Thoughts on a 64 year old Massacre

France 24 item in English

64 years after massacre, villagers of Maillé may get some answers at last The Guardian

The forgotten French village massacre BBC News

The Nazis’ final atrocity: why, as they were surrendering, did one unit wipe out an entire village? Mail Online

Orphans of forgotten Nazi massacre hope for justice Daily Telegraph

25th August 1944 – Maillé, the martyred village. small page of A.C. Roy, descendant of the village of Maille

What most impressed me about all this was the German, Ulrich Mass, who has taken the task upon himself to try and discover some sense to everything, assign some justice and bring some form of closure to a bunch of people who are clearly severely traumatised, and remain so despite the passage of time.  The trauma has passed to their descendants and newcomers to the village as it’s clear from all the variations of the story above, that no-one says very much.

Mr Mass says:

…it was German injury, and I think, it’s my duty, AND it’s my moral duty to say that; and it’s my feeling.

A lady waters her pansies on the exact spot of her ancestor’s death.

The Mail article contains a wealth of personal testimony, mostly in list form which makes this moment in history much more real as the pictures are formed in one’s mind one, bang, after, bang, another, bang.  Relentlessly.

124 unarmed people died that day in France.

France2002_222.jpg France2002_223.jpg France2002_224.jpg

624 were similarly killed in Oradour-sur-Glane.  These are three pictures of a visit.  I couldn’t wait to leave.  The birds don’t sing much.

France2002_206.jpg In the same year as that visit I stopped next to a plaque on a monument in the fork of a road at Betete in the Creuse, France, near Genouillac.  Two people, GA Aubrey and GM Esmoing were killed by the Nazis and are remembered here.

Above a little alley in Gueret, the Department capital, was another little plaque to a young man shot on that spot.  50m down the road but a year apart in time was another.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me that day.

There are over 90 departments in France.    There are now a host of websites with information and pictures on individual and group histories of massacres and executions which puts paid to the commonly held idea in the UK that the French don’t talk or think about the war like the British.  See this website from Reims and this Wikipedia entry for instance. (paragraph amended 6 Sep 2009)

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Mr Ulrich Mass greets Mr Bernard Eliaume

All this stuff represents man’s inhumanity to man.  Mr Ulrich Mass is getting along perfectly well with Mr Bernard Eliaume whereas 60-64 years ago would have been different.  As Nichiren said:

There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. – Nichiren Daishonin / On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 4

I’m in two minds about all this.

I can see the point of tracking people down across all of space and time for their crimes.  I feel for the people still suffering in Maille and I think they deserve to be happy, just like anyone else, and to be relieved of their continual trauma.

But on the other hand I can see virtue in letting the past lie.  The South African idea of the “Truth & Reconciliation” committee and hearings has a lot of merit.  It made people acknowledge that bad things were done by all parties but that the only way to move forward was to acknowledge all these errors, not to forget and to try to ensure that shit didn’t happen again.

This has already happened in Europe just after the war under the inspiration of Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenhaur.  In 1948 Schuman made a speech at the UN proposing a European Assembly and by 1951 with the Treaty of Paris there was the European Coal and Steel Community.

Schuman proposed this;

…as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. He declared his aim was to ‘make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.’

And so it’s remained.

People who wish to split the European Union apart, should consider the tales at the beginning of this piece before spouting their divisive rubbish.  The next time there’s an industrial scale war in Europe will be the last and no-one will be left to read any tales.

For the people of Maille however, they’ve been forgotten, and this is perhaps the real tragedy and the reason for their torment.  They need to be reconciled like the rest of Europe.

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