For many people history is only about things that happened in a dim past, connected by dates that seem as nothing more than irrelevant numbers strung together by events long past. And then you come across a palpable, painful connection linking a thing that happened long ago with your world, with the here and now, with the present.
On June 10, 1944, in a small village in south-central France, a terrible thing happened, even in a war defined by horror and atrocity: 642 men, women and children, nearly everyone in Oradour-sur-Glane were rounded up and executed, murdered often where they stood, by a unit of the German Waffen-SS, and the village destroyed, all in reprisal, it was said, for the killing of a German soldier.
Severel days ago The New York Times reported that an 88-year-old former SS trooper, known as "Werner C.," was arrested on 25 counts of murder and as an accessory to hundreds more at Oradour.
You can read the The New York Times story or the article in The Guardian. For more information about the massacre itself and its impact on France, visit Oradour.info.
We spent a very humbling, somber, overcast and grey morning in May of 2013 touring the ruined village, left as a memorial to those people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that afternoon in June. You can revisit my blog post from last May.