The first symbolic stone for the Rivesaltes camp memorial was placed by Christian Bourquin and Georges in 2007 as they recalled the events which lead to the future project becoming a reality on the 42 hectares of land which now belong to the department.
In 1998, Christian Bourquin refused to allow the demolition of the camp barracks and the idea of a memorial was born. The greatest difficulty concerned the many different peoples and religions who suffered there – who should the memorial honour? Jews, gypsies, Spaniards, French Algerians, homosexuals, Germans….?
It was finally decided by a ‘jury’ led by French architect Rudy Ricciotti who has been chosen to design the memorial/museum whose role will be to “account for the history of internment in France during the second world war, the camp from 1930 to present times, and the help and assistance given” explains the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales. The project will be directed by Denis Peschanski – Director of research at CNRS, specialist in the history of the camps in France during the second world war.
The one stumbling block which has left a bitter taste in the mouths of all concerned is the high price that the department has had to pay to the state for the land, instead of the hoped-for symbolic sum of money for something that concerns all humanity.
On the site will be « un musée de la grandeur de l’homme libre, pour un mémorial non de la défaite mais du combat, pour un musée de l’homme digne et debout. » (A museum to show how great is the free man, a memorial of combat, not of defeat, a museum showing man dignified and standing tall)