THE HORROR OF JUNE 10 1944: HOW MARGUERITE ROUFFANCHE ESCAPED NAZIS MURDERERS AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE
Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, the 2nd SS Panzer Division entered the village of Oradour-sur-Glane to avenge the death of a German officer who had been kidnapped by the French Resistance.
They marched into the town and separated the men from the women and children.
The men were taken to six barns and shed while the women and children were locked in the church while the village was looted.
The men were said to be shot in the legs before being doused in petrol and set alight.
Six men escaped although one was later found nearby and shot dead. In total 190 men perished.
The soldiers proceeded to the church and tried to set it alight. Women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but were met with machine-gun fire.
A total of 247 women and 205 children died. Two women and one child survived; one was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She hauled herself out of a window behind the altar, followed by a young woman and child. German soldiers shot all three of them, killing the woman and child by wounding Rouffanche who escaped into nearby foliage where she stayed until she was rescued the following day.
The following is part of her testimony read out to the 1953 Bordeaux military tribunal:
‘Firing burst out in the church then straw, faggots and chairs were thrown pele-mele onto bodies lying on the stone slabs. I had escaped from the killing and was without injury so I made use of a smoke cloud to slip behind the altar. In this part of the church there are three windows. I made for the widest one in the middle and with the help of a stool used to light the candles, I tried to reach it. I don’t know how but my strength was multiplied. I heaved myself up to it as best I could and threw myself out of the opening that was offered to me through the already shattered window. I jumped about nine feet down.
‘When I looked up I saw I had been followed in my climb by a woman holding out her baby to me. She fell down next to me but the Germans, alerted by the cries of the baby, machine-gunned us. The woman and the mite were killed and I too was injured as I made it to a neighbouring garden and hid among some rows of peas and waited anxiously for someone to come to help me. That wasn’t until the following day at 5 p.m.’