On Sunday things aren't open like they are on other days. For example, had to sit in a boulangerie eating a "pain au chocolat" (what some call a chocolate croissant) and café au lait rather in the cute English bookstore. And sit next to a couple of young women who were speaking American Valley Girl.
I decided to visit what turns out to be a fairly new memorial to Camp Les Milles. This is a somber display using contemporary news clippings, diaries, personal documents (identity papers), art and even grafitti to provide a look at life in Camp Les Milles, a few miles outside Aix. This location housed, pre-war (WW II), a successful factory that made industrial "baked goods" like bricks and the pretty red tiles that are widely used on European roofs. With the advent of the war, the property, which was quite huge, was appropriated as an internment camp to detain "enemies of the state". When France was conquered by the Germans, the enemies, of course, greatly increased in numbers to include not only enemies of France but enemies of the Reich, including gypsies, homosexuals, communists and other "known subversives". And when Germany went full-bore with the "final solution" the camp became not only a detention center but a deportation center to the death camps. The deportation of 11,000 Jewish children is documented in photos, ID papers, schoolwork they did, and was so heart-wrenching I couldn't get through it and had to take a short-cut exit.
I have read many historical books and novels of the period, but none of these make the terror of the period as visceral as this memorial. It was certainly worthwhile to spend a few hours here, but I can not honestly say it was a "good day". Rather, a day of shame for all we, as Americans never did to prevent, discourage, or even acknowledge the genocide that was so obvious at the time. The worst part? A multi-media series of sketches of genocide that continues to flare up today: Bosnia, Rwanda, and the racial hatred between Hindus and Moslems in South Asia, the festering hatred of the middle east, and others. When, I wonder, are we going to grow up?
Hard to feel too upbeat after today but maybe after a good sleep.