Argelès Memorial Camp (Argelès-sur-Mer Town Council)
MUME forms part of a transborder memorial project related to the Spanish Civil War Retreat and the Second World War between the areas of Girona and Languedoc-Roussillon.
In the south you can follow the signposted routes in L’Alt Empordà (Sites of Memory / Retreat and Exile), the Exile Memorial in Coll dels Belitres (Portbou-Cerbère), the Walter Benjamin Memorial in Portbou and the Exile Memorial Museum (MUME) in La Jonquera.
In the north you can visit the Antonio Machado Memorial in Collioure, the Swiss Maternity Hospital in Elne and the concentration camps memorials centers of Argelès and Rivesaltes. All these places form a set of highly diverse memorial references and sites of the Civil War, the Retreat, the Second World War and the deportation to the Nazi camps.
After the fall of Barcelona in January 1939 and the start of the end of the Civil War, around 500,000 people took the path into exile, an exodus that bears the popular name of the Retirada (Retreat). This mass arrival of people in the Eastern Pyrenees area (which at the time had a population of around 250,000 inhabitants) meant the separation and dispersion of families all over France and the construction of concentration camps in Roussillon, the most important of which were those of Argelès-sur-Mer, Saint-Cyprien, Le Barcarès and Rivesaltes.
In 1939, Argelès-sur-Mer was a small agricultural village of around 3,000 inhabitants where the French government decided to construct a concentration camp on the beach, to accommodate the Spanish Republican refugees.
Many of these refugees were civilians fleeing repression or soldiers who for three years had defended the democratically elected Spanish Republic, relatively forgotten by the western democracies due to the Non-Intervention Pact.
France had not prepared adequate accommodation for so many refugees and the most important measures were related to security and social control. In crossing the Pyrenees many families were separated and dispersed in diverse concentration camps and hostels around France. Women and children were sent all over France and the men ended up in the camps. Argelès-sur-Mer camp was the first of those built in Roussillon and in a few months it housed over 80,000 people. Nothing had been prepared for them and at first only the sand and clothes they wore offered them protection. Later, other camps were opened, such as that of Saint-Cyprien and Barcarès.
Between 1939 and 1945, more than 250,000 people passed through the camps of Roussillon, first Spaniards but later, with the Second World War, Jews, gypsies, Italian antifascists and Germans.
Based in Argelès-sur-Mer, CIDER (Centre international de documentation et d’études de la Retirada), with the institutional support of Argelès-sur-Mer Town Council, received funding, along with other institutions, from the Interreg III-A programme, which meant the construction of MUME and the start of diverse activities of CIDER.
The Argelès Memorial Camp is located in Argelès-sur-Mer (Roussillon, France), Avenue de la Libération, 26, and works to promote the understanding of events of the 1939 Retreat and the exodus of Spanish Republican refugees to France at the end of the Spanish Civil War, the refugee camps in Roussillon and, also, the camps in the south of France. The municipal study centre also houses and organises temporary exhibitions on these themes. To date, Argelès Memorial Camp has organised several exhibitions on the International Brigades, the artists of the concentration camps and the internment of Jews, among others.
The objectives of Argelès Memorial Camp are basically to collect eyewitness and documentary information on the Retreat and the passage, life and coexistence of the refugees in the area; to pedagogically explain democratic values; and to organise exhibitions, lectures and publications on exile and concentration camps. To this end, it has received European aid from the Conseil Général des Pyrénées-Orientales, the Région Languedoc-Roussillon and the Generalitat de Catalunya.
Argelès Memorial Camp contact:
26, Avenue de la Libération
Tel. 0033 468 958 503