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Saint-Cyprien Camp

HistoryWorks

In February 1939 the first inmates - refugees and immigrants from Spain - were brought to this camp on the Mediterranean coast, near the Spanish border. In September of that year thousands of Germans and Austrians who had been living in France were interned there and in May 1940, when Germany invaded Belgium, refugees and immigrants who had sought refuge in Belgium were also sent to the camp.

The inmates were housed in temporary barracks, surrounded by electric fences on the one side and by the sea on the other. The barracks had corrugated iron roofs, with no electricity or furniture and only straw for bedding. It was freezing cold in the winter and stifling in the summer. Artists depict the camp inmates as half-naked. Food was scarce and eating utensils consisted of sardine tins and pieces of wood. The lack of adequate sanitation and the crowded conditions increased the spread of disease.

In October 1940 a severe storm along the coast destroyed most of the camp buildings and the inmates were transferred to other camps, primarily to Gurs.[1]


(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)


[1] Claude Laharie. Le camp de Gurs 1939-1945, un aspect méconnu de ';historie de Vichy. J. & D., Infocompo, Pau, 1993 (reprint of first edition of 1948), pp.66-67,173-175