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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 Villa Saint Christophe

This colony, like most others, was largely forgotten until the Deputy Mayor of Canet-en-Rousillon received a request for information from a professor of history in the USA in 2009. He wanted to know about a house which had sheltered children taken from the internment camps during the war. All attempts to find information locally proved fruitless. It was a totally forgotten story. Even though the name of the house was known, the Villa Saint Christophe, the building itself and its memory had totally disappeared.

However, two local historians contacted the Mennonites in the USA and obtained access to their archives. The book illustrated on this page is the result of their efforts. It contains a wealth of information about the work of this religious group in sheltering and saving many children from the camps.

The building was leased from its owner by Mary Elmes, Director of the Quaker office in Perpignan. The Mennonites agreed to take the children which she provided from the camps and looked after them for periods of three months from the beginning of April 1941 until the 4th February 1943. During the German occupation, the American Director of the colony, Lois Gunden, was interned in Germany and the colony was closed.

The book contains lists of children who enjoyed stays in the colony, and several accounts of life there by surviving inmates. You can see more of the book and order a copy by clicking here.