Re-use of Sites and Remembrance Initiatives

Initially, many camps continued to be used after the liberation of their inmates. German prisoners of war and French individuals suspected of collaboration were held prisoner.

This was also the situation in Gurs, which had been taken over by the French Republic in August 1944. Some camps were later used as “centres de retention” (detention centres), while others were left to decay.

In France, it was the French Resistance, which had fought against the German occupation, that for a long time took centre stage and dominated discussions on the memory of Nazi crimes. It was not until the mid-1990s, when former president Jacques Chirac recognised the French state’s responsibility for deporting the Jews from France, that perceptions began to alter. In 1994, Gurs camp was announced as one of three national memorials. These sites are intended to commemorate the victims of the racist and antisemitic persecution and the crimes against humanity that were carried out under the joint responsibility of the Nazi and Vichy regimes. Since then, memorial sites have been established in many other places, largely thanks to initiatives by survivor associations and sponsoring associations.

In Gurs, the Amicale du Campe de Gurs keeps alive the memory of the various victim groups of the camp. These photographs show the installation Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, which was erected in 1993/1994. Since October 2011, the 27 stelae, arranged to form an Allée des interné, indicate one end of the street that led to the former central camp. The southwest federal states of Germany also support local memorial initiatives. <br />
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Photo by Dani Karavan, Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs, 1993-94
© Gurs, France, @Studio Karavan
In Gurs, the Amicale du Campe de Gurs keeps alive the memory of the various victim groups of the camp. These photographs show the installation Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, which was erected in 1993/1994. Since October 2011, the 27 stelae, arranged to form an Allée des interné, indicate one end of the street that led to the former central camp. The southwest federal states of Germany also support local memorial initiatives.

Photo by Dani Karavan, Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs, 1993-94
Photo by Dani Karavan, Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs, 1993-94
© Gurs, France, @Studio Karavan
Photo by Dani Karavan, Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs, 1993-94
© Privatbesitz
Photo of Noé cemetery by Michael Hermann and Silvan Epinger, around 2019, private collection

Many Southwest German Jews were taken from Gurs to other camps in France, where they died. Today, graves of the deported can be found in more than 30 French towns and communities, for example, in Noé. In agreement with the local French authorities and Jewish community, the cemeteries are cared for and maintained by the German federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc, 1980

At an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the camp’s opening, numerous survivors met in Gurs at the end of April 1979. Together they founded the Amicale du Camp de Gurs association, following in the steps of former Spanish prisoners who had already campaigned for the commemoration of the camp.

© Förderverein Mahnmal Neckarzimmern
Photo of the memorial to the deported Jews of Baden at Neckarzimmern

For many decades, German-French youth meetings and summer camps have taken place at the locations of the former camps or at current-day memorial sites. In Neckarzimmern, under the artistic direction of Karl Vollmer, a youth project that lasted many years was initiated to remember the deportation of the Southwest German Jews. It is comprised of memorial stones for more than 100 localities in southwest Germany, arranged in the shape of a Star of David.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the deportation, Monika Kirks (Landau/Palatinate) illustrated the fate of a Jewish family from Kaiserlautern. The pictures were the result of intensive conversations with the survivor, Margot Wicki-Schwarzschild, who talked of the persecution, death, and liberation. The artist depicted the events from the perspective of the two sisters, Margot and Hannelore Schwarzschild. <br />
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Sketch and acrylic painting by Monika Kirks, 2020
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the deportation, Monika Kirks (Landau/Palatinate) illustrated the fate of a Jewish family from Kaiserlautern. The pictures were the result of intensive conversations with the survivor, Margot Wicki-Schwarzschild, who talked of the persecution, death, and liberation. The artist depicted the events from the perspective of the two sisters, Margot and Hannelore Schwarzschild.

Sketch and acrylic painting by Monika Kirks, 2020
Sketch and acrylic painting by Monika Kirks, 2020
Sketch and acrylic painting by Monika Kirks, 2020
© Strasbourg, Privatbesitz
Photo by Marc Henri Klein, 1.5.2019

At the beginning of the 1990s, artist Gunter Demnig began to lay Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in front of the last addresses of victims of persecution in Germany. Accompanied by a public campaign, the thousands of brass blocks make up the largest decentralised memorial to remember the victims of National Socialism in the world. In France, there remained concerns about this kind of commemoration for a long time, with Strasbourg being the first city to lay Stolpersteine in 2019. These memorial blocks also commemorate the Jews imprisoned in Gurs in multiple places in Germany.

Still from the Film Transit by Christian Petzold, 2018

The Jewish writer, Anna Seghers, depicted the last stage of her flight from the National Socialists in her novel Transit. About 70 years after the first German edition appeared in 1948, Christian Petzold’s film Transit celebrated its premier. Petzold succeeded in portraying the themes of the novel in the present-day. This film still shows the actor Franz Rogowski in the streets of Marseille. The Jewish writer, Anna Seghers, depicted the last stage of her flight from the National Socialists in her novel Transit. About 70 years after the first German edition appeared in 1948, Christian Petzold’s film Transit celebrated its premier. Petzold succeeded in portraying the themes of the novel in the present-day. This film still shows the actor Franz Rogowski in the streets of Marseille.