Saturday, October 29, 2016

The internment of gypsies: France recognizes its responsibility – The Point

After the Harkis and the Armenians, François Hollande has continued with Saturday work memory started since the beginning of his five-year term, recognizing the responsibility of France in the internment of thousands of Gypsies during the Second world War.

This visit on the site of the former internment camp of Montreuil-Bellay (Maine-et-Loire), classified as historical Monuments since 2012, was the first by a French president since the internment of Gypsies and travellers by the Vichy regime and until 1946.

“The Republic recognizes the suffering of the nomads who were interned and admits that its responsibility is great in this drama,” said the tenant of the Elysée palace, during a ceremony of national homage where were present many of the survivors. “A country, ours, is always greater when it recognizes its history,” he added before more than 500 guests, many of whom are descendants of internees.

Seventy years after the release of the last Gypsies interned in France, their descendants and the associations were waiting with emotion to official recognition of their suffering.

“It was important for us to have this recognition. It represents thousands and thousands of families homeless”, greeted, stirred, Fernand Delage, who is president of the association France Liberté Voyage. “It is late, but better late than never.”

“It was time, and I hope that the young people coming up in the world will not have to live it, or see it,” said André José Fernandez, one of the survivors of this camp.

“it hurts, it really hurts to come back here, especially with our parents, I had five little brothers, and me the oldest? then I lost my mother, who is now a fugitive, we did what we could, but we were very unfortunate”, testified Henriette Deschelotte, another survivor.

– A distrust nourished by ancestral fears’ -

About the close of Sandrine Renaire, president of the association of the Friends of the camp gypsies of Montreuil-Bellay (AMCT), created in 2005 to preserve this site, they “never left Saumur, for fear of being taken over on the roads and to be locked up. Be deprived of their liberty, it is the worst thing that could happen to them.”

“Almost all the families of the people on the trip have at least one member which is passed through Montreuil-Bellay”, stressed François Hollande, after being made with the implementation of commemorative “Instant nomade” of the artist-ceramist Armelle Benedict, a portico of eight columns on which were engraved the names of 473 families are interned.

The president also referred to the current discussion in Parliament of the draft law on Equality and citizenship, expressing the hope that the emergency legislation which, since 1969, requires the traveller to hold a booklet of circulation, may soon be abolished.

The socialist deputy of Loire-Atlantique and president of the national consultative commission of travellers Dominique Raimbourg “has proposed the repeal” of the law, recalled the head of State. “It will be, I hope, decided on by the Parliament, for that the travellers no longer have this booklet of circulation to produce it, for they are citizens like the others.”

as early As 1912, in order to settle, the French authorities had imposed the “nomads” a book anthropometric identity. Then on April 6, 1940, a decree had been assigned to his residence during the duration of the war. “Officially,” in the name of the demands of war”, this decree was made “primarily because of a distrust nourished by ancestral fears, prejudices and ignorance,” said François Hollande.

Montreuil-Bellay was the largest of the 31 camps run by the French authorities until 1946, in which were confined between 6,000 and 6,500 nomadic.

More than 2,000 nomads, Gypsies but also of the homeless of Nantes, there were internees from November 1941 to January 1945. A hundred perished.

The State had taken a first step towards the recognition of the participation of France in this internment family in July 2010, by the voice of the former secretary of veterans affairs, Hubert Falco, speaking at a “national Day of memory of victims of racist crimes and anti-semitism of the French State”.

29/10/2016 17:55:44 – Montreuil-Bellay (France) (AFP) – © 2016 AFP


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