browse collection-
by artist
by place

search collection-
simple search
advanced search

related works-
from this place


Noé Camp


During the winter of 1940-41, hostile reports appeared in the foreign press criticising the appalling conditions and the high mortality rate in the French camps. To dispel these reports, the Vichy regime decided to set up a model camp near Toulouse. This was Noé, established as a hospital camp. In the beginning it did seem to the inmates transferred there that their conditions had improved.

Instead of the barbed wire fences dividing the camp into "islands" and marking its perimeter, there were low wooden fences. In paintings of Noé you can see the open horizon. The camp was surrounded by bushes and greenery and instead of the wooden barracks there were small buildings with windows, equipped with sinks and stoves. The buildings were relatively spacious and had "real mattresses." Meals were served, "for the first time in a year, as if to civilized human beings, in a proper dining room, with tables, oilcloths and real plates."[1]

However, the illusion did not last for long. The inmates suffered from extreme cold since the stoves remained unlit, due to the scarcity of fuel. The camp administration responded to complaints with severity: those who complained about the food were denied food at all; and constant complainers were taken to a special "island," surrounded by barbed wire, where they were held in small, damp cells.

Worst of all was the lack of medical care. Although designated a "hospital camp", Noé did not even have basic medical facilities. The clinic was closed due to a lack of medical supplies and there was only one doctor to serve a population of over 1500 elderly, disabled and sick people.

Deportations to the East were carried out from this camp as from the others. From August 1942 there were "transports" of men, women and children, mostly of German origin. The first two deportations affected French public opinion to a certain extent and on 23 August 1942 the Archbishop of Toulouse, Monsignor Saliège, wrote in a pastoral letter read out in many churches in and around Toulouse:

    It is the fate of our generation to witness these terrible scenes of men, women and children, fathers and mothers, being treated like a herd of animals, as families are torn apart and sent to an unknown destination [...] these Jews and Jewesses are human beings [...] and belong to the human race. A Christian cannot forget this.[2]

This call by the Church did not halt the deportations, which went on until February 1943. By this stage the camp had been more or less emptied of its "deportable" inmates (those who were fit to be deported).

(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)

[1] Gert Arnoldson. "L'île de Noé (souvenirs de 1941)" in Monique-Lise Cohen and Eric Malo (eds.) Les camps du sud-ouest de la France 1939-1944: Expulsion, internement et déportation. Privat, Toulouse, 1994, p.82

[2] Serge Klarsfeld. Vichy Auschwitz: Le rôle de Vichy dans la Solution Finale de la question juive en France - 1942. 2 vols., Fayard, Paris, 1983, p.355