Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nazis and Puppies

I had been feeling a little stir-crazy and sad about not having anything to do/anywhere to go last week. So imagine my happiness when David came home on Thursday night declaring that he didn't have to work the next day... and that we should go visit a concentration camp together instead! That is not his idea of fun, so it was really nice that he thought about me on his unexpected day off.

The Camp des Milles is just outside of Aix-en-Provence, about 1.5 hours away. The building was a former tile factory. It served 3 different purposes during WWII. 

Before the French defeat, it was a prison for "enemy" civilians (a.k.a. Germans). Ironically, most German civilians in France in 1939/40 were actually anti-Nazi and had come to France to escape the Nazis.

After the French waved the white flag, Les Milles became an internment camp for Jews.  For a few years, inmates could try to immigrate abroad. We sympathized when we read about the mountain of paperwork desperate people tried to complete to be allowed to leave France. Not to say that we're living in a concentration camp. But we do have lots of frustrating paperwork.

By 1942, immigration became impossible. At that point, Les Milles was used as a "waiting room" for Auschwitz. About 2,000 French Jews were sent from Les Milles, to Drancy (near Paris), and then to their deaths in Poland. This camp was completely run by the French Vichy regime and not the Nazis. It was actually in the "Free Zone" not occupied by the Nazis until later in the war.

Train tracks that are just outside
As expected, inmates in Les Milles were kept in terrible conditions. One window upstairs was marked with a plaque that said it was used by many people to jump out of and commit suicide. It was 65 degrees and windy outside when visited, and it was cold and drafty inside... I can only imagine what it was like in the winter.

Room for female prisoners
The creepiest aspect was that the male prisoners slept in OVENS in the basement. Since the building used to be a tile factory, there are rows and rows of huge kilns.

There was a lot of graffiti left behind by the inmates. This one says- freedom, life, peace."

We were surprised by how great the museum was. There was so much information and so many pictures and videos. Here are a few disturbing propaganda posters that were displayed.

"The bad days are over! Daddy's making money in Germany!"

About 1 million French citizens were sent to the Reich as forced/slave laborers during the war. One of them was David's grandpa.

"Tuberculosis, syphilis, and cancer are treatable. We must finish off the greatest plague: the Jew."

The top floor of the museum was devoted to the theme of how something like the Holocaust could have happened, and how to prevent future genocides. It was very well done! They presented a lot of the same studies that we talked about in my "Psychological Explanations of the Holocaust" class in Israel (Milgram, Zimbardo, etc).

I was impressed that there was not ONE mention of Charles de Gaulle at this place. In most French history classes/books/museums, you will see 1000 mentions of the famous Resistance leader and 0 mentions of Philippe P├ętain, the head of the Nazi collaborationist government. #Soproud they didn't gloss over France's role in this tragedy.

So... awkward transition time. Friday was about Nazis, but Saturday was about PUPPIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really should have done this in separate blog posts, but too late.

I am so puppy hungry it's not even funny. I want one so bad, but dogs aren't allowed in our apartment. Otherwise I would have 100% adopted a French dog and had it immigrate with us to America. 

When I saw an ad for a puppy fair in the next town over, I knew we HAD to go to help me get my puppy fix.

The only disappointment wasn't that it wasn't a petting zoo. You weren't allowed to touch the puppies unless you were buying one. They were too young to have had all of their vaccinations, so it wouldn't have been safe. I was sad, but happy they cared about the puppies' health.

Um, I did touch one subtly though. It looked really soft and was in a cage all alone. It licked me as a thank-you.

Did that make you feel better after the Holocaust stuff? It did for me, too.

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