Research | The internment places

Studies of the penal and internment places 1938-1945

In 1999 the foundation started with the important work of an inventory of the internment places, which were used in France and in the former colonies between 1938 and 1945. A working group managed the researches, which were organized by members of the Ministry of Defence (Direction Mémoire Patrimoine et Archives), the Ministry of Culture (Archive de France), historians and scientists, as well as members of associations and clubs of former inmates.

To operate the project, the foundation benefits from the allowance of different institutions: the prime minister, the Ministry of Defence (office for former soldiers), the European Commission and the City of Paris.

// Project

The foundations goal is to collect an inventory of documents concerning the internment places in France. Provision is made for a data base, which archives the information and opens it to the public. The places are listed to the following points:

  • Name of the place
  • Geographical position
  • Class and description
  • Management
  • Functional period
  • Prisoners
  • Sources and bibliographies

// Work

The field of research is large, the archives numerous and widespread and the sources important. But this variety of sources (historical works, reports of contemporary witnesses, professional and private archives, associations and individuals) makes possible to collect the essential information. Supplementary cooperation treaties were disposed with the archives, the “International Office for Former Soldiers” and the “Friends’ Association of the Foundation”. Short of, the networking and the competences of the foundation and its partners form a complementary union of knowledge.

Part of the researches are all places, where people were locked up and arrested by the arrangements mentioned below and robbed of freedom by the public authorities:

  • The authorities of the Third Reich (November 1938 till June/July 1944)
  • The government of Vichy (July 1940 till August 1944)
  • The occupying powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) in France and in the colonies (June 1940 till September 1945)
  • The temporary French government (September 1944 till May 1946)

// Internment places from 1938 to 1945

1939-1946: This period of time differs just a little in the time of World War II. On 12th of November 1938 the decree concerning the introduction of the imprisonment was proclaimed. The last prisoner was released in May 1946.

// Different categories of places

A) Official institutions

a) Official institutions managed by Frenchs:
Places, where people were locked up by an official process because of the laws of November 12th 1938 (or November 18th 1939, September 3rd 1940, February 15th 1942, March 3rd 1943 and so on). Examples: Rieucros, Gurs, LeVernet, Fort-Barreaux, Saint-Sulpice-le-Pointe. (These camps had different names over the years: centre de séjour surveillé, centre spécial de rassemblement, camp de concentration…)

b) Official institutions managed by Germans:
Places, where persons were locked up by an official process of the German occupying power in France: protective custody or arrest by the German police. Examples: Compiègne, Romainville, Vittel

B) Collective points

Room to hold the arrestees together, before their transfer to official camps. Examples: Vélodrome d’Hiver, Stade Rolland-Garros (in September 1939 used for members of the Third Reich) or Vénissieux (in August 1942 used by the government of Vichy to collect the Jews in the South).

C) Institutions for penal system

People, who were taken under arrest as a precaution or got a warrant of arrest (in both cases because of political and ideological reasons), including the areas of German power in prisons, as well as the prisons managed completely by the German. These prisoners were condemned by German military-court, but they could serve their time in French prisons. Furthermore there are clandestine arrested prisoners of the “Night and Fog”-actions. (These prisons belong to two categories: prisons and German internment camps).

D) Camps to collect foreign workers

Decided by the government of Vichy (law of September 27th 1940). This category includes camps, in which the prisoners were supervised both in the camp and at their workplace. (There were different types of controlling. Each of the types had different consequences for the prisoners.)

E) Short-time institutions

a) Institutional:
(Managed by French authorities) cells for suspects or prisoners of prevention in the institutions of French authorities (which were used by Germans sometimes); Examples: cells at a gendarmerie or at a police station.

b) Improvisational:
(Managed by the security service or the militia) rooms changed into cells, in which interrogation were realized or persons were hold on for a certain time; Examples: Gestapo, militia

F) Repression camps for military

Colditz, Lübeck, Rawa-Ruska (Ukraine), Graudenz, Kobjercyn (Poland); arrested persons have the right to be called “Résistant”

G) Forced labour camps of the organisation Todt

There the German occupying power collected workers to force them to build up the “Atlantic Wall”. (Camps which employed volunteers are not included)

// Additional information

Sometimes the nomination of the places does not correspondent with the nomination given by the authorities at that time, but rather it is a suggestion for the systematization nowadays.

The original nomination is written down in the documents in summary of the data base. Some places changed their function in the meantime and with it their category too. Other camps had more than one function at the same time.

These categories are not yet part of the data base:

  • Prisons in the South-East of France arranged by the Italian authorities
  • Japanese and Vietnamese prisons
  • Spanish camps (arranged under Franco) for the refugees coming out of France
  • The military prisons in France

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