Camp Joffre opened in 1938 and in that first year, changed from housing for the troops to housing for “Undesirables”; refugees from the Spanish Civil War, Jews and Gipsies. So handy for the railway. Destination: Auschwitz, via Drancy.
Michel Torrent (code name Milor René Jules) fled Saint Malo under German occupation and found refuge for himself and his family with his grandparents in Perpignan.
Elisabeth Eidenbenz was the remarkable Swiss woman who created La Maternité Suisse in Elne as a refuge for expectant mothers exiled from Spain during La Retirada and World War II.
Lest We Forget. On Holocaust Memorial Day, (27th January) our own little bit of horror and inhumanity here in the P-O. Visit the camp and museum. Never forget lest it be allowed to happen again.
la Jonquera Exile Memorial Museum (MUME), an immaculately kept and poignant reminder of the Retirada, a place for ‘memory, history and critical reflexion’.
The shameful camps, over crowded, in-humane, crammed to overflowing with desperate Republicans escaping Franco’s Spain seem an unlikely place for art to flourish. But artists were there as can be seen in the Museum in La Jonquera. And they did not go un-noticed in Perpignan either.
2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the exodus of the Spanish Republicans fleeing persecution from the Franco regime.
In late January/early February 1939 nearly half a million Spanish civilians and soldiers fled to France. The word Retirada (Spanish for Retreat) was adopted by historians to signify this exodus, which was the biggest single influx of refugees ever known in France.
During the Retirada, Spanish Republicans fleeing the Franco regime poured over the border into the P-O. But it wasn’t just people, many important pieces of artwork joined the exodus.
1939 was a difficult year for France. Not only did it experience the indignity of an invasion on its North East border from Hitler’s hordes late in the year, the country suffered a very different incursion in its far South-West in the early months of the year.