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 What makes this book important is that it is one of precious few memoirs, published or unpublished, of islanders deported to Nazi prisons and concentration camps.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.