The Camp des Milles is the only French imprisonment camp and deportation that remained intact after the Second World War. It is since 2012 an indispensable place of memory, where many visitors come to get engaged in private prayer but also to get educated each year.
The camp was opened in 1939 in an old factory in the municipality of Aix. First, they have sent there for imprisonment "enemy" or "undesirable" subjects, foreigners and anti-fascists. Then, in 1942, there are thousands of Jews who have passed in this place before leaving for Auschwitz. The "free zone" will send no fewer than 10,000 Jews to Germany.
Being the embarrassment of the region and also that of France, the existence of the camp was long a taboo. But some testimonies of former prisoners gradually broke the silence and in the late 1970s the academics made a start on research works. In the early 1980s, the "murals room" was soon to be destroyed - many artists and intellectuals had been interned at the Camp des Milles: Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Max Lingner, Alfred Kantorowic, to name a few (There are about 350 works produced at the Camp des Milles). Faced with this announcement, former deportees and intellectuals joined the representative council of the Jewish institutions of France (CRIF) and the Aix-en-Provence Town Council to demand the classification of the place. It was obtained in 1982.
The Camp des Mille now spreads out an educational path for visitors of all ages, in three parts. The historical section calls to mind an international context, explains the history of the site and its actors. The memorial component allows the public to see the traces left by the prisoners and to hear the testimonies of the survivors. The reflexive aspect, finally, invites the visitor to wonder about the roots of this abomination that was the Shoah.