Oradour-sur-Glane is a French village that was declared a memorial to the cruelty of the Nazi occupation. The village was attacked and razed by a division of the Nazi German Army in 1944. Residents, including women and children, were brutally shot and burned alive. Roofless shells of buildings still sit empty. A museum here commemorates the attack.
In 1872, Humberstone was established as a nitrate mining center in the harsh climate of the Atacama Desert. Humberstone processed the largest deposit of saltpeter (nitrate's nickname) in the world and provided the valuable mineral to countries in North America and Europe for fertilizers, food preservatives and explosives. The creation of a cheap synthetic substitute in the 1930's rendered the once robust mining operation obsolescent and the town slowly came to a standstill.
Humberstone housed large factories as well as a swimming pool, marketplace, theatre and a hotel. This Chilean ghost town has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has the feel of a Western movie set.
After a single diamond was accidentally discovered here in 1908, this small African town became a magnet for German miners. Located in the Namib Desert in Namibia, the village was replete with European amenities and German architecture. Kolmanskop boasted southern Africa's first x-ray machine and Africa's first tram. By the 1920's, the town became a bustling outpost of German culture. By 1954, the mines had been exhausted and the town was empty. Once stately homes are now filled to the windowsills with sand.
This picturesque medieval village has been the backdrop for a number of movies, including Quantum of Solace and The Passion of the Christ. Dating from the 6th century, Craco sits precariously at the top of a 400-foot cliff overlooking a river and has been deserted since 1963, when recurring seismic activity and landslides threatened to level the entire town, rendering this Italian village uninhabitable. The relics of Craco include a university, a castle, churches and several plazas.
Prypiat, Chernobyl, Ukraine
The meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear plant spewed large quantities of radioactive particles into the air. Winds carried the radioactive contamination across Europe and the 30,000 residents of Pripyat were evacuated several days later though the Soviet Union did not admit that an accident had occurred until a nuclear plant in Sweden, over 500 miles away, detected the chart-topping radiation levels.
The city of Pripyat was built in the 1970 to house the Chernobyl nuclear facility workers. Residents were only allowed to leave with one suitcase of belongings. Everything else was left behind. The city is still littered with furniture, books, clothing and other personal possessions, making it a museum of sorts.