1170 km to Gurs

In front of the main railroad station in Mannheim there is a sign which at first glance looks like a perfectly normal yellow road sign, such as you might find on any regional highway in Germany: “Gurs 1170 km”.

But wait! These signs don’t normally point to places over a thousand kilometers away. And who ever heard of a place called Gurs, anyhow?

Well, if you’ve ever been to Freiburg im Breisgau you may recall that Freiburg has a similar sign with a different number: “Gurs 1027 km”.

The explanation is that Gurs, a city in the southwest corner of France, was the site of a concentration camp that was used by the Nazi collaborators of the Vichy government to intern Jews and other people considered undesirable by the Nazis.

Jews from both Freiburg and Mannheim were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Gurs in 1940. Almost all of them, including two thousand from Mannheim alone, were later deported to the east and murdered in the death camps at Auschwitz or Maidanek.

So these signs are a tribute to the murdered Jews and a reminder of how they were put to death.

My photo in this post is from 2008. I revised the text in 2018.

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