SITE MÉMORIAL DU CAMP DES MILLES
Petit Futé's opinion on SITE MÉMORIAL DU CAMP DES MILLES
The only major French internment and deportation camp still intact today, the Les Milles camp has been an innovative and unique museum of history and human sciences in France since 2012, a place for history and reflection. It is a historical heritage in two ways: before becoming an internment camp, it was a tile factory in 1882 that participated in the industrial development of the region and whose activity resumed after the war in 1947, only to cease in 2006
. It is for the events that took place there during the Second World War that this place absolutely deserves a visit. From 1939, a tragic story in three parts unfolds between the brick walls of this disused factory. Closed and abandoned because of the economic recession, the tile factory was requisitioned by the Third Republic, which decided to lock up citizens from enemy countries living on the national territory. The vast majority of those interned in the camp were Germans and Austrians, intellectuals, scientists, writers, journalists and politicians. Proof of the great confusion and xenophobic climate of the time, most of these men were anti-fascists who had fled Hitler's anti-Semitic policies. Among the internees were also many artists, some of whom were internationally renowned (Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer). They left a trace of their passage with the creation of works of art that can still be admired today on the camp walls.
In 1940, after the defeat of France against Germany, the country was cut in two. The area that was not occupied by the Germans was run by the Vichy government, which reused the place and turned it into a transit camp, where more than thirty nationalities lived side by side in extremely difficult conditions. Thousands of people, considered undesirable, came to overcrowd the camp and Pétain wanted to expel them. Some of them were trying to reach the port of Marseille in order to take a boat to the United States, and they still hoped to leave the camp and France one day.
In 1942, Pétain agreed to hand over to the Nazis the Jews presented as "foreigners" living in the non-occupied zone. The Milles camp became a deportation camp and a cog in the Nazi death machine. It was the tragic outcome of a process that had begun three years earlier. Not only did Pétain agree to the deportation of the Jewish population considered to be foreigners living on the territory, but his anti-Semitic zeal also led him to propose, without being asked, to hand over the Jewish children. The deportees were called into the courtyard, some trying, in a last desperate gesture, to escape their tragic fate. In August and September 1942, the deportations followed one another at the Milles camp. In total, 2,000 Jewish men, women and children were transferred to the Drancy camp and then sent to Auschwitz, where a certain death awaited them. The Vichy government was complicit in the Shoah by handing over these innocent people to those who would become their executioners.
The camp of Les Milles is today a place of memory open to the public, which can be visited with great emotion as the atmosphere seems unchanged. The exhibition is divided into three parts. The first is devoted to the history of the site and helps to better understand the particular period in which these tragic events took place. It presents the collective history of the camp by illustrating it with individual destinies, and proposes to discover the context that led to the rise of perils in Europe and to deepen the themes of the Vichy regime, the Shoah, anti-Semitism, etc. The second part of the exhibition is devoted to a visit to the internment camp. On three levels, the discovery of the main buildings of the tile factory gives an overview of what the internees experienced. Testimonies, videos and documents complete the visit and help to imagine the difficult daily life of these men and women. We discover, intact, the traces they left of their passage, in particular the paintings that cover the walls of the guards' refectory. The third part proposes a section focused on reflection, in an attempt to understand the human mechanisms of horror and the mechanisms that can lead to a mass crime, in the context of the Second World War but also of the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, and especially in today's society. Pedagogical, this part of the exhibition questions our individual and collective functioning and questions our consciences. How can we learn from the past in the face of rising intolerance and extremism to avoid history repeating itself? What are the possible resistances? Finally, the museum hosts a national exhibition dedicated to Jewish children deported from France, created by Serge Klarsfeld. The visit ends with a walk along the Chemin des Déportés, which leads to a memorial car installed where the departures to Auschwitz took place.
The Memorial-Site is a place of remembrance and education for citizenship, with an interactive and educational museographic tour, workshops and conferences, a museum for the whole family.
Information on SITE MÉMORIAL DU CAMP DES MILLES
Open every day from 10am to 7pm. Closed of the ticket office at 6pm. Closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th. Possibility of visit of group. Duration of visit: approximately 2.30am. Free for under 9-year-olds. Adult: €9.50. Reduced: €7.50. Free access of part of the site (Exhibitions Serge Klarsfeld and the Work of Help of the children, Room of Paintings, Chemin des Déportés and Wagon of the Souvenir). Audioguides multilingual. Lifts. Loan of wheel chairs subject to availability. Children welcome (adapted course). Guided tour (ask for information with the home page). Catering facilities. Bookstore. Cultural events.
Services offered by SITE MÉMORIAL DU CAMP DES MILLES
- Wheelchair accessible
- Accessible to people with reduced mobility
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