As of September 1939, 2,000 Germans and Autrichiens arrive at MESLAY coming from the Gathering Center of DOVES.
Installed on a muddy ground with localities the "Rochères", the tents did not resist the storm in mid-October. It was then necessary to carry out the transfer, at the end of October, on another ground with the locality "the Pottery". One could then build hard huts there, but the living conditions remained more precarious there.
The camp was placed under the control of the Battalion of Foreigners' Guard n° 4.
The camp was removed in April 1940.
Back of the letter
Thanks to the kindness of Mr. A. GEDOVIUS who accepted to entrust to me a correspondence addressed at that time to his father, Mr. H. GEDOVIUS (1911-1979) - radio producer, introducer of jazz in France with Hugues PANASSIE, artistic director of Radio-City and Radio 37-, interesting details were given to me about the Camp at MESLAY. I express to him all my gratitude.
This mail emanates from an ex-Austrian internee, Georges BACHRICH, who put forward the whole physical and moral suffering endured during this heavy period. Here are some elements.
In a letter addressed to the LICA (International League against the Anti-semitism), at PARIS, he recalls the conditions of his arrest on September 11, 1939. Convened for a few hours at the Stadium at COLOMBES for a checking of its papers of ex-Austrian, it does not set out again and discovers the pangs of long nights spent on the concrete benches of the staduim. A few days later, he is transferred with nearly 2000 compatriots towards the CAMP at MESLAY. Several nights then passed on grass, nothing having been envisaged for the arrival of such a number of internees.
On October 29, 1939, it specifies that the camp surrounded by barbed wire is in a field and that one inserts in mud up to the ankles. The living conditions are very precarious:
The huts are very “ventilated” and, in the night, there are sometimes strange tempests and storms. We have some straw on the ground and the light is a Wonder flashlight. The weather is cold and hygiene is null because one cannot wash oneself as it would be necessary. Day and night we dress the only costume we have. We can write only once per week.
Like all his misfortune companions, Georges Bachrich does not understand the punishment which is inflicted to him by France, his second fatherland.
I feel so useless, staying there without anything to do, whereas I could do France innumerable services, and willingly.
He was comforted as he can with his friends:
We are often together and that changes us a little to see us pumping the contents of a full latrine in a can to make place! Ah it!
In spite of certificates of honesty accompanying a release request addressed to the Interdepartmental Commission of Screening in PARIS, on December 28, 1939, no answer is given to him. An admission request in the Foreign legion is also refused to him.
But, after five months of “screening”, the internees are finally classified as providers but, not being affected, they remain in the Camp at MESLAY.
So million work hours are lost.
In a card dated May 6, 1940, Georges BACHRICH announces:
I finally received my call under the flags and I was affected, as provider in the English Army.
As testified by the card reproduced above, comprising, in addition to a seal of the English censure and a seal from the ARMY POST, the seal of FIELD POST OFFICE 66 of CHERBOURG, serving the Operation Base n° 1. The address of the shipper seems to be cut out by the censure.
So continued the way of a man, unconditional friend of France, after eight difficult months last in a French camp. As a conclusion, still let us quote Georges BACHRICH. It was in February 1940:
The Military authorities, by gathering us in our barbed wire enclosure, declare “Ben the soldiers of the Maginot Line do not have to laugh either”. The soldiers fight for their fatherland and I do not ask better: I constituted myself voluntary already before the beginning of the hostilities. The soldiers behind whom the fatherland is drawn up have already this enormous comfort. Also all is made to relieve their fate in all and any circumstances. And us?
How much times these internees have heart:
What do you want, it is war!
CAMP at MESLAY-DU-MAINE
Postcard from an Austrian internee dated 23-Sept-1939
and destinated to Paris
This postcard emanating from another Austrian internee at MESLAY comprises, with the back, a purple seal thus made out:
41e REGIMENT REGIONAL
BATAILLON DE GARDE DES ETRANGERS N° 4