France to open memorial site at deportation camp

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A memorial site at a French World War II-era internment and deportation camp in the southern Aix-en-Provence region will open next year, the organisers told AFP Saturday.

The main invitations to fund the project, which will cost some 17 million euros (22 million dollars) are complete, "and the museographical study is under way," the head of the Camp des Milles Foundation Alain Chouraqui said.

"It is a memorial located at the only French internment and deportation camp still intact," Chouraqui said on the eve of national remembrance day for victims of racism and anti-Semitism in France during World War II.

Heritage, memory and conservation are the main objectives for the memorial due to open in the second half of 2011, which extends over seven hectares (17 acres) and includes 15,000 square metres (18,000 square yards) of buildings.

Visitors will learn about the history of the camp that opened in September 1939 and where over 10,000 prisoners from 27 countries, especially Germany and Austria, passed through in three years.

Organisers of the memorial site also aim to "educate citizens by presenting the complex of psychological and social mechanisms that lead to barbarism or to resistance," Chouraqui explained.

The Camp des Milles was first used to intern "nationals from powerful enemies", mostly Nazi dissidents who had taken refuge in France including a number of intellectuals and artists such as Max Ernst and Lion Feuchtwanger.

Under the Vichy government the camp became a tool for the occupying Nazi regime as a deportation camp for 2,500 Jews being transported to concentration camps via Drancy and Rivesaltes in August-September 1942.

As well as science, the arts will also be used to explain to visitors the history of the site, from literature, theatre, music and dance.

An annual commemoration ceremony at the Camp des Milles site will take place on Sunday to mark the national remembrance day.

© 2010 AFP

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