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Camp trip was truly shocking

I read with interest the article on France’s only concentration camp (Connexion, February issue) as it awakened memories of an excursion to the Vosges mountains in 1956.

I was 15 when I had the unhappy misfortune to visit the camp by pure accident.

I was staying in the little spa town of Bains-les-Bains and one day was taken on a coach trip around that beautiful area, where people spoke a strange mixture of French and German.

We had had a wonderful day but had time to spare so the Alsatian driver drove us up into the mountains to see the camp.

I was stunned and shocked by what I saw.

The sight of the ovens and the huts where the prisoners were squeezed in while awaiting their fate was something I preferred to forget, while recognising only too well that this happened.

It was all a long way from Croydon, where my father had served as a police officer and at Christmas invited two Italian “trusties” and later two German “trusties” from the local prisoner-of-war camp for lunch. This was designed to show us that not all Italians or Germans were bad.

With hindsight, I realise that in those grey post-war years, the memories of the French must have been raw and I have come to understand why one of them spat on the grave of a German soldier.

All these memories and experiences have made me feel European to the core. I feel sad that the UK has left the union.

Deirdre Cooper, Bazoches-sur-Hoëne

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