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‘Tragic WWII Crime Inspires Historical Novel’. A Guest Post by Liza Perrat

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 WolfsangelI 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

Image of author Liza PerratI 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.

A Picture Of The Peaceful village of Oradour-sur-Glane, pre-WW2
Peaceful village of Oradour-sur-Glane, pre-WW2

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.

Image of Oradour-sur-Glane church
Oradour-sur-Glane church

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.

Image of Oradour-sur-Glane in ruins
When the SS guns fell silent, Oradour-sur-Glane lay in ruins.

Aftermath…
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.

Image of a sign at the entrance to Oradour-sur-Glane
Souviens-Toi : Remember! Sign at the entrance to the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

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.

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

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

Image of author Liza Perrat

For more information about Liza, please visit her website.
Blog: https://lizaperrat.blogspot.com
Twitter: @LizaPerrat
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liza.perrat.5

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.

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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16 comments
  • I am a fan of Liza Perrat’s after having recently read Wolfsangel, which was fantastic. I will be reading Spirit Of Lost Angels as well. How heartbreaking what happened to the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. As I read Wolfsangel, I was in shock and even moreso when I read that this had been based on true events.
    Wonderful post ladies.

    • Hi Naida,

      Despite the fact that both books can be successfully treated as stand alone stories, I was lucky enough to be gifted copies of both by Liza, so I am hoping to read them in order.

      The fact that the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane appears to have been a random act of revenge and the poignancy of the French government decision to leave the village as a living museum and memorial to its people, will surely make the reading of the book all the more emotional and meaningful for me.

      I am so glad that you enjoyed ‘Wolfsangel’ and thank you for taking the time to comment on Liza’s amazing guest post.

  • Such wonderful books. As you say perfectly readable as standalone novels as whilst the books are connected in certain ways they are not technically speaking a series as such. Read in order however they seem even more poignant and powerful. Great post, it was wonderful to read Liza’s thoughts. Oh, and thanks for the mention.

    • Hi Tracy,

      If it hadn’t been for catching your excellent review of ‘Wolfsangel’, I would probably not have come across this series of books at all, or have had the opportunity to link up with Liz for this poignant and emotional guest post, which I so enjoyed putting together.

      Thank you so much!

    • Hi Liza,

      Thanks for stopping by and I am pleased that you approve of the final layout for this post.

      The journey to the village of Oradour-sur-Glane must have been so emotional and poignant and your post captures this so well, in both words and pictures.

      I have friends who have just returned from Belgium and France, where they went as part of an exclusive, almost personal tour of the World War 1 sites and memorials. They both found this an extremely difficult, yet fascinating experience.

      I look forward to reading both books, just as soon as my reading schedule allows and thank you for the copies.

  • I’ve had both of these books in my Kindle since reading Tracy’s reviews. This excellent guest post makes me want to read them even more! Although they can be read as stand-alones, I’m tempted to wait until the third in the trilogy is available before beginning the series.

    Thanks to Liza Perrat for an interesting post and to Yvonne for hosting her (and to Tracy for bringing both to my attention!).

    • Hi Kelly,

      The third book will probably be available by the time the first two reach the top of my TBR pile, although like yourself, I am tempted to bump them to the top of my list and get started reading them now. It just wouldn’t be fair on other author review requests which arrived earlier though, so that’s the only reason I am going to be patient!

      Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

    • Hi Kelly, just to let you know the third in the trilogy is now published: Blood Rose Angel:
      myBook.to/BloodRoseAngel
      If you are interested in reviewing, happy to send a copy! Cheers, Liza.

  • This is a new to me author. I think I need to check into this trilogy. I’m not much of an historical fiction lover, but do love any story based on true events.

    What a horrific thing those soldiers did. I can’t even imagine what the people of the village were thinking while they waited to be slaughtered. So sad!

    Visiting the site of the massacre must be very heartbreaking, I can understand why the author felt compelled to write their story.

    • Hi Vicki,

      I am constantly amazed at the amount of excellent new authors and fantastic books I can unearth, simply by doing a little blog-hopping ocassionally. If I stuck to simply trawling the bookshops for my next read, I would probably tend to stick to the tried and true handful of authors I have always supported, passing by much of the great new talent which gets highlighted on blogs such as Tracy’s, where I discovered Liza and this poignant series of stories.

      Of course what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane was heartbreaking, especially as it would appear to have been such a random act of revenge. However the friends I mention in my comment to Liza, said that during their trip, they had discovered some pretty disturbing and little reported facts, about similar events of destruction and retribution, which had taken place in Axis power countries and had been perpetrated by the Allied forces on local populations.

      War is simply brutal wherever and whenever it happens and are there ever really any winners, I ask myself?

      Thanks for your interesting comments and observations, I really appreciate your contribution to this interesting guest post.

  • This is a new to me author but I’m really interested in this period of history so this sounds like a perfect read for me. Love the post with the pictures and interview.

    • Hi Cleo.

      Liza’s visit to Oradour-sur-Glane obviously had a very profound impact on her, both emotionally and creatively. I shall be very interested to read the blend of fiction, with the actual facts which surrounded events in the village.

      I am not a huge fan of the traditional Q & A format of a guest interview and I generally only tend to feature authors such as Liza, who have something interesting or unique to share about some aspect of their writing, or themselves.

      I really enjoy formatting and preparing ‘Meet The Authors’posts and I thank you for your kind words.

    • Hi Lindsay,

      I do hope that you didn’t think I was taking liberties, only you wrote such a great review and obviously enjoyed the book immensely. Liza’s guest post offered such an insight into the writing of and thought behind the story, that I thought you might be interested in reading it.

      I was very remiss in not adding to my post to include a link to your excellent review, however, if I leave a link here, then anyone stopping by will have the opportunity to stop by and check it out.

      http://thelittlereaderlibrary.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/wolfsangel-liza-perrat.html

      Thanks for the contact, I am looking forward to reading both books in this series.

Written by Yvonne

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