The Oradour-sur-Glane Massacre
The story of survivor Madame Marguerite
The following is the testimony of Madame
Rouffanche in the 1953 military tribunal at Bordeaux, as quoted
in the Official Publication:
"Shoved together in the holy
place, we became more and more worried as we awaited the end
of the preparations being made for us. At about 4 p.m. some soldiers,
about 20 years old placed a sort of bulky box in the nave, near
the choir, from which strings were lit and the flames passed
to the apparatus which suddenly produced a strong explosion with
dense, black, suffocating smoke billowing out. The women and
children, half choked and screaming with fright rushed towards
the parts of the church where the air was still breathable. The
door of the sacristy was then broken in by the violent thrust
of one horrified group. I followed in after but gave up and sat
on a stair. My daughter came and sat down with me. When the Germans
noticed that this room had been broken into they savagely shot
down those who had tried to find shelter there. My daughter was
killed near me by a bullet fired from outside. I owe my life
to the idea I had to shut my eyes and pretend to be dead.
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
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 neighboring 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
Many accounts of the escape from the
church say that Madame Rouffanche used a "ladder,"
but it is more likely that it was a stool, as Madame Rouffanche
mentioned in her testimony. The space between the back of the
altar and the wall under the window is only about two feet wide,
hardly wide enough to use a step ladder. After the massacre,
the bodies of 15 to 20 children were found piled up behind the
alter in the narrow space where Madame Rouffanche had used a
stool to climb up to the window, according to the Bishop's Office
report. The stool or ladder apparently burned in the fire in
the church, as it is no longer there.
The bottom edge of the window is around
9 feet from the floor of the church. The wall under the window
is about six feet straight up and then it is an additional three
feet up a slanted section of the wall.
Madame Rouffanche's final words to the
court were "I ask that justice be done with God's help.
I came out alive from the crematory oven; I am the sacred witness
from the church. I am a mother who has lost everything."
The term "crematory oven," which was evocative of the
Holocaust, was a reference to the burning of the women and children
in the church.