The Tarrafal Concentration Camp

23 April 2021
Photo: General aspect of the provisional installation of the concentration camp. Unknown author, 1937/38. DGPC

#Inthisday April 23, 1936, Decree-Law No. 26,539 was published creating the “penal colony for political and social prisoners in Tarrafal”, on the island of Santiago in Cape Verde.

Also known as “Slow death Camp”, its location was intended to ward off the most “problematic” and dangerous resistant, and with the harsh conditions of the climate and the poor conditions of incarceration, to demonstrate that the repression would be taken to the extreme (bad treatment, torture, forced labor, scarce food and lack of medical assistance).

Esmeraldo Pais, the field service physician, even said that “I am not here to heal, but to sign death certificates”.

The Tarrafal Concentration Camp started operating on October 29, 1936, receiving the first 152 political prisoners, many participants on January 18, 1934 and the Sailors’ Uprising.

The camp was closed in 1954, with 340 prisoners there, and of these, 34 died there. It would be reopened on April 14, 1961, to receive political prisoners from the liberation movements of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. The prisoners would only be released on May 1, 1974.


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