The Ardenne Abbey is situated in the municipality of Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe at the gateway to Caen. During the battle of Caen, Canadian troops would pay a heavy price here to fight for the Liberation of France.
On June 7th, 1944, the German army occupied the Abbey in order to keep watch on the Canadian troops and prepare a counter-attack. This early Gothic church, encircled by walls and surrounded by fields served as an ideal place from which to plan a counter-offensive.
The Germans took Canadian soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and the 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment) prisoner. They were escorted to the abbey where eighteen of them were executed.
This attack was in direct contempt of the Geneva Convention and prisoners’ rights and therefore constituted a war crime. Other summary executions took place during this month of fighting.
As many as 156 Canadian prisoners of war are believed to have been executed by the 12th SS Panzer Division (the Hitler Youth) in the days and weeks following the D-Day landings.
The abbey was taken back from the Germans on 8 July, 1944.
Today, a memorial in the Abbey's garden commemorates this tragic event.