Le Camp des Milles

The “Camp des Milles” (historical background)

Art and Resistance

(For information about Roman Kroke’s project on this topic, please click the menus right from the white arrow)

The “Camp des Milles” was an internment and deportation camp (1939-1942), located in the south of France, nearby Aix-en-Provence. The camp was exclusively under French authority – first under the Third Republic, followed by the Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazi Germany. In the camp a total of 10 000 people of 38 different nationalities had been detained, among whom many artists and intellectuals. More than 2,000 Jewish men, women and children were deported from “Les Milles” via Rivesaltes or Drancy to the extermination camps in Eastern Europe. The historic building, a former brick manufacture, could be preserved and, since September 2013, accommodates a memorial site.

An unique characteristic of the “Camp des Milles” is the rich and varied artistic activity of its internees (see www.campdesmilles.org / culture.html):

This phenomenon can be explained by the presence of numerous artists and intellectuals, some of whom already had an international reputation, while others were not known until after the war. Virtually all disciplines were represented: PAINTING and DRAWING (especially Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Robert Liebknecht, Ehrlich called Gustav “Gus”, Eric Isenburg, Ferdinand Springer, Werner Laves, Leo Marschütz, Franz Meyer, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze called “Wols “, Max Lingner and Karl Bodek; LITERATURE (especially Lion Feuchtwanger, Alfred Kantorowicz, Golo Mann, Franz Hessel, Friedrich Wolf); MUSIC (such as the pianist and composer Erich Itor Kahn); THEATRE with actors, singers and stage directors (for instance Friedrich Schramm and Max Schlesinger); SCULPTURE (Peter Lipman-Wulf), etc. In addition, among the internees was also Otto Meyerhof, a Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1922, as well as the later Nobel Prize Winner Thadeus Reichstein (Medicine, 1950).

Many of the artists continued their artistic work in the camp, strongly influenced in their creations by the circumstances associated with the internment. For them the artistic work was often a possible way to preserve a degree of human dignity, but also to drive away the tedium, to morally support the other internees, sometimes even to gain privileges from the camp administration in exchange of their artworks. The camp authorities were quite tolerant towards these artistic activities. There were even official commissions assigned, notably the imposing murals in the dining room of the guardians (1941) which could be preserved and can now be visited as part of the memorial site.

One of the artists involved in this artwork, the Austrian photographer and painter Karl Bodek, was deported to Auschwitz and murdered there in 1942. His most distinguished surviving artwork has therefore not only become an important witness of his creative potential but at the same time an authentic monument of the genocide organized by French authorities (Angelika Gausmann, Deutschsprachige bildende Künstler im Internierungs- und Deportationslager Les Milles 1939-1942, Verlag Ch. Möllmann, 1997, p. 87).

Additional Information:












The “Camp des Milles” (1939-1942)

Art project “in process” by Roman Kroke

Roman Kroke started his research with respect to the « Camp des Milles » during an artist in residence scholarship by the organisation « La Non-Maison » (Aix-en-Provence, January-March 2013): Residency-Report

His future painting will be a reflection on the history, present and future of this multifaceted location: brick manufacture – detention and deportation camp – memorial site – … . The graphical artwork will be complemented by text sources linked to the biographies of former internees (memoirs, diaries, letters etc.).

The cooperation with the Collège Charles Péguy (Palaiseau/France) with the pilot-workshop on this topic was awarded the prize « Prix Ilan Halimi contre les discriminations et l’antisémitisme » (10.000,-€) by the Conseil général de l’Essonne (France), February 2014: