Le Vernet Internment Camp, or Camp Vernet, was a concentration camp[1] in Le Vernet, Ariège, near Pamiers, in the French Pyrenees. Built in 1918 as a barracks but after WWI used as an internment camp for prisoners of war. From February 1939 to June 1944, it was used as an internment camp (concentration camp), first for Republican refugees (soldiers, their families, opponents of the Franco regime) fleeing Spain after Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War, in particular some 12,000 refugees, including soldiers of Durruti Column[2] and others of the International Brigades, under the legitimate French government and then, as of May-June 1940, under the Vichy government after German occupation during the Second World War. Starting in 1940, apart from the prisoners coming from the Spanish Civil War, the Vichy government used it to house prisoners considered suspect or dangerous to the government, including members of the resistance and opponents of the Hitler, Mussolini and Pétain regimes.[3] From 1942 until June 1944, it was used as a holding camp for Jewish families awaiting deportation to other camps. The last transport out of the camp in June 1944 took the prisoners to Dachau concentration camp.

Camp Vernet
Transit camp
Aerial photograph (1945)
Camp Vernet is located in France
Camp Vernet
Location of Camp Vernet within France
Coordinates43°11′43″N 1°36′30″E / 43.19528°N 1.60833°E / 43.19528; 1.60833
LocationLe Vernet, Occitania
Vichy France
Operated by
Original useTroop camp
First built1918
Operationalto June 1944
InmatesSpanish refugees, Jews, former members of the International Brigade
Notable booksThe Invisible Writing, Scum of the Earth
Memorial marker

History Edit

Camp Vernet was originally built in June 1918 to house French colonial troops serving in World War I but when hostilities ceased it was used to hold German and Austrian prisoners of war.[4]

Between the wars, it served as a military depot.[4] Towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, in February 1939, it was put to a new use until September 1939 as a reception camp for Republicans fleeing from Francisco Franco's armies after the collapse of the Second Spanish Republic, holding those Republicans the French authorities deemed "a danger to public safety".[4] At this time, it held mainly former soldiers from the Republican Durruti Column,[1][5] the 26th Division and 150 International Brigades members, segregated in an area named "the leper colony". The camp covered an area of about 50 hectares, divided into three sections and surrounded by barbed wire fences.[6]

With the outbreak of World War II, the role of the camp was expanded. It was used to house "undesirable" foreigners, in particular, anti-fascist intellectuals and former members of the International Brigades,[1] particularly the more troublesome or senior veterans.[7]

There is now a small museum at Le Vernet[8] and Le Vernet features in Philip Kerr's 2010 novel Field Grey and in the 2012 novel Citadel by Kate Mosse, which follows the lives of a group of local people and resistance fighters.

Operations under Vichy government Edit

After the Fall of France on 25 June 1940, it was taken over by the pro-Nazi Vichy France authorities, to house "all foreigners considered suspect or dangerous to the public order".[1] It then passed to the Germans who rebuilt it according to their own concentration camp guidelines. Arthur Koestler was a prisoner there and declared that "from the point of view of food, installations and hygiene, Vernet was worse than a Nazi concentration camp".[6] From 1942, Le Vernet was used as a holding centre for Jewish families awaiting deportation to Nazi labour and extermination camps.[1] The final transport took place in June 1944 and took the remaining prisoners to Dachau concentration camp.[1] One source says that "about 40,000 persons of 58 nationalities were interned in the camp".[1]

Notable prisoners Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "1939-1944: Le Vernet concentration camp". Ariège Pyrenees. Archived from the original on 2007-04-05. Retrieved 2007-05-01.
  2. ^ "1939-1944: Le Vernet concentration camp", Ariège.com. [Accessed 29-09-2020].
  3. ^ "Camp de Vernet", entry in the Enciclopèdia Catalana (in Catalan). [Accessed 29-09-2020].
  4. ^ a b c "Chemins de mémoire | Ministère des Armées". www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr. Archived from the original on Apr 16, 2009. Retrieved Mar 6, 2023.
  5. ^ Bocanegra, Lidia. "A Short History of the Republican Exile: the big exodus of 1939". Exiliados. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  6. ^ a b Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 456–457. ISBN 978-0-7538-2165-7.
  7. ^ Tremlett, Giles (2020). The International Brigades. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 525. ISBN 978-1-4088-5398-6.
  8. ^ Bailey, Rosemary. "Remembrance tourism in France and the Pyrenees". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  9. ^ Biography [Robbins, Christopher. Test of Courage: The Michel Thomas Story (2000). New York Free Press/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0263-3/Republished as Courage Beyond Words (2007). New York McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-149911-3]
  10. ^ Willan, Philip (Sep 21, 1999). "Leo Valiani". The Guardian. Retrieved Mar 6, 2023.

Sources Edit

See also Edit

External links Edit

  Media related to Le Vernet Internment Camp at Wikimedia Commons