Monday, June 30, 2008

About the Camp of Gurs [it’s in the direction of the Atlantic coast and our route will not take us there but we saw the site last Autumn]

Gurs was constructed in less than 3 weeks in the spring of 1939 to hold Spaniards fleeing Franco. From May 1940 it served as a camp for enemy aliens or ‘indesireables’ including Jews who fled Germany and in among them, expatriate German Nazi sympathizers.

Who were the French to know the difference? Many escaped at that time or were liberated. Among the former was Hannah Arendt.

From October 1940 Jews began to be deported there directly from Germany. Many were still able to obtain documents and flee but thousands were turned over by the Vichy regime to the Nazis. They were sent north Drancy, then east to Auschwitz.

Finally with the Liberation the camp was used to hold French Nazi collaborators, German prisoners of war and Spaniards who had fought in the French resistance. The Allies were worried lest the latter group take on Franco.

In 1946 the camp was dismantled.

2 years ago I bought a copy of the Gurs Hagaddah. It was handwritten and partly typed in the camp for Pesach 1941. It is prefaced by a picture of a yellow butterfly perching on barbed wire. In the distance behind the huts the snow covered Pyrenees can be seen. The image of freedom. Meanwhile Mossy and I have taken the night train and are on our way to the start of the Chemin de la Liberte.

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