Train Tracks to Vichy Camp, Outside Berguent (Photo courtesy of Alma Rachel Heckman)
- ‘Ain el-Ourak
Bou Arfa, a town far south along the railway from Tendrara, “was home to the largest Vichy-era labor camp in Morocco, located near the main train station. According to the Red Cross, 818 people were interned there as of July 1942.” As such, Bou Arfa’’s camp had three satellite camps, one of which was Ain el-Ourak, located near an old mine south of Bou Arfa. According to historian Robert Satloff, Ain el-Ourak “served until May 1942 as the main ‘discipline’ site for Bou Arfa laborers. When French officers sold the site to a local Arab notable for 100,000 francs, they moved the camp to a place called Foum Deflah.”
The small town of Tendrara is the site of a Vichy era labor camp, built along the railroad stretching from Oran, Algeria, south through Morocco’s eastern border. The railroad was largely built by the labor of Vichy prisoners, sent to camps like this one. It is the best-preserved Vichy camp along Morocco’s eastern border with Algeria, perhaps in the country.
- Foum Deflia
The Holocaust’s long reach extended even into the Sahara Desert, as the remains of this forced labor camp attest. In the early 1940s, France’s Vichy regime established a series of labor camps in North Africa for Jews and others. Many of the Jews incarcerated were European, including a large group of Polish Jews. After being shipped across the Mediterranean, they were delivered to remote camps via a rail line that runs south through Morocco parallel to the Algerian border.
- Berguent (Ain Benimatthar)
The small town of Ain Benimatthar, formerly known as Berguent after a certain French colonel, was the site of a Vichy punishment camp. This camp was unique among the network of Vichy camps stretching along the railroad from Oran, Algeria, south through Morocco. Prisoners of these camps were dispatched from Vichy France for the purpose of working on a Trans-Saharan rail-road. According to historian Robert Satloff, Berguent was “the site of the only all-Jewish Vichy-era work camp in North Africa. At one point, 400 Jews were reportedly interned there. When an International Red Cross official visited the camp in July 1942, he counted 155; 90 percent of them had been volunteers to the French army or…to the Foreign Legion.”