The forgotten wartime persecution of France's 'nomads'

By Pierre-Yves Bulteau

The shameful mass internment of gypsies in camps across France between 1940 and 1946 remained a largely forgotten wartime episode until it finally received official recognition three years ago. Later this month, as part of that process, a ceremony will take place in homage to those who were placed in one of the camps, at Moisdon-la-Rivière in north-west France, where some died from the dire conditions. Pierre-Yves Bulteau traces the history of the persecution, and interviews survivors and witnesses of the horrors at the camp for "nomads" at Moisdon-la-Rivière.

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For Christophe Sauvé, “one must always put life there where there is death”. Sauvé is a Catholic priest and chaplain for the gypsy community, into which he was born, in the diocese of Nantes, in north-west France. For the past ten years he has painstakingly researched through the diocesan archives to create a register of the names of those from the community who died in the region where one of France’s shameful wartime secrets was, in 2016, finally officially recognised.