaust, Empire
On 10 June 1944, four days after Allied forces landed in Normandy, the picturesque village of Oradour-sur-Glane in the rural heart of France was destroyed by an armoured SS Panzer division. Six hundred and forty-three men, women and children were murdered in the nation’s worst wartime atrocity. Today, Oradour is remembered as a ‘martyred village’ and its ruins preserved, but the stories of its inhabitants lay buried under the rubble of the intervening decades.
Silent Village is the first account of Oradour before, during and after the tragedy, told through the eyes of those who lived there. Its community, politicians, customs and culture during the years of occupation are brought vividly to life in this unique insight into the everyday lives, loves and rivalries of a typical village in Vichy France.
Why this peaceful community was chosen for extermination has remained a mystery. Drawing on new interviews with survivors and a re-examination of archival material, historian Robert Pike relates the tragedy as it happened and the anguish of those left behind. While disproving contemporary hearsay, Nazi rhetoric and subsequent theories, he presents a clear if uncomfortable answer to the question: why Oradour?
The village of Oradour-sur-Glane and its museum, the Centre de la Mémoire, is open to the public all year round. It is found twenty kilometres to the west of Limoges in Haute-Vienne, France.