Saturday, 16 May 2009

10 [6 November 2008]

I was house-sitting for a friend last week at Elne, whilst I was there I visited the Maternite Suisse D'Elne (Swiss Maternity Hospital at Elne) which was active from 1939 - 1944. At this converted mansion mothers who were held captive at the camps of Rivesaltes, Barcares, St Cyprien and Argeles could go to the hospital to give birth (4 weeks prior and 4 weeks following, they then returned to the camps).

The house was restored last year and is now a museum documenting the work of a Red Cross worker: Elisabeth Eidenbenz, who set up and managed the hospital - she saved the life of 500 children.

Whilst I was there, there was a large Spanish family looking around, three generations, some were moved to tears as they looked at the exhibits. I watched as they posed for photographs. I presume that one of the family was born at the hospital during the war.

The house has a really peaceful atmosphere which reflects its role during the war as a little pocket of hope in the midst of despair at the camps.

As part of my documentation of the camps of this area of France I plan to return to make some videos (once I have completed editing recent footage made at Rivesaltes and Argeles).


Top: 'Maternite Suisse, Elne'. Courtesy: Maternite Suisse, Elne.

Bottom: 'Staff with a child outside the Maternite Suisse, Elne'. Courtesy: Maternite Suisse, Elne.

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