9 May: Pierre Salomon found!
Pierre Salomon was born on 13 July in 1905 in the parish of Trinity to French nationals, Pierre and Marie Salomon, who married and settled down in Jersey before Pierre was born.
The Salomons had four children, but while three of them had British citizenship, Pierre Salomon junior retained French nationality and left Jersey, aged 34, to join the French army at the outbreak of World War II. However, after the German invasion and capitulation of France, soldiers in the French army were taken prisoner of war. Pierre was among them. No trace of Pierre was found after the war, despite his family searching for decades.
Earlier this year, I visited the Wiener Library in London which has digitised copies of records from the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen in Germany. This archive contains all surviving records of German concentration camps, prisons and labour camps. It was here that I found Pierre Salomon.
Records from the ITS revealed that Pierre had died in hospital of typhoid fever (a disease caused by contaminated food or water) on 19 June 1944. He had been based at Falkensee Camp, a sub-camp of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, on the outskirts of Berlin. He had carried out forced labour in the Siemens-Schuckert armaments factory. He had been buried (presumably in a mass grave) in Berlin-Frohnau cemetery. He had also been in other camps in the Berlin area for the previous two years.
Prisoners of war – especially those who were not of officer status – were often used by the Germans as forced labour. At what point did this happen to Pierre? Was Pierre Salomon an ‘ordinary’ French forced labourer, or did his surname, which the Germans might have assumed indicated Jewish heritage, mean that he was selected for worse treatment in Jewish camps? More research is needed.
9 May: Frankie Le Villio is coming home.
I’m sure that most people in the Channel Islands have heard the good news that the body of Frankie Le Villio of the Jersey 21 is to be exhumed from his pauper’s grave in Nottingham and repatriated to Jersey for reburial in the summer of 2018. This has been delayed while the money has been raised, but now things can move forward. Please watch this page for news, as the Frank Falla Archive plan to be there to witness the reburial. In fact, the Frank Falla Archive will be busy in the coming month; in June we will be in Hameln, Germany, to see a memorial unveiled in honour of Charles Machon of the Guernsey Eight. We are also on the trail of the newly discovered Pierre Salomon from Jersey, discovered in March 2018 to have died in a labour camp in Berlin.
6 May 2018: The Silent War
The third edition of Frank Falla’s The Silent War was launched at the German Occupation Museum, Guernsey, hosted by Richard Heaume, the owner and director.
I was delighted to have been asked by Steve Foote (pictured here on the left) of Blue Ormer Publishing to write the foreword to the new edition and to give a short speech at the launch.
The event went well and there was enough prosecco and Guernsey gache for all! Even better, I met Matthew Tostevin, who gave me two new names for the Frank Falla Archive: brothers Victor and Hilary Gontier, his grandfather and great-uncle. Keep your eyes peeled for their stories coming soon!
Meanwhile, if anyone wants to buy a copy of the new volume, you can do so via this link for Blue Ormer Publishing.
Caen, Lisieux and Coutances Prisons – news just in
19 April 2018: The Frank Falla Archive team (Gilly Carr and Rod Miller) have just returned from Caen (and, for Rod, St-Lo as well) where we went to collect the prison records. We expected to find 52 names in Caen Prison; instead we found 62. Although ten of these were Organisation Todt workers, the remaining 52 were not the 52 we were expecting: many were new and 21 of those who we thought we knew were there were not present. We discovered that there was a second prison in Caen: Beaulieu Prison, just up the road from the Maison d’Arret. 11 members of the deported Guernsey Police were, we assume, in Beaulieu (and 5 in the Maison d’Arret), as were 6 of those deported for sheltering commandos in Guernsey in November 1940. We still don’t yet know what dictated who got put in which prison.
The good news is that we found the names of another three Islanders in Caen who were not in the Frank Falla Archive before (Paula Pemberton and Harold Dodd from Guernsey, and Amelia Bree from Jersey). To that we can add the name of Brian Le Boutillier from Jersey, who was in Lisieux Prison (the records were also at Caen), and Henry Palmer from Lisieux. Every name rescued is a little victory! The grand total of people on the Frank Falla Archive list now stands at 212.
The new edition of The Silent War by Frank Falla is now ready to order online. This new edition has a new foreword by me (Dr Gilly Carr), which discusses Falla’s legacy and the Frank Falla Archive website. It also has many new images from Frank Falla’s personal archive (now lodged at Guernsey Archives) to better reflect the book’s focus on victims of Nazism, including images of the new Resistance Memorial and GUNS plaque in St Peter Port.
The book is £8.99 and can be pre-ordered through Blue Ormer Publishing here.
The book will also be available to purchase for the first time on 21 April 2018 at a special event scheduled as part of Guernsey’s Heritage Festival, where Gilly Carr will be speaking on the topic of ‘Resisters: Heroes or Villains of the Occupation?‘. This event starts at 2.30pm at the OGH Hotel in St Peter Port and includes a sumptuous afternoon tea. Advance booking is necessary and can be done here.
I’m giving a lecture at the Old Government House Hotel in Guernsey on 21 April at 2.30pm as part of the Heritage Festival. My title is ‘Resisters: Heroes or Villains of the Occupation?’
You can book tickets here:
Did Albert Bedane alone shelter Mary Richardson?
26 March 2018: I’ve written a new article for the Jersey Evening Post asking whether there’s a possibility that more Jews were hidden in St Helier during the Occupation. This suggestion is based on information published in the 1982 memoir by Dr John Lewis (‘A Doctor’s Occupation’). It has never yet been ascertained whether information about the Jewish woman in question and those who hid her was deliberately changed to protect identities, or whether the information given was entirely accurate. If it was accurate, the details provided are almost enough to identify those concerned – IF the relevant documents still exist. In the article I ask John Lewis’ children or grandchildren to contact me if they still possess Lewis’ medical day book. This holds the key. Of course, there are ethical and legal considerations to take into account with such documents, but official guidance will be taken to make sure that all research meets official requirements. Meanwhile we must ask ourselves: was a third Jewish woman hidden in St Helier, and can this case finally be cracked?
10 April 2018 update: I’ve been in touch with Dr Lewis’ son who tells me that his father’s medical day book no longer exists. However, I discovered from a woman who interviewed Dr Lewis that the Jewish woman in question went into hiding on Roseville Street, which means that it is almost certain that it was Mary Richardson, who we know was sheltered by Albert Bedane. However, she went into hiding with Bedane in the summer of 1943 and Dr Lewis said that she vanished in September 1942. There are some inconsistencies with the archival record here, but the most troubling is his statement that she was hidden by an ‘elderly couple’. Did Albert Bedane share the responsibility of hiding her?
Dorothea Le Brocq (British Hero of the Holocaust) update
23 March 2018: Here at the Frank Falla Archive, we have received word from Pierre Landick, second cousin of Dorothea Weber nee Le Brocq, that he has had a memorial plaque put up in Worthing Cemetery to honour Dorothea’s memory. Dorothea sheltered Jewish woman Hedwig Bercu in her home in St Helier, Jersey, during the German Occupation. For this brave act, Dorothea was declared Righteous Among the Nations at a ceremony in Jersey in November 2016, and named as a British Hero of the Holocaust at a ceremony at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in January 2018.
Dorothea died in 1993 and her ashes were scattered at Worthing Cemetery. She was not honoured in her lifetime; rather, she seems to have been ostracised by her family and others in Jersey. She had three strikes against her name: Dorothea was illegitimate; she married an Austrian baker, Anton Weber, in 1941 who was later drafted into the German army, which made Dorothea a ‘jerrybag’ – a local term of abuse for women who consorted with German soldiers. After Weber was declared missing presumed dead, she married a British liberating soldier in 1945 who turned out to have committed bigamy. Dorothea, too, was charged with bigamy when Anton Weber returned to Jersey to look for her.
Now that the whole story is known, we can recognise Dorothea for the brave woman that she truly was. Although her memory was not preserved within her own family, her second cousin, Pierre Landick, who learned of her existence only in 2016, holds her memory in high esteem. He and his family have had a memorial plaque erected in her honour, with Dorothea’s name inscribed ‘in loving memory’.
March 2018: I have been working with Frank Falla’s two children over the last few weeks in securing a publisher for a reprint of The Silent War. We’re pleased to announce that Blue Ormer Publishing, run by Stephen Foote, a Guernseyman based in London, will be reprinting the book.
Originally published in 1967, The Silent War details the story of the people involved in GUNS (the Guernsey Underground News Service), which operated from May 1942 to February 1944. It also tells the story of the five men (including Falla) deported to Nazi prisons for their role. What makes this book important is that it is one of precious few memoirs, published or unpublished, of islanders deported to Nazi prisons and concentration camps. In fact, we can count the entire corpus of such books on the fingers of one hand.
What is particularly important about Falla’s work is its legacy. Thanks to him, at least fifty Channel Islanders received compensation as victims of Nazi persecution in 1965. Around 100 applied. Thanks to his archive, now currently split between Guernsey Archives and my office at the University of Cambridge (but eventually to be reunited in Guernsey Archives), many clues have been left behind which enabled the location and presence of islanders in various Nazi institutions to be recorded. Better still, these clues were sufficient for me to eventually be able to find, in 2016, the grave of Falla’s GUNS colleague, Joseph Gillingham. Visiting that grave in Halle for the first time, with Gillingham’s daughter, will always stand out to me as one of the most unforgettable moments of my life.
Thus it is fitting, at a time when Falla’s legacy is being newly recognised, just over 50 years since its first publication with Leslie Frewin, that it will once more be back in print. The new version will include extra photos from the Frank Falla Archive, as well as new images. The book is scheduled to come out in time for Liberation Day (May 9) 2018. Watch this space for information on how to pre-order the book!
On 2 February 2018 the BBC published a special feature about Frank Falla, which can be read here.
They focus on the role of Frank Falla in lobbying the Foreign Office to fight for compensation for Channel Islanders. They in particular look at the fight made on behalf of Roy Machon and Bill Quin. Both of these men suffered in Nazi camps and for different reasons the Foreign Office would not compensate either. As Machon was the only Brit in his prison, there was nobody else who could testify that he was there. The FO also had no information about the kind of prison it was, but alleged that it was not a severe enough place to warrant compensation. Machon, who was made deaf through the head injuries he sustained at the hands of guards, would have to live with this result.
Quin, on the other hand, had PTSD which manifested itself such that he could not remember a thing about his experience – he had blacked it out. Falla visited him on several occasions and managed to extract enough fragments from him to persuade the FO to give him compensation. However, it was only in 2018, when assessing the experience of William Cordrey from Jersey, was it possible to use Falla’s fragments to find out where Quin had been. Thus, Falla’s tireless work is still yielding dividends today.
On January 23 2018, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London held its Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. The event was also used as an occasion to honour a new crop of recipients of British Heroes of the Holocaust.
One of six people honoured was Jerseywoman Dorothea Le Brocq, who sheltered Jewish woman Hedy Bercu for 18 months during the Occupation. Dorothea had been made Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in November 2016, so this occasion marked the second award that she has now received postumously.
Dorothea’s second cousin Pierre Landick received the award on her behalf. Also present to witness the ceremony was Pierre’s sister and brother in law and their two daughters. Hedwig’s two daughters, Marion and Elizabeth, also flew to London to witness the occasion. Samuel Gibbs from the Government of Jersey in London office attended, as did Dr Gilly Carr from Cambridge University, who submitted the application for the award.
From October 2017 to February 2018, the exhibition ‘On British Soil: Nazi Persecution in the Channel Islands’ was on at the Wiener Library in London. The exhibition was co-curated by Dr Gilly Carr (University of Cambridge) and Dr Barbara Warnock (the Wiener Library).
The exhibition presented the stories of various groups: the Channel Islands’ Jews, the forced labourers and the political prisoners, following the experiences of various key people. It also examined the work and legacy of Frank Falla, the 1965 compensation claims, and the memorialisation of victims in the Channel Islands.
The exhibition was opened by Sir Philip Bailhache, former Bailiff of Jersey, who did so much to promote the memory of victims of Nazism. Alice Allen, a Jersey poet now living in London, read some of her work. Gilly Carr also gave a speech. The family members of several Channel Islander victims of Nazism also attended to support the exhibition and to view the items that they had lent be put on display.
The exhibition was accompanied by special events and lectures.
Now that the exhibition has finished, an online version has been created.
A new exhibition at the Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide is due to open on 19 October. ‘On British Soil: Nazi Persecution in the Channel Islands‘ is co-curated by Dr Gilly Carr of the University of Cambridge.
During the German occupation of the Channel Islands (1940–1945), many thousands of people were persecuted, including slave labourers, political prisoners and Jews. Their story has been largely omitted from a British narrative of ‘standing alone’ against Nazism and celebrations of British victory over Germany.
This exhibition tells the stories of these persecuted, drawing upon The Wiener Library’s rich archival collections, files recently released by The National Archives, and items belonging to the victims of Nazi persecution themselves.
From the experiences of a young Jewish woman living quietly on a farm in Guernsey and later deported to Auschwitz, to those of a Spanish forced labourer in Alderney, and the story of a man from Guernsey whose death in a German prison camp remained unknown to his family for over 70 years, this exhibition highlights the lives of the persecuted, and the post-war struggle to obtain recognition of their suffering.
The Frank Falla Archive website will go live in time for the launch of the exhibition on 19 October.
The exhibition is supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.