I have heard it asked in the Channel Islands whether, even if local people knew what the Nazi attitudes were towards the Jews, maybe they didn’t know about or hear about any antisemitic atrocities in advance of the Occupation. So, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, otherwise known as the Night of Broken Glass or the November Pogrom, I have added an article from the Jersey Evening Post for 11 November 1938 which reported on the events of 9-10 November in Germany and Austria. Very similar articles were published by the Guernsey Evening Press and the Guernsey Star. Reports continued to arrive over the following days and this was a live issue in the local newspapers during this period.
In advance of the German Occupation, many Jewish residents of the Channel Islands evacuated, but some stayed, mainly those without British nationality who were not permitted to travel, or those married to British citizens. Some British-born Jews also stayed in the Islands. We do not have a full list of Jews in the Channel Islands left behind during Occupation, but the number is thought to be between thirty and fifty. A small number of people with what might be considered Jewish surnames (such as Cohen) did not identify themselves or come forward to be registered as Jews during the Occupation.
In total, we know that three Jewish women without British citizenship (Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld) were deported to France and thence to Auschwitz in April 1942. They did not survive. We know that five Jews with British nationality and one without was deported to Compiegne transit and internment camp; of these, all survived the war, although the one without British nationality, John Finkelstein, was sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Julia Brichta, a Hungarian woman who denied being – but was indeed – Jewish was deported from Guernsey to Ravensbrueck concentration camp for Black Market offences. She survived.
Two Jewish women, Hedwig Bercu and Mary Richardson, went into hiding in St Helier, capital town of Jersey. All Jews, regardless of British citizenship, were subject to antisemitic legislation and harassment in the Channel Islands during the Occupation.
The Occupation identity card of Buchenwald survivor, Guernseyman James Quick, has been seen online by a member of the FFA team and recently purchased by Guernsey Archives. The website of the online militaria dealer has been removed from the photo shown here.
The Frank Falla Archive team are saddened to see such items separated from the families of the original owners and strongly urge families to either keep such items of family history or else to donate them to the Island Archives in Guernsey or Jersey Archives, as appropriate. While private collectors can, to a certain extent, act to ‘save’ such items from oblivion, at the same time the possession of such items in private hands means that they are not available for study by researchers. While some private collectors in the Channel Islands are happy to show their items to researchers, this is not the case for all, and in any case depends on the availability of the collector.
This identity card of James Quick will, we hope, now be displayed in a special exhibition coming to Guernsey Museum in March 2019. On British Soil: Victims of Nazism in the Channel Islands was on at the Wiener Library from October 2017 – February 2018 and will be travelling to Guernsey next. Quick was one of 9 Islanders in Buchenwald camp and their story will, we hope, be featured in the exhibition. James Quick’s story can be read here.
The Frank Falla Archive recently published the story of Guernseyman James Tardivel, who was deported for offending a German officer. He was sent to prison in France, and later transferred to Calais to work at a forced labour site. He escaped from there to join the French resistance.
Tardivel lay low some distance away from Calais, living with a French family. Once the Allies arrived, the Germans living locally fled, but 50 of them were rounded up. Tardivel was put on guard duty, but another group of Germans tried to free their comrades. Tardivel was hurt in the attack, suffering wounds to his body that put him in hospital. However, he recovered quickly and returned to Guernsey in July 1945. Before he left he was given a certificate to prove his resistance credentials.
The BBC is helping the Frank Falla Archive appeal for the relatives of Tardivel to come forwards. We’re hoping that they have that certificate, as well as Tardivel’s false identity card that he was given by the resistance. Tardivels everywhere, please get in touch with the Frank Falla Archive if you know anything. We’d love to display his certificate online.
On 25 and 26 September, the Frank Falla Archive teamed up with the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)to give Holocaust education teacher training in Guernsey and Jersey. Workshops were held at Guernsey Grammar School and Jersey Arts Centre, and Martin Winstone of HET and Gilly Carr of the Frank Falla Archive spoke. In Jersey they were joined by Chris Addy of Jersey Heritage (JH), who told teachers about resources available from JH. The day comprised examples of classroom exercises, lesson plans and teaching material available from the HET website. Gilly Carr showed teachers the material available on the Frank Falla Archive website, and gave an introduction to Channel Islands-specific materials relating to the Jewish experience, the political prisoner experience, and the forced labourer experience.
The workshop in Jersey was filmed, and the resulting videos will be placed on the website within the section devoted to educational materials. Teachers are also encouraged to share their ideas for student exercises with the Frank Falla Archive so that a database can be built up for all Channel Islands’ teachers to share.
The memorial service for Frank Le Villio of the Jersey 21, newly repatriated to Jersey, was held today at St Saviour’s parish church. The service was led by the Rvd Peter Dyson, who gave an excellent address. Stanley Keiller, who found Frank’s unmarked grave in Nottingham, read the tribute. The moving service was filmed by the BBC and ITV and can be seen in these links.
Frank’s coffin, draped in a Jersey flag and crowned with a large bouquet of red and white roses, Jersey’s colours, was brought into the church; the service was attended by around 150 people. The occupation generation and members of other families of the Jersey 21 were represented among the congregation, as well as Frank’s relatives, the Constables of St Helier (Simon Crowcroft) and St Saviour (Sadie Rennard), and the Frank Falla Archive.
In his tribute, Stanley Keiller admitted that he felt ‘quietly and emotionally satisfied’ to have found Frank. ‘Welcome home, Frank – rest in peace’, were his closing words.
The service ended with the National Anthem, which was allowed to be played at the end of every church service during the Occupation. This was followed by ‘Beautiful Jersey‘ (more normally heard on Liberation Day) as the congregation filed out.
Frank will be reburied in Surville Cemetery in Jersey on 6 September 2018.
I’ve written an article for the Guernsey Press about the grave of John Ingrouille of the Guernsey Eight (now uploaded to his page). Upon learning recently that his grave was once again overgrown, I thought it important to draw attention to this to see if a more permanent solution could be found for its upkeep. John died aged only 25 after serving a sentence of five years hard labour after a local woman informed on him. She claimed that John said that he could raise an army of 800 men to fight the Germans. He was deported to Nazi prisons in Germany. His full story can be read on his page. John died of TB on his way home from a displaced persons camp. He was an only child and after his parents died there was nobody to tend his grave.
After discussing the state of his grave with others on social media, I decided to write an article for the Guernsey Press about it. Does the solution to this neglect lie in a special Island task force dedicated to tidying the graves of Occupation heroes? Or is all it requires a couple of bags of marble chips – or even a proper headstone? I hope that John’s grave can be rescued from neglect in the near future.
At the annual meeting of the British Association of Holocaust Studies, this year held at the University of Leeds, Gilly Carr gave a paper entitled ‘Detecting PTSD in the compensation testimonies of British victims of Nazi persecution from the Channel Islands’. In addition to drawing on compensation testimonies, Gilly used testimony from the children of victims of Nazism who spoke about their fathers’ experiences.
The term ‘PTSD’ was given to the condition only in 1980, although ‘concentration camp syndrome’ was recognised soon after the war. However, not all of the symptoms we list today as part of PTSD were recognised then, or in the 1960s, when the compensation testimonies were written.
In order to get compensation for impairment to health, the Foreign Office, who administered the claims, did not enquire about mental health conditions. Despite this, many islanders struggled with and mentioned a number of symptoms. Because the checklist of symptoms we know now was not known in the 1960s, we can only glimpse brief references to some of these, such as nightmares, flashbacks, angry outbursts, inability to work due to mental health problems, amnesia, insomnia, and avoidance of reminders of the original trauma. This led to men making statements such as ‘I was in Buchenwald and we all know what happened there’, or children recalling that their fathers wouldn’t eat certain foods that they ate in the camps, or men referring to their experience as ‘when I was in Germany’, but with no or little further detail.
The paper concluded that there was ample evidence that people showed symptoms of PTSD, but that we cannot tell whether they ticked every box that would be required for diagnosis today as they are no longer alive to interview. It also concluded that people were not compensated for symptoms of PTSD, only for physical disability, as the Foreign Office did not ask about mental health conditions and did not treat suffering applicants with any sympathy or understanding.
A memorial has been unveiled in Am Wehl cemetery, Hamelin, Germany, for Charles Machon, one of the Guernsey 8 and founder member of GUNS, the Guernsey Underground News Service.
In the presence of Charles’ grandson, Philip, his wife Diana Hill, Gilly Carr of the Frank Falla Archive, the Mayor of Hamelin, and members of a memory activist group for victims of Nazism in Hamelin led by local historian Bernhard Gelderblom, flowers were laid at the foot of the new memorial. The erection of the memorial was made possible by Gelderblom, who made a speech at the unveiling, along with Gilly Carr and Mayor Claudio Greise.
Charles Machon’s body still rests in a nearby grave, although this grave now belongs to another person given German customs governing the re-use of graves. Thus, the memorial is close by, near other victims of Nazism in the cemetery.
Machon died in Hamelin Zuchthaus (prison) in 1944. This building still stands but is today a four-star hotel. Signs of its former use are still visible.
The memorial ceremony was poignant, moving, and respectful, and the hosts in Hamelin could not have been more welcoming, kind, and helpful to us.
Charles Machon is now the seventh of the Guernsey 8 whose final resting place has been located and suitably marked. The body of Louis Symes, who died in Cherche-Midi prison in Paris, has yet to be located. Machon’s name can also be seen on the Resistance Memorial in St Peter Port in Guernsey.
It is just possible that Gilly Carr of the Frank Falla Archive has uncovered the real identity of Peter Bruce Johnson of the Jersey 21.
Our knowledge of Peter Johnson stems only from the memory of a local historian, the late Joe Miere of Jersey, who met Johnson during the German Occupation. There were some key features about Johnson that stuck in Miere’s memory: he was Australian; his job was to saw timber; he was deaf and mute; and he was involved in an accident in which his thumb was cut off. There is one major flaw: no record of any sort has ever been found for someone of this name. Paul Sanders, historian and author of The Ultimate Sacrifice (about the Jersey 21), and Gilly Carr, have both reached the conclusion that Miere must have remembered Johnson’s name incorrectly. No person of that name had a Jersey registration card, and no person of that name has a record in the International Tracing Service, which both historians have searched. If Miere got the name wrong, were other details of the story wrong? Did he confuse the details of two people and conflate them into the one person of Peter Johnson?
Gilly Carr has recently been contacted by Joanne McAuliffe in Australia, grand-daughter of UK-born Thomas Patrick Nelson, a man deported from Jersey during the Occupation. However, her records clearly show that Nelson was living under an alias: his real name was Thomas Frederick John Nanson. Nanson lived a double life and, having returned to the UK after spending his formative years in Australia, he married his first wife. A few years later, after getting in trouble with the law, he came to Jersey under a new name, perhaps to escape a turbulent past, a failed marriage, and even a criminal conviction.
Nanson / Nelson claimed to have been born in Australia. He was deaf, having lost his hearing while serving in the Royal Artillery in the 1920s. His job at the time of his deportation was sawing wood. However, he appeared to have all fingers and thumbs intact and there is no memory in his family that he had any impaired digits. However, one of his prison records indicates that he had multiple marks on his hands and fore-arms, which is consistent with an accident with a timber-cutting machine.
Nanson / Nelson was deported to Saint-Lo Prison, and then Fort de Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Crucially, after his release by American forces in the summer of 1944, he was repatriated to the UK and did not return to Jersey. Instead, he returned to Australia in 1945. Was he like Walter Dauny, a member of the Jersey 21 who was found to have survived the war after being liberated from Villeneuve-Saint-Georges Prison? Was he instead the man that Joe Miere remembered as Peter Bruce Johnson, who is assumed (on very scanty evidence) to have died in Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp?
The truth is that we will probably never know. While good records survive for Thomas Nanson / Nelson, nothing at all survives for Peter Johnson. We have nothing to compare Nanson / Nelson’s story to other than Joe Miere’s memory. While the names of the two men differ (although their surnames are similar), their jobs were the same, both had a connection with Australia, and – crucially – Nanson / Nelson was deaf, just like Johnson. Were they the same man or is Nanson / Nelson’s possession of all fingers and thumbs enough to rule him out? What do you think?
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.
October 2017: Ethics and prisoner stories
Ethics are an important consideration for 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. 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 condemned as 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 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. 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.
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 in Europe 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: How does the Frank Falla Archive find names?
Compiling the list of names of deported Channel Islanders has been undertaken from scratch as there was no roll of honour available. The late Joe Mière, a former political prisoner from Jersey, had compiled his own list, but as many of these people were sent only to internment camps, it is not a reliable list for what we were looking for with the Frank Falla Archive. In addition, I want every name to come from a verifiable archival source, 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 has not yet been located, 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 names known from memoirs, 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. Collecting names from Guernsey is a slower process as the records are not online.
We will never know when we have the full list of names. At the time of writing, we have around 205 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: The Frank Falla Archive: who is this website 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. In 2014 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 well documented and these camps were 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. 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 includes 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 by clicking on the ‘contact us’ tab.