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José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz: “The victims of Gurs are a beacon in our memory”

2024 April 7
  • Basque Deputy Minister for Human Rights, Memory and Cooperation attends tribute to those imprisoned at the Gurs concentration camp between 1939 and 1946.
  • Organised by the Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes association, presided by Mylêne Lacoste
  • Attended by academics and researchers Paco Etxeberria and Iosu Chueca

Gurs/Oloron-Sainte-Marie, 7 April 2024

José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz, Basque Deputy Minister for Human Rights, Memory and Cooperation, this morning attended a commemoration organised by the Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes association dedicated to those imprisoned at the Gurs concentration camp between 1939 and 1946 for belonging to the Basque and Republican armies and for political ideas opposing the dictatorships of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. “The victims of Gurs are a beacon in our memory,” he recalled.

In the words of Rodríguez Ranz, “almost six thousand Basques, fleeing Franco’s dictatorship, arrived in Gurs where they lived and suffered-and some died-in deplorable and inhumane conditions. Memory about remembrance; not forgetting. Truth, research, new knowledge and education, socialisation and the transfer of this knowledge. A truth that repairs, transforms and empowers”.

“Memory is also about recognising the victims and inviolable dignity: all of the victims to whom we pay tribute here in Gurs, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or condition, are victims of fascism, repression and exclusion and are beacons in our memory,” added Deputy Regional Minister Ranz.

In his speech, Rodríguez Ranz indicated that “memory is a commitment to the present and the future; to human rights, peace, liberty, the ideal and ethical and democratic values. Commitment and ensuring history isn’t repeated. We live today in an especially delicate situation with wars, serious violations of human rights, forced migrations, exile, exclusion and discrimination witnessed every day”.

Memoires et luttes. Memory and struggle. Memory and commitment. “As 21st century citizens, Gurs asks questions of us, and I hope it reaffirms our commitment to democratic memory and a fairer, more humane and sustainable world” concluded the deputy minister.

The commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the opening of the Gurs camp was held at 9am, presided over by Mylène Lacoste, president of the Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes association and was attended by the families of some of those interned there, social and cultural organisation and representatives from the governments of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the Basque Country, Navarra and Aragón. The Errenteria Dantzaz group performed a number of dances.

Speakers at the event included Basque Deputy Minister Rodríguez-Ranz; the Mayor of Gurs, Christian PUHARRE; the president of Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes, Mylène LACOSTE; the representative of LACER AVER-Les Amis des Combattants, Amicale des Volontaires en Espagne Républicaine Brigades Internationales, Bruno BELLIOT; Manuel Cesário SEMIÃO; Manuel DIAS VAZRaymond VILLALBA; Mayor of Navarrenx,  Nadine BARTHE; Marie-Lyse  BISTUÉ; director of the Institute of Memory of Navarra, Bernard UTHURRY; Jose Miguel GASTON; Álvaro SANZ; Iñaki ETCHANIZ  and Zoraida HIJOSA

The Basque camp

In his book Gurs, el campo vasco (Gurs: the Basque Camp), Navarrese academic Iosu Chuca narrates numerous details and the names of those interned at the camp. The Gurs camp, located close to Oloron-Sainte-Marie on the northern face of the Pyrenees, remained operational for seven years, from 1939 to 1946, constituting the most important and longest running camp in the French state.

During this period, 64,000 people were interned there, of whom 27,300 were refugees fleeing primarily the Basque Country and Navarra, and later International Brigades volunteers and Spaniards arriving in 1939 and 1940 at the end of the Civil War. It was also used to intern other victims of fascism, and those who the Nazi regime declared “undesirable” such as Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. The Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes association worked on reconstruction of the barracks at the camp.

From 1940, during the Second World War, German and French citizens considered dangerous for their political ideas were interned at Gurs. During the time of the Vichy collaborationist government, it was used a concentration camp for Jews. After France was liberated, the camp was used to intern German prisoners of war, French collaborators and Spanish combatants who had participated in the resistance to German occupation but whose desire to bring an end to Franco’s fascist dictatorship meant they were considered dangerous in the eyes of the Allies.

1,475 guerillas were briefly interned at Gurs in 1945. That year, the internment regime was different from that of a concentration camp, labour camp or extermination camp; there was no forced labour and there were no executions, although many of those interned did die from the poor conditions while others were sent to extermination camps for execution.

The Gurs camp occupied 28 hectares with 382 barracks with up to 60 people held in each. There were no regular sanitary facilities, running water or sanitation. The camp had no drainage, which meant it was a constant mud bath.

Memory

In early 1939, many Navarrese-Basques crossed the Pyrenees as refugees expecting to find a welcome in Republican France. They had been defeated and many left their families behind. Their first stop was the beach-camp of Argelés sur Mer, close the border with Catalonia. Thanks to the work of the Basque Government with the French military authorities, the Basques were able to gather in their own part of the camp.

The stay at Argelés would be temporary. The French authorities decided to distribute the refugees to different camps and the Basque refugees arrived in Gurs in early April 1939. They were expecting a refugee camp in better conditions, but what they actually were met with was a better organised concentration camp. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War and after the Nazi occupation of France, thousands of Jews were sent there.

The Gurs concentration camp was the destination for around 60,000 people from 52 different countries. Between August 1942, six convoys transported 3,907 of these people to Auschwitz. The camp was closed on 31 December 1945 and little of the origin al structure remains, give that all the barracks were destroyed - today reproduced as testimony to the horror - and trees were planted on its eighty hectares of land.

Gurs served an internment camp from 2 April 1939 to 31 December 1945. Four main groups were interned there, without ever encountering each other.

  • 1. From 2 April 1939 to 10 May 1940: Spanish Republicans, the guadariak or Basque soldiers and International Brigade volunteers. In total, 27,350 people, all men.
  • 2. From 10 May 1940 - 1 September 1940: Those labelled “undesirables”, mainly women from Germany and countries occupied by the Third Reich. Together with them, hundreds of men were interned for their political affiliations (Communists, Basques, etc.). In total, 14,795 men and women.
  • 3. From 1 September 1940 to 25 August 1944: Foreign Jews. In total 18,185 men, women and children were interned under the state anti-Semitism practised by the Vichy regime. From 1942, they were systematically deported to Auschwitz and exterminated.
  • 4. From 25 August 1944 to 31 December 1945: “Collaborators” and hundreds of Spanish anti-Franco combatants. In total, 3,370 people, all men.

Tribute on behalf of NAEN Euroregion

The camp was dismantled in 1946 and largely forgotten about. However, On the 40th anniversary, in 1979, several young people in the region began to tell the story of the camp. The following year, the Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes association was founded. Since then, an annual commemoration has been held at Gurs with the participation of Jewish organisations, former internees and their families and people of various nationalities who, through their presence, refuse to forget the criminal acts of the dictatorships that ravaged Europe in the 20th century.

In November 2017, the Basque and Navarrese governments organised an institutional commemoration at the Gurs camp. Lehendakari Urkullu likened the memory of Gurs “with the unjust suffering of refugees arriving in Europe”. Over 300 people were there to hear words of remembrance and recognition for the struggle for freedom and democracy on the part of Lehendakari Iñigo Urkullu; President Uxue Barkos and President of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Alain Rousse.

 

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Vice-Ministre José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz : «Les victimes de Gurs sont un phare de notre mémoire»

  • Le Vice-Ministre des Droits de l'Homme, de la Mémoire et de la Coopération du Gouvernement Basque, dans l'hommage dédié aux personnes internées dans le camp de concentration de Gurs entre les années 1939-1946
  • Organisé par l'association « Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes »

Gurs/Oloron-Sainte-Marie 2024 04 07

José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz, vice-ministre des Droits de l'Homme, de la Mémoire et de la Coopération du Gouvernement Basque, a assisté ce matin à l'hommage organisé par l'association « Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes » dédié aux personnes internées dans le camp de concentration de Gurs entre les années 1939-1946 pour son appartenance aux armées basque et républicaine ou pour ses idées politiques contre les dictatures de Franco, Hitler et Mussolini. "Les victimes de Gurs sont un phare de notre mémoire", a-t-il souligné.

Selon Rodríguez Ranz « ils étaient près de six mille Basques qui, fuyant la dictature de Franco, sont arrivés à Gurs, où ils ont vécu, ont souffert – certains sont morts – dans des conditions déplorables et inhumaines. La mémoire est mémoire, sans oubli, vérité, recherche, nouvelles connaissances et pédagogie, socialisation et transmission de ces connaissances ; une vérité qui répare, transforme et responsabilise.

« La mémoire, c'est aussi la reconnaissance des victimes et de leur dignité inviolable : de toutes les victimes que nous honorons aujourd'hui ici à Gurs, quelle que soit leur nationalité, leur origine ethnique ou leur condition. Ils sont victimes du fascisme, de la répression et de l'exclusion et ils sont un phare de notre mémoire », a ajouté le vice-conseiller Rodríguez Ranz.

Dans son discours, Rodríguez Ranz a indiqué que « la mémoire est un engagement envers le présent et l'avenir ; avec les droits de l'homme, la paix, la liberté, l'idéal et les valeurs éthiques et démocratiques. Engagement et garantie de non-répétition. Nous vivons aujourd'hui dans une situation particulièrement délicate avec des guerres, de graves violations des droits de l'homme, des migrations forcées, l'exil, l'exclusion et la discrimination ; Tout cela est notre pain quotidien aujourd’hui.

« Mémoires et luttes. Mémoire et lutte. Mémoire et engagement. En tant que composantes des citoyens du 21ème siècle, Gurs nous lance un défi et, espérons-le, cela réaffirme notre engagement en faveur d'une mémoire démocratique et d'un monde plus juste, plus humain et plus durable », a conclu le vice-ministre.

La commémoration du 85ème anniversaire de l'ouverture du camp de Gurs s'est rassemblé depuis 09:00 au camp de Gurs et a été animée par Mylène Lacoste, présidente de l'association "Terres de Mémoires et de Luttes" et a réuni des proches de les personnes internées, les organisations sociales et culturelles et les représentants des administrations de Nouvelle-Aquitaine, d'Euskadi, de Navarre et d'Aragon.

Le camp de Gurs a servi de lieu d’internement du 2 avril 1939 au 31 décembre 1945. Quatre groupes principaux d’internés s’y sont succédés, sans jamais véritablement s’y rencontrer.

1- du 2 avril 1939 au 10 mai 1940 : les Républicains espagnols, les "Gudariak" et les volontaires des Brigades internationales. Au total, 27 350 personnes, exclusivement des hommes.

2- du 10 mai 1940 au 1er septembre 1940 : des "indésirables", essentiellement des femmes originaires d’Allemagne et des pays appartenant au Reich. À leurs côtés, quelques centaines d’hommes internés pour délits d’opinion (communistes, Basques espagnols, etc...). Au total, 14 795 hommes et femmes.

3- du 1er septembre 1940 au 25 août 1944 : les Juifs étrangers. Au total, 18 185 hommes, femmes et enfants internés en raison de l’antisémitisme d’état pratiqué par le régime de Vichy. Ils seront systématiquement déportés vers Auschwitz et exterminés à partir de 1942.

4- du 25 août 1944 au 31 décembre 1945 : les "collabos" et quelques centaines d’antifranquistes espagnols. Au total, 3 370 personnes, exclusivement des hommes.

 

2 comments
  • Photo SN Robot
    @BerdintasunEJGV
    2024 April 7

    Comentario de Twitter:
    #GOGORA #memoria 

    💐#RodriguezRanz sailburuordeak 1939-1946 urteen artean Euskadiko eta Errepublikako armadetako kide izateagatik edo beraien ideia politikoengatik Gurseko #kontzentrazioesparruan sartutako pertsonei eskainitako omenaldian izan da
    👇
    https://t.co/7olPM4fsUu

  • Photo SN Robot
    @BerdintasunEJGV
    2024 April 7

    Comentario de Twitter:
    💐El viceconsejero Rodríguez Ranz, en el homenaje a las personas internadas en el campo de #Gurs (Francia) entre 1939 y1946  por su pertenencia a los ejércitos vasco y republicano o por oponerse a las dictaduras de Franco, Hitler y Mussolini.
    👇
    https://t.co/B2wa1NGq8b

    #GOGORA https://t.co/BGMAm6EYRd

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Politicians attending the event
Other guests
  • Mylèy Lacoste, Paco Etxeberria, Iosu Chueca, Bruno BELLIOT; Manuel Cesário SEMIÃO; Manuel DIAS VAZ;  Raymond VILLALBA;Nadine BARTHE, Marie-Lyse  BISTUÉ, Bernard UTHURRY; Jose Miguel GASTON, Álvaro SANZ, Iñaki ETCHANIZ ,Zoraida HIJOSA