Seeing historical primary sources is definitely fascinating, but for the darker parts of history, it can bring out horror. Take this letter sent to a woman in 1941. The Reddit submission and translation are here for those who don’t read French. The letter asks the woman (who is the Reddit poster’s grandmother) to provide proof that she wasn’t Jewish. In other words, turn herself in. If she didn’t, she’d have to go to “un camp spécial” (special camp). Damned if she did, damned if she didn’t. According to the one of the comments, she got out of France as soon as she could, came to the United States, and is still alive.
I’m torn between horror and fascination. The letter admits to the existence of the special camps that we now know as the horrific concentration camps of the Holocaust. I wonder if the recipients of the letters knew what the camps really entailed at the time. Seeing the term “un camp spécial” has to be a scary thing to read, especially if you don’t know anything about this camp. Reading this letter creeps me out now, and I know how the story ends. Let’s hope this particular story doesn’t have a sequel.