Remembering La Retirada

Post date: 05/03/2019

Our French sister organisation ACER is organising a memorial tour of La Retirada this summer. The itinerary (Google translated) is here (ACER Retirada Tour.doc).


For those who don’t know the connection between La Retirada and the SCW, a brief summary, courtesy of Nancy Phillips, follows.


In early 1939, nearly half a million Spanish civilians and soldiers fled to France. The word Retirada (Spanish for retreat) was adopted to signify this exodus, which was the largest single influx of refugees ever known in France. 


Refugees included women and children as well as those named as ‘communists’ or ‘foreign undesirables’. Women and children were initially sent to accommodation centres and about 60,000 men were herded into internment camps on the beach at Argelès-sur-Mer. These camps had no protection from freezing temperatures and biting winds, apart from a few improvised flimsy shacks. Most men slept in holes dug in the ground. There was no water, no sanitation and scarcely any food. 


Similar internment camps soon followed. The exiles were later moved to designated ‘concentration camps’ spread over the south of France. After the German occupation of France, they were joined by other undesirables, including East European Jews and ‘gypsies’.


Thousands died in the Nazi gas chambers – especially at Mauthausen. Many surviving exiles joined the French Resistance and contributed substantially to the liberation of France. A third of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s present-day population are descendants of these Spanish refugees.



Posted on 5 March 2019.

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