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Internment camps of South West France 1939-1944

An opportunity to share knowledge and unlock the past.

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The camp of Argeles-sur-Mer was hastily improvised in January 1939, opening on the 29th of that month. At first it housed only a few hundred refugee construction workers. However, in February it was swamped by the arrival of thousands of refugees as the borders were opened to the people of the “Retirada”, those fleeing across the Pyrenees with the collapse of Republican Spain. It was closed on the 22nd August 1941. By March, something like 100,000 people were held there on the open beach. In the course of time, many of the men were dispersed into work-camps, leaving the women and children to make up most of the population. In October 1940, the camp was devastated by flood waters, and the cemetery, already holding many who had died there, was completely washed away.

The AFSC archives contain a great deal about the relief work in this camp by Dorothy Morris (a New Zealand nurse) and Mary Elmes. See more about Mary Elmes.

Wikipedia has a brief article on the camp, and several others can be found by searching the internet. One very interesting recent site is to be found at www.overgrownpath.com. To visit the site click here.

There is a very useful centre of the Exile and Retirada at Valmy. There doesn’t seem to be a website but you can email them by clicking here.

Another useful website is FFREEE, (the sons and daughters of the Retirada and Exile) to connect with that site click here.

For more about the remains of the camp today, and a map of the camp’s location, see the page illustrating my novel by         clicking here.