Europe Travel

Camp des Milles

Camp des Milles is now a memorial site. It was a 1900s tile factory which was transformed into a detention camp in September 1939. Thousands of Jews were sent to Auschwitz from this place. It is worth a visit, without any doubt. It is one of the best museums I’ve seen and surely the best from France I saw in my 2-week trip. It’s better to allow for half of day, to walk through the village as well, and it takes about 3 hours to properly see the museum, as there are some very interesting videos.

Camp des Milles

The camp is visible in the back with a path honouring The Righteous Among the Nations who were directly connected to the Camp des Milles. This memorial site is not exclusively about the Holocaust and they talk about other genocides too. They also present the rise of extremist ideology. So, this is a place to learn, to reflect, to understand, and to remember.

In 2015 this site was chosen by UNESCO as the headquarters for its new Chair of Education for Citizenship, Human Sciences and Shared Memories. It is important because it is the only large interment site in France which is still intact.

Memorial site entrance

The museum’s entrance fee is only 10€. In the mornings is very busy with school trips. My suggestion is to visit it when I did, at about 1pm. There is plenty of time to see everything, and it is a bit quieter.
The museum is in a small village, called Les Milles, within easy reach from Aix-en-Provence with the bus or, of course, by car. I used public transport and buses are often and cheap during weekdays.

Camp des Milles

This is a former tile factory, opened in the 1880s, which functioned until 1937. The location was great because it had a nearby train station already in place. The tour starts by waiting for a video to start and in that waiting area there are details about the 3 people who envisaged this memorial site.
The camp opened in early September 1939.

Nazi propaganda

The rise of extremism is presented in the first place, with the genocide of Armenians (by Turks, during WWI) and the rise of anti-Semitism. I like that they showed the extremism not only as Nazi, but as soviets as well.

Underneath the flags are newspapers with relevant articles highlighted. The choice of newspapers is interesting as the board mentions these were among the most important newspapers at that time. This is what people in France read.


One newspaper that caught my eyes was this one. The highlighted article is about Dachau and its title is “Concentration camp for 5,000 people”. The newspaper page is from 22 March 1933, when Dachau opened. If you don’t know, Dachau was the first camp to open in Germany, shortly after Hitler took power.

What is even more interesting is that lower on the same page is an article with the title “Life in Bucharest”, you can see where it started and it goes on to the 3rd column. The importance of Dachau was not understood. The article stated that communists and Marxists will be kept there, people who are “a menace to the state”. Dachau was made because there weren’t enough prisons.

The article on Romania is very interesting too. The author talks about parties and lack of restrictions. There were communist agitators. There is a bit of talk about economy, after the Great Depression, it’s not exactly surprising. The article also mentions that Romanian intellectuals are collaborating closely with French ones.

Talks about what constitutes free speech, which was used by the far-right to justify their hate speech, were mentioned. Also the 23 August 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact is mentioned. In British museums somehow the soviet involvement is rarely mentioned, but the French are much more clear and correct in how they present the history of WWII.


The museum talks about the lives of those interred there. Initially, in September 1939, Germans and Austrians were imprisoned there. Many of these people fled these two countries due to their anti-Semitic laws. So, in this camp in 1939 there were Jews alongside Nazi sympathisers.

France entered the war on 3 September 1939, the camp des Milles was requisitioned on the 4th, and on the 7th the first people arrived there. On those stands there are pictures of the people who were interred in the camp and who survived. Artwork made by them is also shown in a room on the left.

work area

Work area for tile making is preserved as it was. After WWII, tiles were once again produced in des Milles. This meant that many of the artwork on the walls was destroyed.

work area

Auschwitz uniform

Auschwitz uniform, taken by a survivor and donated to the museum. There were many more stories on the walls and on display boards. All worth reading and remembering.



Toilets, all that there were available to the people in the camp. At some point, up to 3,000 people were interred there. Lines of people waiting to use them formed, taking all day, from morning to the evening curfew. Many had dysentery, normal in a camp with poor sanitation.

first floor

First floor, which was used as dormitory when there were too many to sleep only on the lower floor.



Graffiti are on the walls, protected and explained.


The factory is interesting in its own way. It is also huge.


This movie is about 20 minutes in length, only in French, but it is not very difficult to understand what it is about even if someone is not fluent in French. On the 3 walls there were presented different genocides. In the middle it was about Jews, with the russian-made Protocols of Zion mentioned. It’s important that the history starts with the russian element of anti-Semitism because this book was one that inspired Hitler and, others, such as Ford in US. On the left wall is about the Tutsi genocide. On the right wall is about the Armenian genocide or the gypsy genocide during WWII.


The wall of remembrance was moving. There are stories of people who saved others, not only Jews, but gypsies, or Armenians.

There are the stories of a Tunisian translator who shelters 2 Jewish families in his farm, a Belgian teacher who saves nearly 3,000 Jewish children, a gypsy in Kosovo who ensures all gypsies in that village were kept safe by threatening the Albanian authorities, an Albanian Muslim family saves a Jew, the Sultan of Morocco opposes the anti-Semitic laws of Vichy, Germans save a gypsy child in Halle, a Czech feeds a gypsy who was hiding in a forest, and a Ukrainian woman saves 2 Jewish children.

These are only a few of the stories on these boards, powerful stories of resistance and humanity.


Exhibition of children deported from France to Auschwitz. Out of 76,000 people deported, 11,400 were children.


Children with their life stories on the walls. This was incredibly sad to see.

train timetable

Trains timetable from Drancy to camps, mostly Auschwitz, but also Sobibor.

gas mask

This gas mask accompanies a harrowing story. It was given to a child when the war started. Mathilde was born in Poland and lived in Paris. In September 1939 she received a gas mask just like this, as all children in Paris area received, to protect them from German attacks. Mathilde and her 5 years old brother Bernard were deported on 31 July 1942. She died in a gas chamber.

The Righteous Among the Nations

A memorial dedicated to The Righteous Among the Nations is placed in front of the camp. All the panels are of a person or a family who helped Jews and received the recognition for their help. On the opposite side are olive trees. Like in Italy, olive trees are used for memorial sites.

cattle train

Cattle train used to transport Jews. It has inscribed on the doors how many people and how many horses fit in it.

list of people deported

List of people deported from Camp des Milles, almost 2,000 of them.

6 Comment

  1. The starkness of the photos inside are in such marked contrast to the blue skies outside. I can imagine this was a harrowing experience but, as Kelly commented previously, so very important. Thank you for sharing, Anca.

    1. Yes, the hot weather and blue skies outside where contrasting even more to the dark interior. Thank you for stopping by.

  2. This looks like an incredible site. All the horror stories are just heartbreaking. It’s the kind of place that can’t be described as fun to visit, but so necessary.

    1. At times I had tears in my eyes, so it’s not fun at all. But, as you said, it is a necessary visit, especially as they presented the information in such a great way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge