Amicale du Camp de Gurs
- Association of the Gurs Camp
near Navarrenx on the D 936 road
On 29 April 1979, the creation of the Amicale du camp de Gurs. It was a memorable day. Several former internees belonging to different groups, Spanish republicans, French undesirables, Jews from the Baden region, met in Gurs in the greatest fraternity, in order to create the new Amicale. Pedro Marco, Valentino Battistuta, Oskar Althausen and Edmond Journaud met at the entrance to the camp on 29 April 1979. Their insides were stirred by emotion and joy, and they evoked the mud, the lice, the unbearable barbed wire and... the memory of their missing companions. They expressed their satisfaction at this reunion and the need for new meetings.
Around them, in a fraternal atmosphere of a rare quality, other groups of "elders" exchanged identical impressions. In fact, the memory of Gurs is the result of the interlocking memories of groups corresponding to the "families" of internees who succeeded one another in the camp.
The new Amicale du camp de Gurs is now open to the Jews, who have been involved in the memory since the 1960s, to the Spaniards, who were already present in the first association, but also to the "undesirables" and to the third and most represented group, the "French politicians".
At its first congress, held at the Gurs town hall on Saturday 21 June 1980, the Amicale had to appoint a president. The first person to come to mind was General Luis Fernandez. Interned in 1914 in Bilbao in a family of railway workers, he participated in the defence of the Spanish Republic. After being in Gurs, he was enrolled in a labour company. He then participated in the organisation of the Spanish maquis. The guerrillas carried out many brilliant actions under the command of their "general" and liberated Toulouse. Approved as a colonel in the French Army, he received the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1946 before going underground in 1950, because the Spanish Communist Party was banned in France. Continuing his activities, he was arrested in 1960 and deported to Poland. A serious accident allowed his return to France in 1963. His commitments made him a high-profile personality who, moreover, kept a very precise memory of what he had experienced, particularly in the Gurs camp. He would therefore be an ideal president for the Amicale, but he has a poor command of the French language. General Fernandez therefore proposed this function to several former internees present and it was finally Léon Bérody who accepted the post.
Read more on the history of the Amicale du camp de Gurs here.
Geographical and Cultural Context
The Gurs Camp is located in Béarn, at nearly the centre of the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It was one of the biggest camps of France: it stretched 2km in length and was 500metres wide. The camp was divised in 13 blocks that had each a letter of the alphabet as denomination (from A to M). Every block was subdivided in approximately 25 barracks. The barracks were made of wood and measured 30m long and 6m wide, if fully in use, they could host 60 persons. Nothing remains of the barracks today.
The Gurs Camp served as an administrative internment camp from 2 April 1939 to 31 December 1945. Four distinct groups were successively imprisoned in the camp.
1- From 2 April 1939 to 10 May 1940: Spanish Republicans and volunteers of the International Brigades. In total 27 350 persons were imprisoned, all were men.
2- From 10 May 1940 to 1 September 1940: "undesirables", essentially women from Germany or countries of the Third Reich. Some 100 men were also imprisoned with the women as political prisoners (communists, Spanish Basques, etc.). In total 14 795 men and women.
3- From 1 September 1940 to 25 August 1944: foreign Jews were imprisoned in the camp. In total 18 185 men, women and children were imprisoned due to the antisemitic laws of the Vichy Regime. From 1942, will be systematically deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
4- From 25 August to 31 December 1945: collaborationists and hundreds anti-Franco militants will be interned. In total 3 370 persons, exclusively men.
The Amicale du camp de Gurs, a non-profit association of volunteers, independent of any political party or pressure group, has been campaigning since 1980 :
- to make the history of this French internment camp known to the public, so that the memory of the men, women and children who were imprisoned there, starting with the Spanish republicans and the Jews, is not lost and that they are honoured.
- for a reflection among the general public and schoolchildren on the causes and realities of the internment at Gurs.
- for the defence of Freedom and the respect of Human Rights, today, in the whole world.
Archival and Other Holdings
- All archives relating to the period before 28 June 1940 have been destroyed. The camp does not have any list regarding prisoners for the first two periods of the camp. t
- All archives after 28 June 1940 are hosted by the Departmental Archives of the Pyrénées Atlantiques (Cité Administrative - Boulevard Tourrasse - 64000 Pau). For all inforamtion, you may contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- All archives regarding prisoners from the last two periods are on site.
- There is also a list regarding the Spanish Basques prisoners interned in 1939 in Josu Chueca, Gurs. El campo vasco, Ed Txalaparta, 2007, 288p.
Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication
The former camp premises are accessible at all times.
Conditions of Access
The camp site is open to the public and free to enter. The visit can be made alone, without a guide.
Contact the association regarding any info at: email@example.com