Oral History

Hanne Hirsch Liebmann describes conditions in the Gurs camp

Hanne's family owned a photographic studio. In October 1940, she and other family members were deported to the Gurs camp in southern France. In September 1941, the Children's Aid Society (OSE) rescued Hanne and she hid in a children's home in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Her mother perished in Auschwitz. In 1943, Hanne obtained false papers and crossed into Switzerland. She married in Geneva in 1945 and had a daughter in 1946. In 1948, she arrived in the United States..


Gurs was a camp full of mud. It was clay. When it rained, you sank into the clay up to your knees. The first persons we lost or one woman we lost really choked to death in the mud. She went at night to the latrine. She fell. She could not extricate herself and she died. So our experiences were horrendous. It is not...I would not say Gurs was Auschwitz, but it was what they called the little Hell before the big one, meaning Auschwitz. Our food was minimal. France was short on food, it is true. Uh...the French felt called upon to steal much of the money that was allocated to feed us so instead of the little, there was even less. There were people in the camp who stole...were in a position to steal and did, of this little food. So it was really a very difficult, difficult survival.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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