In a quiet residential neighbourhood in Amboise, in the middle of a small roundabout in front of a small supermarket, there is a discreet and simple memorial. It's a single slab, a bit like a grave marker, with some words carved into it. Most people never notice it, even if they drive by regularly.
The memorial says: "In this place 12 000 prisonners of war of 14 nationalities were held captive."
|Souvenez-vous -- Remember.|
In early June 1940 the Second World War, which had up till then been something people in the Loire Valley mainly just followed on the radio, suddenly erupted in Amboise, with the shrill sounds of the Luftwaffe shelling the town. But the Touraine had already been overwhelmed by a tide of refugees, fleeing south and spreading the most extraordinary rumours. By late June Amboise was occupied by the Germans and a new phase of the War began. Four painful years of deprivation, bullying, repression and punishments dealt out by the Wehrmacht and Gestapo.
|The nice residential neighbourhood.|
A prison camp was built at a place known as the Patte d'Oie ('goose foot') and 600 French soldiers incarcerated. They had been part of a final line of defence stationed along the Loire. Bridges had been destroyed, roads were impassable, transport disrupted. Both townsfolk and prisonners lacked basic supplies. But this was by no means one of the notorious camps, and the young men were able to put together at least one sparkling sounding theatrical show.
Those first French prisonners were eventually released and sent off to work as part of the conscripted labour system that the Germans introduced to keep young French soldiers from being troublesome. At the end of the War the prison camp was reactivated, this time to take German soldiers, who in their turn were put to work rebuilding roads.
Nowadays the site of the camp, off to the right of the photo above, is partly the town water reserve, partly a public park.
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