Dark tourism? / Gurs internment camp / Cemetery
Gurs internment camp (Camp de Gurs) was an internment and refugee camp constructed in 1939 in Gurs, a site in southwestern France, not far from Pau. The camp was originally set up by the French government after the fall of Catalonia at the end of the Spanish Civil War to control those who fled Spain out of fear of retaliation from Franco‘s regime. At the start of World War II, the French government interned German and citizens of other Axis Powers, as well as French nationals who were considered to have dangerous political ideas or who were imprisoned for ordinary crimes.
After the Vichy government signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, it became an Internment camps for Jews for of any nationality except French as well as people considered dangerous by the government. After France's liberation, Gurs housed German prisoners of war and French collaborators. Before its final closure in 1946, the camp also held former Spanish Republican fighters who participated in the Resistance against German occupation, because their stated intention of opposing the fascist dicatatorship imposed by Franco made them threatening in the eyes of the Allies.
The thick vegetation that covers the area occupied by the Gurs ilots contrasts sharply with the large Jewish cemetery, which is exquisitely maintained at the expense of the German cities that deported their German-Jewish population to Gurs. After the liberation in 1944, the French Association of Jewish communities of the Basses-Pyrénées took charge of Gurs' upkeep and erected a monument to the camp's victims. As the years passed, though, the cemetery itself fell into disrepair. Hearing of this disrepair, the mayor of Karlsruhe in 1957 took the initiative to have his city assume responsibility for the conservation of the camp, supported by the Jewish associations of Baden. He got in touch with the parts of Baden that had deported their Jewish citizens to Gurs so that they could participate in the project. The French state, for its part, gave the federation of Jewish organizations of Baden the right to control the cemetery for the next 99 years. The German cities of Karlsruhe, Freiburg, Manheim, Heidelberg, Pforzheim, Konstanz and Weinheim now pay the economic costs of the cemetery's upkeep.
Since 1985, the camp has had a memorial to the fighters of the Spanish Civil War who were interned in the camp; the camp's cemetery has a section set aside for the members of this group who have died. In 2000, the German War Graves Commission performed major renovations on this cemetery.