"... es geschah am helllichten Tag!"
"... it happened in broad daylight!"
October 22, 1940 is one of the darkest days in the history of southwest Germany: Within just a few hours, almost the entire Jewish population of Baden, the Palatinate and Saarland was deported to Camp de Gurs in southern France, the largest internment camp in France. The aim of the so-called "Wagner-Bürckel-Aktion" was to make the southwest German territories the first in the Reich to be quickly and completely "Jew-free". Most of the 6,538 deportees died in the following years.
One woollen blanket per Jew
The Gestapo officials came into the apartments early in the morning. The arrested in the 137 affected communities had to pack their belongings in a hurry and be ready to travel within an hour. A suitcase weighing a maximum of 50 kilograms was allowed to be carried per head, a blanket, crockery and food for several days, a maximum of 100 Reichsmarks and identity papers. Trains and trucks took the people to Gurs, 1,300 kilometres away - small children as well as the elderly and the sick. It was not clear to them that they would never return. Many of the older Jews already died during the strains of the three-day journey.
A week later the head of the security police, Reinhard Heydrich, reported to the Foreign Office: "The deportation of the Jews was carried out smoothly and without incident in all the towns of Baden and the Palatinate. The process of the action itself was hardly noticed by the population".
In the forecourt to hell
The Camp de Gurs at the foot of the Pyrenees was originally built as a reception camp for refugees of the Spanish Civil War. During the Second World War, a total of 60,000 people were interned there.
On the approximately three square kilometers large area stood about 380 barracks for 50 to 60 internees each, the buildings were unheated, without glazed windows or sanitary facilities. They slept on straw sacks or on the bare floor. To get to the latrines, people had to wade through the outside surfaces, some of which were knee-deep and muddy.
The camp was completely unprepared for the stream of more than 6,000 newly arriving deportees of the "Wagner-Bürckel-Aktion". The daily rations generally consisted of coffee substitutes and beet soup. Food was eaten in shifts - often several people had to share the dishes. There was no medical care. The camp inmates suffered from the cold, vermin and diseases such as diphtheria and dysentery. Although Gurs was not an extermination camp like Auschwitz, thousands of inmates died due to the poor living conditions, most of them in the hard winter of 1940/41.
Only a few deportees possessed emigration papers and were able to leave the country legally in the summer of 1942, mostly to the USA. The nearly 4,000 southwest German Jews who had survived until then were shortly afterwards taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor extermination camps and murdered.
Courtesy of Judith Weidermann, managing editor of "ekiba intern", public relations officer at the Zentrum für Kommunikation (ZfK) and responsible for public relations in the Evangelischen Landeskirche in Baden (Protestant Regional Church in Baden).
Gerettete und ihre RetterInnen
In the publication "GERETTETE UND IHRE RETTERINNEN - Jüdische Kinder im Lager Gurs: Fluchthilfe tut not - eine notwendige Erinnerung nach 80 Jahren" Brigitte and Gerhard Brändle take a previously unrealized look at the Gurs camp. With this, both the children and young people and their rescuers are given a voice and face and a monument of remembrance is set.