Everybody knows the word. Everybody uses it. But I don’t think everybody knows what it really stands for.
My mom does. She forbids us of ever using the word “hate”.
Of course I said it before in my life, lots of times even, just like everybody else “Oh I hate that teacher” “I hate homework” “I hate her” “god I hate it” …
But then, few years back, we went to Croatia, this beautiful European country that used to be part of Yugoslavia, and we were on our way to some restaurant we had a reservation, when we passed by some ruins of houses. Of course it wasn’t the first time that I saw ruins of houses, but this wasn’t just one house. You could see that it had been a whole village. And everywhere you looked, you saw them. As far as the eye could see.
Curious as I was, I asked my mom “How come there are so many ruins here, mom? What happened to all these houses?” “War Britt, a terrible civil war. Neighbours betrayed and killed each other. People got murdered, butchered, slain. Houses were set on fire, destroyed. Either by gunshots, or canon balls. Homes were plundered. They spared nothing, or no one.” she answered me, and as she spoke those last words, she turned around in her seat in the front of the car to face me, my younger sister and our younger brother as she looked us in the eyes. “This is what hate does. It kills. It hurts. It’s unnecessary and still it happens. So I never, ever want to hear you use the word “hate” again, because now you’ve seen what hate does.”
And those words really got to me. Because seeing those ruins, made me silent for a moment. Realizing the horror of the things that had happened there.
Ever since my mother told me that story, I never used the word “hate” again. And I always say that I can dislike a person, but I never really or truly hate someone. Or even say so.
And sadly, I’ve seen many kinds of places like that. Way too many.
Oradour-Sur-Glane was a small commune in west-central France. The original village was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children were massacred by a German Waffen- SS company. First they made everyone assemble in the village square, then they split the citizens up. The women and children were locked inside the church, which had been set on fire later. They burned alive. A total of 247 women and 205 children died in the carnage. Only two women and one child survived; one was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She slid out by a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child; the Germans’ attention was aroused and the three were shot. Marguerite Rouffanche was wounded and her companions were killed. She crawled to some pea bushes behind the church, where she remained hidden overnight until she was rescued the following morning.
The men were led to six barns and sheds where machine-gun nests were already in place. According to the account of a survivor, the soldiers began shooting at them, aiming for their legs so that they would die more slowly. Once the victims were no longer able to move, the soldiers covered their bodies with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men escaped; one of them was later seen walking down a road heading for the cemetery and was shot dead. In all, 190 men perished.
The new village was built after the war on a nearby site and the original has been maintained as a memorial.
I’ve been there in the Easter holidays. And it had a really deep impact on me. I just wasn’t able to speak for a few moments. You could feel death all around you. The pain, the suffering. You could still smell the scent of human flesh, burning in the flames. It was as if there were people still dying. I could almost hear the screams..
I got chills, down my spine. Goosebumps all over my arms. I just can’t describe what it feels like to walk through something that once was a quiet, peaceful village. And the only thing you can see are ruins, burned houses. And little signs saying “this is where they locked and burned the women and children” “This is where six men got shot and died”.
And just when I thought we had had the worst, we got to the cemetery. And I had a look at the signs on the memorial wall of the victims of the massacre. “24 years old” “78 years old” “30 years old” … but then you see those other signs, the ones that make it hard for you to swallow. The ones that break your heart… “8 years old” “2 years old” “2 months old” “3 weeks old” ‘1 day old” …
Even if you’re not really a children-person, it still breaks your heart. Because these kinds of things, wars, fights, are already horrifying enough for grown-ups, adults, but for children…
No child should ever , ever be a victim of such crimes.
It really got to me.
The story of the Oradour-Sur-Glane victims. May they never be forgotten, and rest in peace.
Here you can find much more information about the massacre.
And for the Dutch people, this is a very good one.
Pictures of Oradour-Sur-Glane