Frank Falla Blog

Either download the blog post in a PDF or scroll down to read the blogs.

 

Ethics and prisoners’ stories. Gilly Carr, October 2017 – Download PDF.

How do you write a prisoner’s story? Gilly Carr, August 2017 –  Download PDF.

How did you compile a list of names for this project? Gilly Carr, August 2017 – Download PDF.

Who is this project about? Gilly Carr, July 2017 – Download PDF.

Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration Camp.  Gilly Carr, July 2017 – Download PDF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2017 – by Dr Gilly Carr

Who is this project about?

Welcome to the Frank Falla Archive, the website that aims to encapsulate the experience after deportation of all Channel Islanders sent to Nazi prisons and camps.

Deciding who to include and who not to include is not as straight-forward as you might think. For readers of Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation 1940-1945 (Bloomsbury Academic 2014), a book I co-wrote with Paul Sanders and Louise Willmot, you’ll recall that I estimated that between 200 and 250 Islanders were likely to have been deported to these locations. This number was based on known names plus estimates based on the length of prison sentences (records of not all of which survive) and likelihood of deportation. At the time of writing (August 2017), this upper number has not yet materialised and, with so many French Archives missing or destroyed, we are unlikely to ever reach the true figure. However, I suspect that the number presented in this website is not too far off the final figure.

For those from Jersey who are familiar with the figure of 300 quoted by the late Joe Mière, it is important to be clear that Joe and I are counting slightly different things. I made the decision not to include those sent to civilian internment camps, even for acts of resistance, while Joe included these numbers. This is because the experiences in Biberach, Wurzach, Laufen, and Liebenau (etc) are much better documented and the experience there is not a mystery. It was also far more humane than that of Nazi prisons and concentration camps.

I am also including only those who were in the Channel Islands at the outbreak of the occupation who were deported, so my figures do not include members of the Organisation Todt who came to the Channel Islands during the occupation, even if their court records are mingled with those of islanders. Of course, one cannot always tell who was here before the occupation as not all occupation registration cards survive, and many aliens records are closed, missing or destroyed in Guernsey and Jersey. This means that of course I include Jews deported during the occupation, but only those sent to Nazi prisons and camps. I also include foreign nationals who lived in the Channel Islands before the Germans arrived, whether they were English, French, Dutch or another nationality, although discovering when they arrived is not always easy.

I have also taken the decision to include those from Guernsey and Jersey who were deported to Alderney. Although this is still within the Channel Islands, these people were still deported and include the names of people still well known in the islands for their ordeal there.

It is entirely possible that, at the end of the project, we will still be missing some people. This is why I need the help of families of those affected. I invite you to contact me to let me know what information and family documents you have: photos, stories, records, memoirs, diaries … I’d like to see it all! Please get in touch with me.

October 2017 – by Dr Gilly Carr

I’d like to make a statement about the ethics of presenting prisoner stories online.

My aim for this website is to make known what has been silenced and not spoken about for over 70 years. I also strongly believe that it is important to acknowledge the suffering of the deported in their prisons and camps and thereby to honour them and their memory. It is not right to close our eyes to human suffering. For too long, those who were deported for acts of opposition to the occupiers, or who committed an offence at a time when most aspects of daily life were becoming illegal, have been condemned as ‘foolish criminals’. I believe that this is not only wrong but offensive to the memory of those who stood up to Nazism. Even where people were deported for offences that history has deemed less honourable, it is important to state that a sentence in a Nazi prison or camp rarely – if ever – fitted the crime.

The treatment of some Channel Islanders was brutal, and where the entry of an individual person contains particularly distressing information, I have added a warning at the start. In this way, teachers using the material online for educational purposes can be guided over whose stories to avoid recommending to younger children. The warning also serves to prepare families for what has been discovered about their loved ones, and as far as possible this has been discussed with them before putting it online.

I have also, over the last few years, made great efforts to contact families of Channel Islander victims of Nazism and to ask permission to put online testimonies and family documents. Where families have not yet got in touch with me, I welcome their contact so that we can honour their family members properly.

Gilly Carr, 16 August 2017

How do you write a prisoner’s story?

The most important starting place when beginning to write the profile of one of the deported islanders is their occupation registration or identity cards. This gives me their photo, their address, their date of birth and their job. A full name and date of birth is the magic information that I need in order to search for their presence in a Nazi prison or concentration in Germany or further afield. I do this via the International Tracing Service at the Wiener Library in London. Anybody can make an appointment to search the ITS records on their computers. Unfortunately the records are not so good for French prisons. Searching the ITS records is a slow business and you’d be surprised how many people had the same or similar names in Nazi prisons and camps, which is why date of birth is so important to identify people. In a single day working on ITS records, I consider myself lucky if I collect the records of ten people. As I say, it’s a slow business!

The next stage is to search for the court martial records, of which Jersey has a fuller set than Guernsey. Fortunately, Jersey’s are now digitised and can be searched for online through their catalogue, which is a massive help to me when I’m sitting in Cambridge!

When I have dates for the court records and find out what the person in question was convicted of and when (and often who they were convicted with, which gives us an idea about small resistance groups), I then consult Jersey’s political prisoner log book, an invaluable resource as it tells me who from the island was deported, and when. Guernsey’s equivalent book appears not to have survived, but I have faith that it is out there somewhere.

By this stage, I am able to build a picture of what the person did to be deported, and hopefully, with the help of ITS records, I may even know where they were sent. The key question I need to know then is what the experience was like for them, so I will then turn to the compensation testimonies written in the 1960s. Almost half of all of those deported to Nazi prisons and camps wrote one of these so, if I’m lucky, then I will have the information waiting for me. Some people wrote pages of testimony and others simply listed which prisons they were sent to and when, which is rather disappointing for me. In general, the better educated the person was, the more they wrote and the more eloquent they were. However, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often got in the way of this. If they were badly affected, they often could not bear to write much about what happened to them, or their memories might have been badly affected, especially if they had sustained head injuries in the camps. Beatings and ill-treatment was common, and so were medical problems which lasted a life-time for those affected.

I will then also read the profile of the camp or prison concerned, which has been written by my colleague Rod Miller, also working on the project. I cannot praise him highly enough for the work that he has done! To learn about the conditions of the prison or camp will be of great interest to families who had family members there.

Sometimes I am lucky and the family of the person deported has contacted me with memoirs, diaries, prison letters and similar archival records, and this means that I can learn a great deal more about the person. This also means that their memory is preserved for posterity if it can be placed online and disseminated more widely. It also means that others can learn about what Channel Islanders experienced in prisons and camps. This is not just a story about what happened to those on the continent. It affected Britons too. So if you’re reading this and you have archives that you are willing for a researcher to photograph for this website, please get in touch!

 10 August 2017,  by Dr Gilly Carr

How did you compile the list of names for the project?

Compiling the list of names of deported Channel Islanders is something that had to be undertaken from scratch as there was no roll of honour available. Having said that, the late Joe Mière, a former political prisoner from Jersey, had compiled his own list, but as many of these people were sent to civilian internment camps it was not a reliable list for what we were looking for with the Frank Falla Archive. In addition, I wanted every name to come from a verifiable archival source rather than to come from a list where the sources were unknown, so I started from the beginning.

The first source I began with was the political prisoner log book for Jersey prison, as this recorded all those who were deported from Jersey (and a few people from Guernsey who were sent to Jersey before deportation). This was not a fool-proof source because it also listed people who came to Jersey during the occupation (such as people who worked for the Organisation Todt), and so every name needed to be scrutinised and double-checked.

As the Guernsey counterpart of this log book does not survive (or at least, has not been tracked down and might yet exist in private ownership, as I suspect), we cannot know who from Guernsey was deported, and this is a problem as it means that we can be much more sure about Jersey names compared to Guernsey, and also means that our list of people deported from Jersey is longer, which may or may not be an accurate reflection of who was really sent away.

We can also add the names of ‘known’ people from Guernsey who were deported, such as the 16 policemen convicted for stealing food from German stores; the five men deported for their role in the Guernsey Underground News Service; and the 16 members of families deported for sheltering the two commandos, Hubert Nicolle and Jimmy Symes. This immediately nets us 37 people. After that it was a matter of adding locally ‘known’ figures, such as the three Jewish women (Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld) deported to France in April 1942; Winifred Green sent to Caen Prison for cheekily saying ‘Heil Churchill’ when asked to say ‘Heil Hitler’; or Xavier de Guillebon who was also sent to Caen Prison for chalking up V-signs. After I added the known people, taken from various books and memoirs on the occupation, the next big source was those who wrote a testimony in the mid-1960s to claim compensation for being a victim of Nazism. I went through the list of over 4,000 people from the UK who submitted a claim and picked out Channel Islander surnames and other English names that I recognised.

After this process, things became harder. I was then a matter of finding references in prison correspondence to other islanders in prison. I also made a list from police copies of court martial records from both Guernsey and Jersey of everybody who had a sentence of longer than three months. Not all of these people would have been deported, but many of them were. My research colleague on the project, Rod Miller, was sent to France to go through prison records from places such as Caen Prison and Fort de Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, where many islanders were sent, to see if he could find any new names.

I also published many articles in the Guernsey Press and Jersey Evening Post asking people to come forwards if their family members were deported. I have also consulted the International Tracing Service records at the Wiener Library in London and checked out the prison and concentration camp records of islanders. Sometimes on the same page of the prison record of one person, another islander is named.

Currently we are at the stage where we expect few new names to crop up. We are now almost entirely reliant on families to come forwards as we have almost exhausted the available archival records. The new names I am finding now tend to be those of foreign nationals (or non-islanders) who moved to the islands in the 1930s, and who I had previously discounted as being possible Organisation Todt forced labourers. As the Aliens files are closed in Guernsey and Jersey archives, checking each new name means bothering archive staff! Guernsey has not yet put its occupation registration cards online, so each time I have a new name for Guernsey, I have to ask my research assistant there, Susan Ilie, to check out the records for me.

It’s a slow process and I have been collecting the names over a long period. Do I think that we’ll ever have a full list of all of those deported? The answer is: we will never know when we have the full list. At the time of writing, we have around 204 names, and I feel confident that we are 95% there. If anyone reading list has a new name for me, please get in touch!

 

August 2017 by Dr Gilly Carr

Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration Camp

I am perhaps unusual among my friends – but not all of them – in visiting concentration camps on holiday. Most especially, I aim to visit places where Channel Islanders were imprisoned to learn about what they endured and whether their experience was different in any way because of their British identity.

On Thursday 3 August 2017 I visited Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, to where three Channel Islanders were sent at different times: Albert Raymond Durand, Clarence Claude Painter, Peter Edward Painter. I was able to find them in the memorial museum’s computer database adjoining the site.

While information about the history and conditions in the camp can be read on this website, I thought I’d provide some pictures of the site for those who want to see what it looks like today. This blog post is this mostly pictures.

 

Peter Painter’s record

This is the quarry near the camp, where prisoners were forced to wor

The entrance to the camp

The camp is on a slope and surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers

From the bottom of the camp, you can look up the hillside and see just a small number of the barrack blocks which once stood there. Others were burned down by neo-Nazis. Prisoners had to stand outside their barrack block for roll-call, no matter how cold it was, and so there is a patch of ground outside every barrack block for that purpose.

Where barracks no longer survive, memorial stones have been erected in memory of other camps. I spotted a memorial stone erected in memory of those who were in Norderney camp in Alderney.

This is one of the remaining barrack blocks; this one housed the crematorium, hence the chimney.

 This is the cremation oven.

    At the top of the camp was a gallows for hanging prisoners, and a tipper from the quarry to represent the slave labour of many prisoners in that quarry

There was also an image of a painting done by a prisoner showing them working at the quarry face.

Inside another surviving barrack was a museum, where items on display included a camp uniform and a bunk bed.

At the bottom of the camp was a memorial area where once the prisoners’ ashes had been dumped; they were also spread on the SS guards’ vegetable patch.

Overlooking the camp was the Commandant’s house, complete with pool in the back garden and front garden overlooking watch towers. One of the camp’s commandants, Kramer, later moved to Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where Harold Le Druillenec was held and later testified against him.

A short walk past the Commandant’s house led through the woods and to the gas chamber, where Jews were killed to provide anatomic specimens and gypsies were also targeted.

A large memorial overlooks the camp today; the image of a prisoner is carved into it, reminding visitors who they come to the camp to remember today.