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Dysentery Ravages Refugees in Gurs Camp

January 29, 1941
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Thirteen thousand internees at the Gurs Camp, in the Lower Pyrenees of France, are underfed and ravaged with dysentery, it revealed in a letter from Rabbi Leo Ansbacher, chaplain of the camp and himself an internee, to the Jewish Community at Tangiers.

“There are 13,000 internees in the camp,” Rabbi Ansbacher writes, “ranging in age from one month to 100 years.

“Yesterday, we buried 17 people, mostly victims of the camp disease-dysentery. We lack one of the principal weapons to fight this disease-cocoa. As we also lack oats, and rice and flour paste are strictly rationed, we can do practically nothing in face of this disease, fatal to the old and feeble. Even after the crisis is over we are powerless to give them the food necessary to strengthen them.

“I therefore beg you to send us as much cocoa as you can get. We shall be able to do miracles here with that beverage, and many lives will be saved. The shortage of fat is so great that it would be extremely useful if cheese and sardines or other fish in oil could be sent us. People are taking some interest in us, it is true, but distress and despair are such that any sort of aid is merely a drop in the ocean.”

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