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Internment camps of South West France 1939-1944

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The camp of Rivesaltes has had a long and chequered history.  It was opened in 1938 as a military camp, but soon became an an internment camp for Spanish refugees (as an alternative to Argeles and Barcares) and then the centre for holding the Jewish population of Vichy France before transporting them to Drancy (Paris) and on to the extermination camps of the East. It also held Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, and others classed as “undesirables”. In two months during 1942, nearly 2,500 were deported to their deaths.

The camp was closed in November 1942 when the “free zone” was occupied by the Germans. Most of those remaining in the camp were sent to Gurs.

After the war it held German and Italian prisoners of war, and later came prisoners from the war in Algeria. It continued in use as a detention centre for stateless refugees until as recently as 2007. The Wikipedia website gives a good general history of the camp.

There are many items on the internet relating to this camp. One illustrated site can be found by clicking here. The definitive book on the subject is Anne Boitel’s  “Le Camp de Rivesaltes 1941-1942” University Press of Perpignan. There are recent pictures of the camp and an access map on the “See you soon Caroline” pages of this website.

In October 2015, the Memorial Museum was opened. Click here. to see the Museum website.

Relief workers included Mary Elmes (AFSC) and Friedel Bohny-Reiter (Swiss Red Cross)