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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Sacred Memory/Prosaic History: Rivesaltes Memorial Camp (Lyndsey Stonebridge)

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lyndsey stonebridge

Literature and human rights scholar Lyndsey Stonebridge reflects on the meanings of commemoration in the context of refugee politics, following a visit to the Memorial Museum at Rivesaltes camp.1

In October 2017 I visited the new memorial museum at Rivesaltes camp in south-west France for the first time. Like Gurs, where the political philosopher Hannah Arendt was interned in 1940, Rivesaltes was never just one kind of camp. Originally an army barracks, it was turned into a refugee camp for republicans fleeing Spain in 1938. In 1939 it became an internment camp for enemy undesirables then, after Vichy, a deportation to death camp for the Jews. 2,289 people, mainly women and children, were sent to the extermination camps between 11 August and the end of October 1942. As the war ended, Rivesaltes housed prisoners-of-war and collaborators. Algerian pieds noirs moved in briefly in the 1950s, followed, more permanently, by Algerian Muslims who had fought with the French between 1954 and 1962. As Benjamin Thomas White notes in his piece about Rivesaltes on the Refugee History blog2 – and this isn’t made explicit in the exhibition – the camp was opened again in 1980 to hold ‘illegal immigrants’ from Spain. This was the same year Spain joined the European Union so that purpose was quickly made redundant, but, given that the barracks had already opened it was easy enough to detain ←81 | 82→non-EU and undocumented migrants instead. The last left in 2007, when plans to...

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