The Swiss maternity hospital in Elne is under threat. It urgently requires major repair and consolidation work to be carried out. This large bourgeois house topped with a dome was built at the end of the nineteenth century. It became a place of rescue for pregnant women and their unborn children between May 1939 and September 1944, after the Spanish Civil War and the retractada, the mass exile of the Republicans to the France.
"The experts are unanimous. The building has now become dangerous. Cracks appeared on the walls. Cornices threaten to collapse and we wonder if it will not be necessary to carry out very important works to reinforce the foundations perhaps insufficient, "says Nicolas Garcia, the mayor of Elne (Pyrénées-Orientales), who proceeded to the closure by municipal decree of the building last April.
The mayor issued an order to close the building, which had become dangerous. The work is estimated at 780,000 euros. ©Cyril-TRICOT_EAU BLUE SEA
"Municipal finances will not be enough, especially since our municipality must maintain a very important built historical heritage. We are told of 780,000 euros of work. This is why we are launching a subscription, an appeal to popular generosity from the website of the town hall, "adds Nicolas Garcia.
The annual meeting of the Maternity Community
In the absence of visiting the large building, there are still the vast gardens for the exhibitions under the stars and especially the events, including the one scheduled this Saturday, June 10 (16:30). This is an annual event for the community of friends of Maternity. This year, it is a musical, theatrical and historical evocation of the fantastic humanitarian experiment conducted on site from 1939 by Elisabeth Eidenbenz, a young Swiss teacher.
At the age of 24, this daughter of a Zurich pastor was involved in humanitarian work in the Spanish Civil War near Valencia. Two years later, she was found as a war nurse in Elne under the aegis of the Swiss Relief Cartel, then the Red Cross in the wake of the Spanish Republican refugee camps with abominable living conditions, including the camps on the sand of the beach of Argelès-sur-Mer.
It is she who will recover pregnant women and unborn children to save them. According to figures published by the newspaper "Le Temps" of Geneva, there were 595 children born at the castle of En Barrou. And among them, 440 children of Spanish republicans, who today feed a large community of Catalan descendants very involved in the safeguarding of this place of memory, symbol of life and rescue on the shores of human barbarity of the 1940s.
Elisabeth Eidenbenz's outstanding humanitarian work was illuminated belatedly. The teacher-nurse was made righteous among the nations by the State of Israel. Even today, it is her light that illuminates motherhood.
"Retirada Spain in the heart". 16:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 10. At the gardens of the Maternity in Elne (Pyrénées-Orientales).
Association of descendants and friends of the maternity hospital of Elne, https://www.dame-maternite-elne.com/