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Robert Hébras (born 29 June 1925 in Oradour-sur-Glane) is one of only six persons to survive the massacre of Oradour on 10 June 1944.
Marguerite Rouffanche was the only female survivor of this mass murder, which became a national allegory for NS atrocity in the post war period in France. She was the only one who escaped from the village church which became a deadly trap, where 207 children and 254 women suffocated or were burned alive by SS soldiers.
Robert Hébras, Jean-Marcel Darthout, Mathieu Borie, Clément Broussaudier, Yvon Roby and Pierre-Henri Poutaraud were the only six of 186 male civilians who survived the execution with machine guns. These six stayed – partly covered beneath the dead bodies of their friends – in the barn and pretended to be dead. The SS soldiers went on the pile of corpses and shot everyone who was still moving. They set the barn on fire 15 minutes after the execution to cover up the massacre. Poutaraud fled out of the fire too soon and was murdered by a guard positioned near the cemetery.
Because of the fear for their lives the five remaining men waited so long under the burning corpses that they themselves caught fire. Robert Hébras: "My left arm and my hair had already burned. It was a terrible pain; therefore I had to get out of the barn.” Three of five men who escaped out of the burning village were seriously injured by the hail of bullets, including Hébras. One bullet remained stuck in his leg, another touched his wrist.
Half the Hébras family - his mother Marie, his nine-year-old sister Denise, and his 22-year-old sister Georgette - died in the extermination at Oradours. His father only survived by chance as he happened to be at a farm outside Oradour, as did his sister Leni, who had married and moved away.
After 10 June 1944, Robert Hébras participated actively in the resistance against Nazism; in the last year of the war he also fought for the French Resistance. In 1983, he took part in the lawsuit against one of the assassins of Oradour – Heinz Barth – as a witness in the former GDR. In 2003 a documentary movie was published, titled Encounter with Robert Hébras - On the trail of extinguished life (“Begegnung mit Robert Hébras - Auf den Spuren ausgelöschten Lebens") by the German filmmaker Bodo Kaiser.
Robert Hébras makes himself particular worthy through the memory and the processing time of National Socialism and through his commitment as a contemporary witness and as a writer. Throughout his lifetime, the former resistance fighter always stood up for the reconciliation between Germany and France.
Despite his old age, Hébras still takes tours through the ruins of the martyr village. He is still available for young people – especially schoolchildren, students, volunteers and Holocaust Memorial Servants – for interviews, video projects and works actively at the Centre de la mémoire.
In addition, the trained mechanic held for many years the office of chairman of the National Association of families of martyrs and serves to this day as president of the Assembly of former participants of war of Oradour.
Robert Hébras is married, has a son and three grandchildren, and lives in Saint-Junien near Oradour.
- Robert Hébras: Oradour-Sur-Glane, le drame heure par heure, ISBN 2-909826-00-7
- André Desourtreaux & Robert Hébras: Oradour/Glane, notre village assassiné, ISBN 2-84702-003-9