Concentration Camp

Concentration Camp The article that this paper will be based and discussed upon is titled Berthes prison diary, written by Hanna Diamond. Berthes prison diary can be found in the August 1999 issue of History Today, volume 49, pages 43-49. During World War II, it was known that many people suffered. People suffered from the casualties of war, suffered because of their class, but especially because of their race. The group to suffer the most were the Jewish.

Over 6 million were killed because of no crime but because of their race. Berthes prison diary is about a woman named Berthe A. and her experience in the French prisons for collaborators. Besides Berthes personal experience in prison, through her diary, we also get accounts on how the other people were treated. France gets invaded on May 10, 1940 by the Nazis.

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On June 22, 1940, France signs treay of peace with the Nazis. Paris is liberated on August 25, 1944. The setting begins in the August of 1944 in Toulouse, France. It was a time of despair and confusion. France was in a chaos.

People were hungry and were left in poor conditions. The Germans had finally left Toulouse after their defeat. Joy came at first to the French when the Liberation finally came, yet it soon turned to hatred and vengeance. There was hatred to those that had helped the Germans succeed and also for those that allied with the Germans. These people were labeled collaborators.

Even men and women that were seen with Germans were hated. They were tracked down and even arrested. Some were even attacked and worse, killed. Berthe A. was the director of laboratory research in the Faculty of Science at the University of Toulouse.

On the twenty-second of August in 1944, at about three oclock (according to Berthe), someone knocked on her door and soon enough Berthe was arrested. Of those that were arrested, many did not know why they were arrested or what was happening to them. It is only later that Berthe finds out that she was arrested because she was accused of being a collaborator because she had belonged to a group called Collaboration. Collaboration was a French group for continental unity and was formed in the autumn of 1940. Berthe tells us through her diary that although she had paid subscription fees, she however, never attended any of the meetings or participated in any of the activities. Berthe as well as other suspected collaborators spent their first few months at the St Michel prison in the heart of Toulouse.

In her cell, which held forty women, she realized what certain people she was placed with. The women, for the most part, were prostitutes from the brothels. These prostitutes were those that have served the Germans because the Germans had money and power. After the liberation, these women were especially targeted as victims. More often times, these women were taken to questioning and would return bruised and distressed.

Some even had their heads saved and had swastikas painted on them. For the worst part, these women were marched around the streets naked where they returned morally and physically wounded. According to Berthe, although the prison authorities tried to make the women feel uncomfortable about where they were, many of the women supported each other. Even those of different class knew how to get along with each other. There was actually no sense of class.

After about four weeks at St Michel, Berthe was transferred to the Camp of Noe (40km from Toulouse). Berthe then indicated that life was much more tolerable at the camp then at prison. For one thing, life was less severe and better organized. The environment was much more relaxed and more space was available. However, this environment this not last long. For there were soon more people getting arrested and the atmosphere became less comfortable.

According to Berthe, most women were arrested because they carried out black market activities with the Germans or they had let the Germans take their room. Some even were believed to be the Germans girlfriends. There were was also another group of women that was also arrested. And this was because they were involved with the group Malice. Others were arrested in place of their husbands or brothers that have escaped with the Germans.

Most of the accusations, however, were almost impossible to prove. One of the biggest problems faced by authorities were what to charge people and what punishment was to be given. Berthe was acquitted but when she appeared in court on the third of July in 1945, there were no accusations made to her. The jury lifted her accusation as there was no evidence to the contrary. Berthe was recommended to be released in ten days.

This outcome however was not unusual. As noted before, it was almost impossible to find evidence for what people were accused of. However, the courts of justice did condemn 248 people to death, 16 of whom were executed. The courts also discharged 461 citizens and deprived 716 of their civil rights. 474 other people were given prison sentences. However, most of these sentenced were pardoned in the 1950s. The only substantial relationship that I have found to be related to the chapter is the conditions of the results of World War II.

France was invaded by the Nazis; however it was not the Nazis that had mistreated or tortured the French as they did with the Jews but it was the French themselves. What the French did were similar to what Hitler did to the Jews but in a less severe perspective. The French arrested people and put them into camps and prisons as the Nazis did to the Jews in Germany (arresting them and then sending them to concentration camps). However, the French were more sympathetic to their own people. At the least, the people were not put in gas chambers and slaughtered because of their race. From reading this article, I received a different perspective of the second World War. Not all people were condemned to death by their enemies. Most however, suffered from internal turmoil.

This article also showed that it was not only the men that suffered from the war but women as well. Did this article however enhance my understanding of Chapter 29 is still somewhat of a question. In a way it has, to the point that I understood the outcome of another group besides the Jews. Yet, if I had not read this article, my understanding of Chapter 29 would not have been of a such great impact. History Reports.


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