I was first introduced to the name of Liza Perrat, when I stopped by the site of fellow blogger, Tracy over at ‘Pen And Paper’ and discovered her lovely review of Wolfsangel. I posted a comment about this moving and emotional story and to my surprise its author contacted me out of the blue, offering me not only a copy of Wolfsangel,
but also its predecessor Spirit Of Lost Angels, although each book is able to be read as its own stand alone story.
On putting forward to Liza the idea of her contributing a guest post here at Fiction Books, I had no idea of the power, brutality and emotion of the true events, which had led to her wanting, almost needing, to write down the story of Wolfsangel, in her own unique style and as a personal tribute to the suffering of an entire town.
Coming as it does, in a year when so many commemorations are taking place here in the UK, of both the First and Second World Wars, this post seems most apt and thought provoking …
So without further ado, I’ll pass you over to Liza …
HI, I AM LIZA PERRAT
I grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where I worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
I have been living in rural France for twenty years, where I work part-time as a French-English medical translator and as a novelist.
Several of my short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and my stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. My articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.
I am a co-founder and member of the author collective, Triskele Books.
Wolfsangel is the second book in L’Auberge des Anges historical trilogy.
Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the trilogy, though both books can be read entirely as standalones.
Friends, Family and Other Strangers From Downunder is a collection of fourteen humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories about Australians, for readers everywhere.
Tragic WWII Crime Inspires Historical Novel
Before World War II, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane sat peacefully in the heart of the Limousin countryside. The inhabitants farmed the land, fished the lakes and gossiped on the village square. They drank in the cafés, over games of cards and pétanque. It seemed they existed in near oblivion of the war raging around them.
But on the sunny afternoon of June 10, 1944, Das Reich’s SS soldiers marched into Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered the inhabitants from their homes and onto the village square.
“A simple identity check,” they claimed. They then took the men to the barns and herded the women and children into the church.
The women and children must have heard the gunfire, as the SS machine-gunned their menfolk in the barns. They must have smelled the smoke as the soldiers covered the bodies –– many still alive –– with fuel and set the barns on fire.
The men dealt with, the soldiers then turned their attention to the women and children. They detonated a box of explosives inside the church, finishing the job with machine guns and hand grenades. Spreading straw over the dead and wounded, they set the church ablaze.
Only one woman – 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche – managed to scramble out of a sacristy window, the stained glass of which had been blown out. She fell to the ground, but was uninjured, and crawled away and hid in a garden, where she remained until she was rescued the following morning by another group of villagers who’d fled when the soldiers had first appeared.
Later that night, after looting the entire village and setting it alight, the SS fled. In a horrific violation of the tranquil village of Oradour-sur-Glane, 642 inhabitants had been murdered in a few hours.
After the war, the then French president, Charles de Gaulle, decided to maintain the site of the massacre as a permanent memorial. It was thus left as it was the day of the Das Reich soldiers’ murder and torching rampage.
I visited the ruins several years ago, staring in disbelief at the burnt-out homes and buildings as I walked about. Tram tracks ran everywhere, but to nowhere. The car from which the village mayor was hauled and shot lay rusting by the roadside. A few items had survived the inferno: a sewing machine, plates set at a table for the midday meal, the charred remains of a child’s doll, the blackened, crumbling façades of their homes. A rusty, flattened pram littered the church floor in front of the altar – all gruesome witnesses to a village full of living, laughing and loving people; families cut down in the midst of their usual daily routine.
Fortunately, there were barely any tourists, so I could stop and listen, and it seemed their ghostly sounds echoed in my ears – the banter of adults, the playful shrieks of children, the barking of dogs, the cries of the village artisans. The echoes of a village obliterated.
I left the ruins knowing that one day I would write a story about Oradour-sur-Glane. And many years later, this tragedy became the basis for my second novel the historical L’Auberge des Anges series, Wolfsangel, published under the Triskele Books label in October, 2013.
1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.
When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.
As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.
Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.
A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.
Why the massacre? Why Oradour-sur-Glane?
Many theories abound, such as reprisal for the shooting of an SS officer, or punishment for Resistance fighters, though historians are not certain why the unassuming little town of Oradour was singled out for such a terrible massacre. The most likely explanation is that, four days after D-Day, Das Reich was keen to make an example of a French community, and Oradour happened to be close at hand.
What became of the murderers?
Many were killed in Normandy during the following weeks. Those men of the Alsace-Moselle region who had been forcibly enrolled into the SS –– the Malgré Nous –– were sentenced to prison terms after World War II, but later pardoned. Their involvement though, still seems to cause ill feeling within France.
Obersturmführer Heinz Barth was sentenced to death in absentia by a French Court, but managed to hide in what was then East Germany under a false identity. Finally captured in 1981, he received a life sentence and was paroled in 1997 with a pension as a “war victim”.
Recently, with the release of Stasi files bringing fresh evidence against the surviving ex-SS men allegedly present at Oradour, German authorities have reopened cases against them:
Oradour-sur-Glane photographs courtesy of Dennis Nilsson
Thank you so much for such an interesting and emotionally captivating guest post, Liza. It has been a privilege to have you spend time here at Fiction Books. I am looking forward to reading both books in the ‘L’Auberge des Anges’ series and would like to wish you every success with your future writing career.