Target: German President Joachim Gauck
Goal: Praise the German president for reminding the world of Nazi atrocities committed during World War II
German President Joachim Gauck should be commended for making an official state visit to France to commemorate the atrocities committed by Germany against the French people in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. His trip to the memorial site, in the company of French president François Hollande, serves the vital educational purpose of telling the story of Nazi crimes to a generation far removed from World War II. And the lessons in this Southern French village close to Limoges are so tangible you can almost grasp them. The ruins of the village that testify to the massacre that took place there have been left untouched. This means that young people and others unfamiliar with the history of Nazi brutality can see the evidence with their own eyes simply by exploring what is essentially a remarkably well-preserved crime scene.
Hopefully the media coverage of the German president’s visit to Oradour-sur-Glane will draw the world’s attention to the events that transpired there on June 10 1944 when over 600 people were murdered, about 250 of them women and children. During their visit, the two men entered the church where the Nazis had assembled women and children before gassing them and then setting the holy building on fire. As if time had not passed since that fateful day, a charred baby carriage in the church, presumably burned along with the baby that it held, haunts the many tourists who descend upon the village to experience such desolate remnants of history. Everything here transports them to the past. There are burned-out cars, but also the crumbling buildings that were emptied of their inhabitants who were rounded up to be gassed or shot with machine guns. They have not housed anyone else since and remain abandoned.
Sometimes history is best shown and not told. Joachim Gauck’s visit to a site that is still full of living reminders of World War II atrocities is an effective way of conveying to contemporary Europeans and the whole world what it was like for unsuspecting civilians to be massacred by the Nazis.
Sign this petition to thank the German President Joachim Gauck for getting people who didn’t who have to live through World War II to reflect once more upon the terrible history of German war crimes.
Dear German President Joachim Gauck,
Thank you for making an official state visit to the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. As a representative of the German state, you are performing the vital work of keeping the memory of these events alive. Although everyone reads about World War II and the atrocities that Nazi soldiers have committed in textbooks, what really makes people connect emotionally with history are real, tangible examples.
By drawing attention to this village where the ruins and relics of a massacre have kept its memory alive almost 70 years later, you are helping contemporary Europeans and the world as a whole reflect on what it was like for the population of a small community to be brutally wiped out in a single day with gas and machine guns. The facts of history remain abstractions until you tell specific stories and point to the particular places where the events unfolded. That is why we appreciate your effort to rekindle the interest in the crimes of World War II; we best remember history when political leaders like you take their time to bring it back to life.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: DNA-Dennis via Wikimedia Commons