Gurs internment camp [ɡyʁs] was an internment camp and prisoner of war camp constructed in 1939 in Gurs, a site in southwestern France, not far from Pau. The camp was originally set up by the French government after the fall of Catalonia at the end of the Spanish Civil War to control those who fled Spain out of fear of retaliation from Francisco Franco's regime. At the start of World War II, the French government interned 4,000 German Jews as "enemy aliens," along with French socialists political leaders and those who opposed the war with Germany.
After the Vichy government signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, it became an Internment camp for mainly German Jews, as well as people considered dangerous by the government. After France's liberation, Gurs housed German prisoners of war and French collaborators. Before its final closure in 1946, the camp held former Spanish Republican fighters who participated in the Resistance against the German occupation, because their stated intention of opposing the fascist dictatorship imposed by Franco made them threatening in the eyes of the Allies.
Gurs c. 1939
Location of Gurs within France
|Known for||The only westward deportation of German Jews|
|Built by||French Third Republic|
|Operated by||French Third Republic, Vichy France|
|Original use||Internment of Spanish Republican refugees|
|Inmates||German Jews, French political prisoners|
|Number of inmates||64,000 total, of whom 5,500 Jews deported via Drancy, mostly to Auschwitz|
|Liberated by||Free French|
|Notable inmates||José Solchaga, Horst Rosenthal|
|Notable books||Mickey au Camp de Gurs|
The camp measured about 1.4 km (0.87 mi) in length and 200 m (220 yd) in width, an area of 28 ha (69 acres). The only street spanned the length of the camp. Both sides of the street were surrounded by parcels of 200 m (220 yd) by 100 m (110 yd), named îlots (blocks; literally, "islets"). There were seven îlots on one side and six on the other. The parcels were separated from the street and from each other by wire fences. The fences were doubled in the back part of the parcels, forming a passageway in which the exterior guards circulated. In each parcel stood about 30 cabins; there were 382 cabins altogether. This particular type of cabin had been invented for the French army during the First World War; they had been built close to the front but outside the range of the enemy artillery, and they served to accommodate soldiers during the few days when the soldiers arrived at their barracks and awaited their trench assignment. They were assembled from thin planks of wood and covered with tarred fabric, all identical in construction and size. They were not provided with windows or other insulation. They did not offer protection from the cold, and the tarred fabric soon began to deteriorate, allowing rainwater to enter the cabins. Closets were nonexistent, and residents slept on sacks of straw placed on the floor. Despite the fact that each cabin had an area of only 25 m2 (270 sq ft), each cabin had to lodge up to 60 people during times of peak occupancy.
Food was scarce and poor in quality; there was no sanitation, running water, or plumbing. The camp had poor drainage. The area, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, receives a great deal of rain, which made the clay campgrounds permanently muddy. The inmates made paths with the few stones they could find in a vain attempt to keep the mud in check. Pieces of wire that had been stripped of their barbs were placed between the cabins and the toilets and used by the refugees like the railing of a staircase, to maintain balance on the unsteady ground.
In each îlot there were rudimentary toilets, not very different from the sort of troughs that would be used to feed animals. There was also a platform about 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high, which one climbed using steps, and upon which were built additional toilets. Under the platform there were large tubs that collected excrement. Once they were full they were transported out of the camp in carts.
One feature of the camp was that the wire fences were only two metres high; they were not electrified, and they did not have lookout towers filled with guards pointing their machine guns at the internees. The atmosphere was radically different from an extermination camp: there were no executions (murders) or displays of sadism on the part of the guards.
Around the camp there were small buildings that housed the administration and the guard corps. The administration and care of the camp was conducted under military auspices until the fall of 1940, when a civil administration was installed by the Vichy regime.
Those arriving from Spain were grouped into four categories (here translated into English):
From 1939 to the autumn of 1940, the language that dominated in the camp was Spanish. The inmates created an orchestra and constructed a sports field. On July 14, 1939, Bastille Day, the 17,000 internees of Spanish origin arranged themselves in military formation in the sports field and sang La Marseillaise, followed by sports presentations and choral and instrumental concerts.
The German members of the International Brigade edited a newspaper in German by the name of "Lagerstimme K.Z. Gurs" of which there were more than 100 editions. The inhabitants of neighboring places could come to the camp and sell food to the inmates. For a time, the commander permitted some imprisoned women to rent a horse and cart and let them leave to camp to buy provisions more economically. There was a postal service and visits were also occasionally permitted.
At the start of World War II, the French government decided to use the camp also to house ordinary prisoners and citizens of enemy countries. The first contingent of these arrived at Gurs May 21, 1940, eleven days after the German government initiated its western campaign with the invasion of the Netherlands. To the Spaniards and Brigadists who still remained in the camp, were added:
In contrast to the Spaniards, for whom there was generally sympathy, the internees from the second waves were known as "les indésirables", the undesirables.
With the armistice between France and Germany in June 1940, the region in which the camp was situated formed part of the territory governed by the Vichy government, passing over to the civil authority. The military commander, before turning over command, burned the records in order to make it difficult for the new French government to locate and persecute many of the inmates who, informed of the change in command, had fled, disappearing among the French population who gave them shelter. After the war, the destruction of the records later made it difficult for many ex-prisoners to claim the compensation that was due to them for having been incarcerated.
Seven hundred of the prisoners, interned on account of their nationality or for being sympathetic to the Nazi regime, were released between August 21—the date of the arrival of the inspection commission sent by the German government to Gurs—and October. The Vichy government incarcerated:
The most painful period in the camp's history began in October 1940. The Nazi Gauleiter ("governor") from the Baden region of Germany had also been named Gauleiter of the neighboring French region of Alsace. In Baden resided some 7,500 Jews; they were mainly women, children, and the elderly, given that the young and middle-aged men had emigrated (official Nazi policy, overseen and made more efficient by Adolf Eichmann) or had gone to the Nazi concentration camps.
The Gauleiter received word that the camp at Gurs was mostly empty, and on October 25, 1940, it was decided to evacuate the Jews from Baden (between 6,500 and 7,500) to Gurs as part of Operation Wagner-Bürckel. There, they remained locked up under French administration. The living conditions were difficult, and illness rife, especially typhus and dysentery.
The deportation of the German Jews to Gurs in October 1940 is a unique case in the history of the Holocaust. On one hand, it deals with the only deportation of Jews carried out toward the west of Germany by the Nazi regime. On the other hand, the Wannsee conference in which the above-mentioned extermination program was delineated, did not take place until January 1942.
Beginning December 20, 1940, various humanitarian aid organizations intervened to lend their services: in addition to the Basque government in exile, posts were set up in Gurs belonging to the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, Jewish French organizations tolerated by the Vichy regime, and Protestant organizations such as the Quakers, CIMADE, and the YMCA. Despite the fact that the camp was situated in a region where the great majority of the population was Catholic, not one Catholic organization offered its help to the inmates. On February 15, 1941, the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (Children’s Aid Society) installed a medical post and obtained permission to take numerous children away from Gurs, who would be housed in private homes throughout France.
Security infrastructure in the camp was not as developed as many of its more eastern counterparts. However, escapers who were poorly dressed, lacking money and without knowledge of local dialects were quickly located and returned to the camp. Reclaimed prisoners were subsequently held for a time as punishment in an îlot called de los represaliados (of those suffering reprisals). In case of recidivism, they were sent to another camp. But an internee who could count on outside help could successfully escape, whether to Spain or a shelter on a flat in France. There were 755 who managed to escape.
Once the program for the eradication of the Jews was put into motion in the camps in German occupied Poland, the Vichy regime turned over the 5,500 Jews who were located in Gurs to the Nazis. On July 18, 1942, the SS captain, Theodor Dannecker, inspected the camp and then ordered that they prepare themselves to be transported to Eastern Europe. Beginning on August 6, they were sent in convoys to the Drancy deportation camp, on the outskirts of Paris, and later many were murdered in extermination camps. The majority of them were sent to Auschwitz.
Upon the withdrawal of the Germans from the region due to the advance of the Allied invasion of France, the French who took charge of Gurs locked up their countrymen accused of collaborating with the German occupiers as well as Spaniards, who having found refuge in France, had been fighting in the French Resistance against the German occupation. These men were not trying to enter into an armed conflict on the French-Spanish border and were not interested in confronting Franco, but the French feared they might and so held these Spaniards in Gurs for a short time. The camp also briefly housed German prisoners of war.
The camp was dismantled in 1946. The hill has since been covered in dense vegetation that still does not manage to absorb the water that flows from the clay soil. One can see a few stones that were paths and the bases of cabins. Groups of volunteers have begun to remove the overgrown weeds to display the origins in which some 64,000 people were forced to live during the various époques of the camp.
In 1979, on the 40th anniversary of the creation of the camp, the region's youth started to air the forgotten history of the camp by inviting old inmates to conferences and lectures. The event was well-publicized by the French, German, and Spanish press; as a result, the next year there was a reunion at Gurs on June 20–21. The reunion drew a hundred former detainees, who came from many different countries. Also in attendance were people associated with the French resistance and survivors of the Nazi death camps. Together, these people created an organization called L'Amicale de Gurs. This organization developed an official newsletter called L'Apell de Gurs, which was full of emphatic catchphrases such as, "Gurs, a symbol of combat and the suffering of the peoples of Europe," and "Gurs, a concentration camp, calls for vigilance, for unity, and for action; actions taken so that man can live in freedom and dignity."
Since this date, a commemorative ceremony has been held annually. Some of the main participants in this ceremony have been Jewish organizations, representatives of citizens of Baden, former exiles, their relatives, and people of diverse nationalities who, by their presence, hope to point out the duty of every generation to remember the criminal acts of the dictatorial regimes that assaulted Europe during the 20th century.
Today the camp contains a reconstruction of a triangular cabin as a testimony to the hundreds of identical cabins that were lived in by the inmates. Like the original cabins, the reconstruction was made from thin slabs of wood covered in tarred cardboard. A few monuments recall the camp of the Gursiens, a name that was first used by the inhabitants of nearby towns to refer to the inmates and that was ultimately adopted by the inmates themselves.
The thick vegetation that covers the area occupied by the Gurs ilots contrasts sharply with the large Jewish cemetery, which is exquisitely maintained at the expense of the German cities that deported their German-Jewish population to Gurs. After the liberation in 1944, the French Association of Jewish communities of the Basses-Pyrénées took charge of Gurs' upkeep and erected a monument to the camp's victims. As the years passed, though, the cemetery itself fell into disrepair. Hearing of this disrepair, the mayor of Karlsruhe in 1957 took the initiative to have his city assume responsibility for the conservation of the camp, supported by the Jewish associations of Baden. He got in touch with the parts of Baden that had deported their Jewish citizens to Gurs so that they could participate in the project. The French state, for its part, gave the federation of Jewish organizations of Baden the right to control the cemetery for the next 99 years. The German cities of Karlsruhe, Freiburg, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Pforzheim, Konstanz and Weinheim now pay the economic costs of the cemetery's upkeep.
Since 1985, the camp has had a memorial to the fighters of the Spanish Civil War who were interned in the camp; the camp's cemetery has a section set aside for the members of this group who have died. In 2000, the German War Graves Commission performed major renovations on this cemetery.
|Spaniards (excluding Basque nationalists from the Basque Autonomous Region in Spain)||5,760|
|Germans and Austrians||9,771|
|Germans from Baden||6,538|
|Arrivals from Saint Cyprien camp||3,870|
|German prisoners of war||310|
|Collaborators with the German occupiers||1,585|
|Total before the liberation||60,559|
|Total after the liberation||3,370|
|Total people interned (1939–1945)||63,929|
The year 1942 in art involved some significant events and new works.Camp de concentration d'Argelès-sur-Mer
The Camp de concentration d'Argelès-sur-Mer was an internment camp established in early February 1939 on the territory of the French commune of Argelès-sur-Mer for Spanish Republican refugees. Some of the refugees were retreating members of the Spanish Republican Army (Ejército Popular Republicano) in the Northeast of Spain in the last months of the Spanish Civil War.Carola Trier
Carola Strauss Trier (1913–2000) was born in Germany in 1913, the second daughter of German chemist and philosopher Eduard Strauss and of Beatrice Rosenberg, an American citizen. She attended the Philanthropin in Frankfurt am Main, and then studied at the Laban School. Her family lived in Europe until the Second World War, emigrating to the United States in 1938, while she initially stayed in Germany, then emigrated to France. For reason of being a German, she was sent to the Gurs internment camp in France, from which she was finally released with the help of fellow dancer Marcel Neydorf. Together, they moved to the zone libre, and she was able to immigrate to New York in 1942, shortly before the zone libre was occupied, leading to thousands of Jews being detained, with most then being sent to Auschwitz. Neydorf stayed in France, as he did not receive a US visa.Regarded as a potential enemy alien in the United States, she was initially interned in Fort Howard until she was granted refugee status. She moved to New York, married Edgar Trier and supported herself in the United States as a dancer, acrobat, and most notably a roller-skating contortionist. A devastating injury which occurred in 1950 brought her to Joseph and Clara Pilates, founders of the Pilates method of exercise and strength training. Throughout the 1950s, she was trained by the Pilates couple. She opened her own Contrology studio in 1960. According to second-generation master teacher Jillian Hessel, Trier was "the first person to open a studio with Joe Pilates' blessing". Her assistants included Romana Kryzanowska and Kathy Grant. Trier later furthered her anatomical knowledge at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, where she aided Dr. Henry Jordan with patient rehabilitation and research. Trier combined her medical and Pilates experiences to develop various exercises and stretching techniques for dancers, many of which are still in use.
In 1982, Trier authored a book for children entitled Exercise, What it is, What it Does, which introduced and emphasized the benefit and enjoyment of exercising both alone and with friends. Trier was an active teacher, lecturer, and practitioner until the late 1980s, serving as a coach for
choreographer Gloria Contreras until 1985. She died in New York City on October 28,
2000 at the age of 89.Freiburg Stühlinger
Stühlinger is a district to the west of the historic city center of Freiburg im Breisgau. In December 2013, 18,300 residents lived in the neighborhood. There are three boroughs: Stühlinger-Beurbarung, Stühlinger-Eschholz and Alt-Stühlinger. Although historically correct, the railroad Freiburg-Colmar is the north end of the Stühlinger and therefore Stühlinger-Beurbarung is not part of the district anymore. The district borders the area of the central train station of the Deutsche Bahn AG to the east, the river Dreisam to the south, tracks of the railroad freight transportation to the west and the district Brühl to the north.Gurs
Gurs [ɡyʁs] is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.
Gurs was the site of the Camp Gurs concentration camp. Nothing remains of the camp; after World War II, a forest was planted on the site where it stood.History of the Jews in Freiburg im Breisgau
The History of the Jews in Freiburg dates back to the Late Middle Ages when, at the site of today's Wasserstraße and Weberstraße, there was reference to a ghetto. In 1328, a synagogue was located at 6 Weberstraße.Horst Rosenthal
Horst Sigmund Rosenthal (10 August 1915 – 11 September 1942) was a German-born French cartoonist of Jewish descent. He is best known for his 1942 French comic book Mickey au Camp de Gurs (Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp) which he created while he was a prisoner at the Gurs internment camp in France during World War II. He was later transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland where he was executed.Rosenthal also created two other French comic books while incarcerated in Gurs, La Journée d'un Hébergé (A Day in the Life of a Camp Resident) and Petit Guide à travers le Camp de Gurs (Little Guide Through the Gurs Camp). The three books were first published in October 2014 by Calmann-Lévy and the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, 72 years after they were written.Irene Wosikowski
Irene Wosikowski (9 February 1910 - 27 October 1944) was a German political activist (KPD). After 1933 she continued with her (now illegal) political activity in Germany till 1935. The next two years were spent in Moscow after which, as instructed by the party, she moved to Paris which had become one of two de facto capitals for the exiled German Communist Party. She worked on political education and publishing till 1940 when she was placed in the Gurs internment camp. After her escape she joined the Résistance. Living "underground" (unregistered) she managed to remain at liberty till July 1943, despite the intensely dangerous nature of much of her resistance work, which included approaching German soldiers and engaging in "political" discussions to try and persuade them to face up to the accelerating savagery of the Shoah. Following her arrest Wosikowski was subjected to a sustained programme of torture and taken back to Germany where she was executed at Plötzensee on the edge of Berlin.Irma Schwager
Irma Schwager (31 May 1920 - 22 June 2015) was an Austrian-Jewish anti-fascist resistance fighter and politician.
Schwager was born on 31 May 1920 in Vienna, Austria. Schwager was forced to flee Austria in 1938 to Belgium and again to France in May 1940. After arriving in France, she was sent to Gurs internment camp before joining the French resistance. She was stationed in Paris and convinced German soldiers to turn against the Nazis before traveling to Belgium after the Liberation of Paris in 1944, to help found the Österreichische Freiheitsfront (Austrian Freedom Front). In early 1945, Schwager returned to Austria with her husband Zalel Schwager (1908-1984), a fighter of Spanish Civil War, and their daughter born during the war. She found that her parents and two brothers had died during the Holocaust.She joined the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) after the Second World War and became a politician. She became a member of the central committee in 1953, was a member of the political office of the KPÖ between 1980 and 1990, and was elected honorary chairman of the party in 2011. Schwager advocated pacifism and protested the use of nuclear power. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.In January 2015, Schwager made a speech in Vienna to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.Schwager died on 22 June 2015.Johanna Geissmar
Johanna Elsa Geissmar (7 December 1877 in Mannheim – 14 August 1942 at Auschwitz concentration camp) was a German pediatrician murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. She was called Angel in Hell by the patients she helped during her stay in Gurs internment camp from October 1940 to August 1942.Maria Leitner
Maria Leitner (19 January 1892 - 14 March 1942) was a Hungarian writer and journalist in the German language. She is remembered as a pioneer of "undercover reporting".Marianne Cohn
Marianne Cohn was a German-born French Resistance fighter. She was born on 17 September 1922 in Mannheim and died on 8 July 1944 in Haute-Savoie.Max Raphael
For the English actor, see Max Raphael (Actor). For the pseudonymous American actor with the same name see Lloyd Sherr.
Max Raphael (August 27, 1889 – July 14, 1952) was a German-American art historian. He was of Jewish parentage. He was born on August 27, 1889, in Schönlanke, Prussia, Germany. Between 1924 and 1932 he taught art history to the working class at the Volkhochschule in Berlin. With the rise of the Nazis he moved to Paris, where he continued his writing. After the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 he was temporarily interned at Gurs internment camp and Camp des Milles. Once released he migrated, with help from the Quakers, to the United States through Barcelona and Lisbon. In New York Raphael lived in penury until he received one of the first fellowships awarded by the Bollingen Foundation. He died by suicide in New York City on July 14, 1952.Mickey au Camp de Gurs
Mickey au Camp de Gurs (Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp) is a 1942 French comic booklet by German-born French cartoonist of Jewish descent Horst Rosenthal. It was created while Rosenthal was a prisoner at the Gurs internment camp in France during World War II. The comic features Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, who is arrested on suspicion of being Jewish and is sent to Gurs. Rosenthal acknowledged the source of his protagonist by adding "Publié Sans Autorisation de Walt Disney" ("Published without Walt Disney's Permission") to the front cover. Rosenthal was detained in Gurs for two years before being sent to Auschwitz in September 1942; he was murdered on the day of his arrival.Mickey au Camp de Gurs was first published in 2014 in Paris by Calmann-Lévy and the Mémorial de la Shoah, 72 years after it was written. Mickey au Camp de Gurs has been called "one of the earliest surviving examples of a comic from the Holocaust", and "perhaps the earliest sequential art narrative dealing with the Holocaust".Paul Diel
Paul Diel (11 July 1893 – 5 January 1972) was a French psychologist of Austrian origin who developed the method of introspective analysis and the psychology of motivation.Synagoge Rottweil
The old Synagogue Rottweil in Rottweil county in Baden-Württemberg, was established in 1861. The desecrated Synagogue is located in Kameralamtsgasse 6, former Judengasse, close to Kapellenkirche (German) and next to Bischöfliches Konvikt (German) and gymnasium.
The construction of a new synagogue in Rottweil began in March 2016.World War II in the Basque Country
World War II in the Basque Country refers to the period extending from 1940 to 1944. It affected the French Basque Country, but also bordering areas across the Pyrenees on account of the instability following the end of the Spanish Civil War, and the friendship ties held by Germany, Vichy France, and the triumphant Spanish military dictatorship.Élisabeth Schmidt
Élisabeth Schmidt (1908–1986) was a French protestant pastor. She was the first woman to enter the priesthood of the Reformed Church of France when the parish of Sète requested her ordination in 1949. She is also remembered for her pioneering parochial work in Blida, Algeria, from 1958 to 1962.Œuvre de secours aux enfants
Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (French: [œvʁ də səkuʁ oz‿ɑ̃fɑ̃], Children's Aid Society), abbreviated OSE, is a French Jewish humanitarian organization which assisted mainly Jewish refugee children, both from France and from other Western European countries, before and during World War II. During World War II, OSE rescued children from extermination by Nazi Germany. OSE also operated after World War II.
During the most important period of its work, immediately after the German defeat of France in 1940, OSE operated mainly in unoccupied southern France, controlled by the pro-German Vichy France government. However, many children helped by OSE were from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and German-occupied northern France, who had reached the Vichy zone.
OSE was founded in 1912 by doctors in Saint Petersburg, Russia, as Obshchetsvo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyiev ("Organization for the health protection of Jews"; OZE), to help needy members of the Jewish population. Branches were established in other countries. In 1923 the organization relocated to Berlin, under the symbolic presidency of Albert Einstein. In 1933, fleeing Nazism, it relocated again, this time to France where it became the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants ("Society for Rescuing Children"), retaining a similar acronym.
In France, the OSE ran Children's Homes (often called "Chateaux," but actually large "mansions," and see listing below). These Homes were for Jewish children of various ages, including infants, whose parents were either in Nazi concentration camps or had been killed.
In March 1939, several transports brought German Jewish children to France. Other children arrived either on their own or were brought by relatives. By May 1939, the OSE Children's Homes held more than 200 refugee children.
The children were schooled and trained according to their age. To prepare children for possible future dangers, the OSE teachers paid special attention to physical education and survival skills.
A 1999 documentary "The Children of Chabannes" by filmmakers Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell is about one such home, Château de Chabannes, in a small village of Chabannes, where 400 Jewish children were saved from the Holocaust.
In June–September 1941, Andree Salomon (importantly, see below) supervised three transports which brought about 350 children from the OSE homes through Marseille and to the United States. They were then sponsored by the United States Committee for the Care of European Children, The German-Jewish Children's Aid (later European-Jewish Children's Aid), and assisted by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Marseilles. Nearly all of those parents were later murdered by the Nazis.
In 1942, the police began round-ups and deportations from the orphanages to Nazi concentration and extermination camps, and the OSE organized an underground network in order to smuggle the children to neutral countries. Some children were saved by French rescuers, and some joined the French resistance.
|Nazi occupation and organizations|
|Righteous Among the Nations|