for the Spain they believed to be better: in Rivesaltes camp
Camp Joffre known as Camp de Rivesaltes / Rivesaltes Camp is a military camp in Rivesaltes nearby Perpignan in the South of France. The camp was used to detain civil populations several times between 1939 and 2007. Its darkest period was in 1942, when 2,251 Jews , including 110 children, were transferred from Rivesaltes via the Drancy interment camp to the Nazi extermination camp in Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
The camp was established in 1938 and was named "Camp Joffre" after General Joseph Joffre, the commander-in-chief of the French army during World War I.
In 1939, at the start of WW2, the camp became a military transit base and in 1940, was used to shelter the thousands of Spanish refugees fleeing the Franco dictatorship, a slightly better alternative to the freezing beaches of Argèlès and Le Barcarès, on which so many of these unfortunate Republicans had been interned as ‘foreign undesirables’. In this way, following the Retirada the French government decided to use Camp Joffre to intern more than 15,000 Catalan refugees.
After the signing of the armistice, France was split into two and the « zone libre » in which the Pyrenees-Orientales was included, came under the administration of the Vichy government, a close ally of Germany. In January 1941, the Vichy regime opened the ‘Centre d’Hébergement de Rivesaltes’ (Rivesaltes Accommodation Centre) on the camp premises for interning ‘Sinti and Roma’ (Gypsies), political opponents and Jews. It was at this point that the sad and sinister history of the camp Joffre began to unfold. With a capacity of 8000, it was not long before the camp was overcrowded, families were separated, and conditions deteriorated enormously. In 1942, under German pressure, the camp became a ‘Centre national de rassemblement des Israélites’ – a ‘sorting centre’ for Jews who were then sent on to the death camps such as Auschwitz, via Drancy. Two thousand five hundred and fifty one Jews are recorded as having been deported from Rivesaltes – four hundred of them were children.
In 1942, when the Germans occupied the ‘zone libre’ they closed the camp, but when the south of France was liberated in 1944, Rivesaltes was reopened until 1948 for collaborators and traitors, and in 1945 housed German soldiers and prisoners of war.
In 1962 it once again became a ghetto. This time for the hundreds of thousands of Algerians or ‘harkis’ who left Algeria at the time of the battle for its independence from France. Many of these families did not leave the camp until its closure in the late sixties.
The camp retained a military presence, despite the fact that much of it is in ruins, until quite recently, being used until 2007 to detain ‘étrangers en situation irrégulière’.
Rivesaltes Camp was turned into a memorial museum and was inaugurated in October 2015 by Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
These photos were taken in December 2015 and show some views of the Camp.