Camp Gurs was an internment and refugee camp constructed by the French government in 1939. The camp was originally set up in southwestern France after the fall of Catalonia at the end of the Spanish Civil War to control those who fled Spain out of fear of retaliation from Francisco Franco's regime.
At the start of the World War II, the French government interned Germans and citizens of other Axis Powers, as well as French nationals who were considered to have dangerous political ideas or who were imprisoned for ordinary crimes.
After the Vichy government signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, it became an Internment camp for Jews of any nationality except French, as well as people considered dangerous by the government.
There were 382 cabins without windows or other insulation. They did not offer protection from the cold, and the tarred fabric soon began to deteriorate, allowing rainwater to enter the cabins. Closets were nonexistent, and residents slept on sacks of straw gathered place on the floor. Despite the fact that each cabin had an area of only 25 square metres, each cabin had to lodge up to 60 people during times of peak occupancy.
Food was scarce and poor in quality; there was no sanitation, running water, or plumbing. The camp had poor drainage. In each îlot there were rudimentary toilets, not very different from the sort of troughs that would be used to feed animals. There was also a platform about 2 metres high, which one climbed using steps, and upon which were built additional toilets. Under the platform there were large tubs that collected excrement. Once they were full they were transported out of the camp in carts.
Around the camp there were small buildings that housed the administration and the guard corps. The administration and care of the camp was conducted under military auspices until the fall of 1940, when a civil administration was installed by the Vichy regime.
After France's liberation, Gurs housed German prisoners of war and French collaborators. Before its final closure in 1946, the camp also held former Spanish Republican fighters who participated in the Resistance against the German occupation, because their decided will to end the fascist dictatorship imposed by Franco made them threatening in the eyes of the Allies.