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“Indesirable foreigners” – Rivesaltes Camp

In 1938 a law was promulgated instituting administrative internment for “enemy aliens, undesirable or suspected for national security and public order”. It allows the arrest and internment of people not for crimes or misdemeanors, but for the potential danger that they are supposed to represent for the state.

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In 1939, many Spaniards and volunteers from international brigades expelled from Spain were brought together at the Rivesaltes camp, a former military site. From 1940, the camp also welcomed Jews and Gypsies. In 1942, the Vichy governement made it the interregional center for the deportation of Jews from the “free zone”. Convoys leave from Rivesaltes to Drancy, the antechamber of death.

Between August and November 1942, more than half of the 5,000 or so Jews interned in Rivesaltes escaped these convoys thanks to charitable and assistance associations (Swiss Red Cross, OSE, Cimade, YMCA, Unitarian Service etc …) and to the prefect’s envoy, Paul Corazzi.

This camp today hosts a Memorial, an architectural work by Rudy Ricciotti, inaugurated in 2015.

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