NB, this version of Faramus’ wartime experience is based upon his 1953 and 1990 memoirs. These two accounts are not identical, which throws both into doubt on certain details. However, the reader should be aware that the 1953 account was written by Frank Owen (who also wrote ‘The Eddie Chapman Story’), based on conversations with Faramus. Faramus wrote the 1990 memoir himself and, in an interview given to the Jersey Evening Post a few months before his death, asserted strongly that ‘Everything I wrote in that book, every word is mine, it is truthful and researched …’
Jerseyman ‘Anthony’ Charles Faramus, born 27 July 1920, was convicted of being found in possession of an RAF newssheet and given one month’s imprisonment in Jersey prison, starting 15 December 1940. In a newspaper interview in 1990, he stated that the newssheet was planted on him. He was additionally convicted of ‘obtaining money by false pretences’, i.e. for minor fraud, for which he was sentenced to six months hard labour in Jersey prison. The sentences were served consecutively. In his memoirs he says that he was released in the ‘early spring’ of 1941, although seven months in jail would have meant release in July 1941. Later that summer he ‘borrowed’ a small military truck and went joy-riding, and was also caught outside after curfew. Eddie Chapman, an English criminal who came to Jersey before the war, alleged that Faramus was his associate in selling black-market goods. This story was repeated in Faramus’ 1954 memoir, but Faramus denied in 1990 that he ever knew him – he was simply ‘a man in prison at the same time as I was.’
MI5 records reveal that Chapman made a statement in December 1942 claiming that after he, Chapman, was released from jail in September 1941, he discussed with Faramus ways of escaping from the island. The two of them, he alleged, decided to offer their services to the German secret services, hoping to be sent to the UK, where they would then escape. After they had done so, a German officer came to Faramus’ hairdressing shop and arrested them both on a charge of sabotage. With the hour they had been put on a boat to France. This version of events was not confirmed by Faramus in either of his memoirs.
Faramus stated, instead, in both his memoirs, that the local authorities of his parish were behind his deportation without proper trail or conviction. They disliked Faramus and saw him as a troublemaker and wanted him out of the way. He was arrested by the Jersey police on 15 December 1941 according to International Red Cross files. Faramus stated that he was handed over to the Germans, driven to the harbour and put on the next boat. His occupation registration card notes that he was deported on 28 January 1942; both his and Chapman’s memoirs state that they were hand-cuffed together. Faramus left behind a wife and daughter in Jersey.
The men were escorted by cargo boat and train to Paris and taken first to a cell in the lodge at the main entrance of the British civilian internment camp of Saint-Denis. They were then moved to the Fort de Romainville, probably in late January or early February 1942. In his memoirs, Faramus described being well looked-after in this prison. He was fed initially with food donated by other prisoners who were supplied by their families, and who donated food to him because of his nationality. Otherwise, the prisoners existed on maggot-infested soup.
Many of the prisoners he saw were physically or mentally marked by their interrogations at the hands of the Gestapo. Faramus also described many of the illicit activities of the prisoners, the notes passed between them, the contraband (cigarettes and alcohol), and the home-made keys to their cells they concealed. Faramus and his cell-mate were kept locked up and away from the other prisoners for 6 months before being allowed to associate with others, but this did not prevent their illicit meetings with other prisoners, as stated in Faramus’ memoirs. While Chapman left Romainville on 10 April 1942, volunteering to work as a spy for the Germans, Faramus stayed.
Faramus recorded the ‘selections’ at Romainville, where he wrote that men (often Jewish) were taken away by the SS to Fort de Mont-Valérien to be shot by firing squad, or women taken to Compiègne-Royallieu Internment and Transit camp, an irregular event which cast a pall over the prison. He described the procedure thus:
We were aware of the procedure – the telephone ringing in the custodians’ office-dayroom, the shrilling of its bell greatly amplified by the silence within the building, followed immediately by the frantic urgency of a whistle being blown in the courtyard to warn everyone to go to their own rooms … to pray and perhaps to say their last goodbye.
… First, there was the rolling, grumbling whirr of a heavy engine; the wheels of the bus [to take the prisoners to Valérien] jolted over the flagging surface, under the arch and into the Fort … The heel-clicking and ‘Heil Hitlers’ heard from the assembly of junior SS officers and other ranks from the bus was a cue for the women [of the prison] to raise their voices in bold opposition. In unity, they stood at the windows and brandished their fists; they sang out strongly, so that their voices carried to the streets of Romainville, and the inhabitants, perhaps under cover or not counting the risk, bared their heads to the revolutionary hymn, the ‘Marseillaise.
After a prisoner had been taken away, his personal affects were shared out among other prisoners, often at the request of the prisoner taken away to be shot. His friends would afterwards gather in a communal room at the prison for special prayers and hymns.
Faramus left Romainville for Compiègne-Royallieu Internment and Transit Camp late in 1943, in an event he later described as a ‘total exodus’ of the prison overseen by the SS. In his 1954 memoir, this event involved only the men of the prison. In the period before he left, the relaxed system at Romainville was tightened up severely. He described his entry to Compiègne in his 1990 memoirs as follows:
… a smell of utter repugnance wafted up my nostrils as I marched into the camp’s vast quadrangle, the size of three football pitches. I was horror-stricken, caught off guard like everyone else. I stepped over a dragging gully of mucus, bladder fluid, vomit and blood. Prisoners were hanging about, friendless, in twos and in groups; many were thin, sick-looking, ready to drop. At one point, corpses were stockpiled awaiting collection.
His 1954 memoirs describe only the appalling sanitation arrangements (two buckets for 500 men), the dysentery, and the guard dogs who roamed the camp after dark – not the dead bodies. Faramus was placed in a barrack hut dormitory with two and three-tier beds for 100 men, a room with neither heating nor lighting and with no pillows on the bunks and only two thin blankets. He slept with his possessions between his legs to guard against thieves. The camp was segregated by sex, and the food and sanitary arrangements were inadequate. After five days, a loudspeaker told people to go to the trains where men were packed 100 to each cattle truck with a bucket in the middle to serve as a latrine. ‘We were not yet underway’, wrote Faramus, ‘but the straw under my feet was already a quagmire of diarrhoea and vomit’. An escape attempt from Faramus’ wagon triggered fast reprisals; men were shot or immediately hung; others were stripped naked and beaten. No food or water was issued for the journey of five days.
Records from Buchenwald Concentration Camp state that Faramus arrived on 24 January 1944 and stayed almost a whole year until 8/9 December 1944. As his memoirs record only five days in Compiègne, it seems likely that he left Romainville later in the year than his memoirs suggest. Buchenwald was, he wrote,
… composed of innumerable barrack-like huts in dreary formation, line after line … down as far as the … eye could see … The camp was divided into two parts: the Small Camp (Kleine Lager) and the Big Camp (Grosse Lager). The small camp was the quarantine zone, mainly for the new arrivals, to prevent the spreading of diseases … I shared a wooden bunk with nine others, sleeping on bare boards, each issued with a thin blanket which was weighed down with fleas and lice, vomit and blood. We slept sardine-like, overwhelmed by the smell of human excreta and diseased bodies, with crawling things constantly gorging on the flesh, skulls, legs, arms and testicles … Daily, long before dawn, … room helps … would roughly waken those fortunate enough to be sleeping, ‘encouraging’ them with a hail of blows from a stick to the buttocks or a brutal attack in the ribs with any weapon that came to hand.
Faramus’ job in Buchenwald while in the Kleine Lager was emptying the cesspits, in the ‘Abort-Kommando’. He contracted pneumonia but was soon after sent to the Grosse Lager, where dysentery was rife but conditions were fractionally better and he shared a bunk with fewer people. His job was to dig trenches, clear bomb damage and repair roads, watched over by the SS, and enduring brutality, hunger, scarlet fever, and freezing weather. He also saw other Britons and fellow Channel Islanders in Buchenwald:
In Block 16, twenty captured Allied agents were segregated, all doomed for execution in ones and twos. I recognised men from my native island, some I had known in the Jersey jail; Irish subjects who had picked drunken brawls with German soldiers and served a couple of months’ imprisonment imposed by the civil court before being deported as ‘undesirables’; there were English conscientious objectors sent from the mainland before the Occupation to work the harvest who had refused employment on military projects; and I spotted the middle aged Stanley Green, a well-known islander, and an ‘ee-by-goom’ Lancashire lad with the unlikely name of Chelsea [possibly Yorkshireman Gerald Bird].
We cannot be sure precisely who Faramus saw who he knew. Only nine other people from the Channel Islands are known to have been in Buchenwald apart from Faramus, Stanley Green and Gerald Bird. They were Guernseyman William Symes, Alfred Baker from Sark, James Quick from Guernsey, Emile Dubois from Jersey, Brian O’Meara from Guernsey, and Jewish man John Finkelstein, who Faramus is unlikely to have met. None of these men were Irish subjects and none were English conscientious objectors. Was Faramus mistaken about their deportation from the Channel Islands, or are there still more people from the Islands yet to discover who were in the camp?
After failing to remove his cap before an SS guard during an illicit pause in work, Faramus was taken from Buchenwald in December 1944. In his 1954 memoir, his removal from Buchenwald was due to a mistaken assumption that he had volunteered to serve in the SS. He got as far as Weimar before the mistake was realised and he was sent back to Buchenwald. In this earlier version of his story, he was then taken from Buchenwald a second time for an unknown reason. During the train journey he was taken to a prison in Leipzig for a night, then a prison in Dresden for another night, where he was one among many thrown into a ‘humid dungeon, befuddled, bruised and bleeding, kneeling, squatting and laid out on a floor sodden with body filth and blood.’ In his 1954 memoir, this stay in Dresden was instead marked out by several days of being given 15 lashes of a whip, morning and night, while being shackled to the wall, spending several days in the prison in total.
After that came a night’s stay in Prague’s Pankrác Prison. In his 1954 memoir, Faramus described the inmates as ‘an extraordinary mixture of prisoners, consisting of soldiers, airmen and civilians of almost every nationality … We got very little sleep, for the guards continually came to inspect us and whenever they appeared we all had to spring to attention facing the wall. As they passed us we shouted out our numbers, at the same time keeping our hands above our heads until permission was given to lower them.’
At this point in the story it is useful to relate that documents from the Wiener Library in London, originating in the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, state that Faramus was released from Buchenwald to Laufen civilian internment camp on 8/9 December 1944. This information derives from a Waffen SS card dated 5 December 1944 which lists Faramus’ possessions, bears his signature, and names his next destination. Presumably it was made as a precursor to his transit. However, there is no record to suggest that Faramus ever reached Laufen and one need not take this record as proof of his arrival. Faramus always maintained, in 1945 newspaper articles and in records in Jersey Archives, in his mid-1960s compensation testimony, and until his death in 1990, that he was sent to Mauthausen instead.
In his 1990 memoir, Faramus wrote that at Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, he was met by machine gunfire, whips and immediate violence on arrival at the platform. As he later wrote, ‘Unlike at Buchenwald, where murder was unhurried, killing in Mauthausen was an industry maintained at full speed.’ In his earlier memoir, he wrote that ‘Conditions were unimaginably shocking. I had thought that there was no hell on earth to equal Buchenwald – but here rotten bodies littered the blocks and streets, giving off a sour stench that was impossible to escape.’
Faramus was spared working in Mauthausen’s infamous quarry for reasons that are not entirely clear. While his nationality probably played a part, in his memoirs he wrote that he was merely ‘written off’ and left to hang around his barrack block. His sicknesses in the camp by this point had included a gangrenous wound on his thigh, and temporary blindness caused by malnutrition and diphtheria. He was given treatment in the camp hospital because of his nationality, although that treatment was extremely basic. The gangrenous tissue on his thigh was excised without anaesthetic.
Faramus stayed in Mauthausen until the camp was liberated on 5 May 1945. The final days were marked by ‘chaos and panic’ with ‘no allocations of food.’ He described the liberation by the Americans as an experience that caused him rage at their tardy arrival. The next few days were marked by sitting on tribunals of ex-prisoners who tried SS men, an ‘improperly constituted assembly thirsting only for revenge’. These men were shot, made to carry blocks of stone in quarry, and killed in ways that they had previously imposed on prisoners.
After the war Faramus suffered with PTSD, bad nightmares, and tuberculosis from Mauthausen which led to the removal of eight ribs and the permanent collapse of a lung. He found it hard to work or settle down, sometimes sleeping rough, and was in and out of prison and hospital, according to his 1990 memoirs. He married again in 1953, moved to America in 1964, and had a career in the film industry, often playing parts in war films. Eventually he returned to the UK, where he was an active hunt saboteur and committed to animal rights. This, he said, was because of his experience of witnessing the plight of farm animals brought to Mauthausen. Anthony Faramus died in 1990.
Chapman, E. 1953. The Eddie Chapman Story. Tandem Books: London.
Falle, P. 1990. “Collaborators’ named in Occupation book’, Jersey Evening Post 5 February 1990, 1 & 12-13.
Faramus, A. 1954. The Faramus Story. Digit Books: London.
Faramus, A. 1990. Journey into Darkness: A true story of human endurance. Grafton Books: London.
Wetton, D. 1990. ‘Tony Faramus: Farewell to a Good Friend’, Hunt Saboteurs Association, (vol. unknown), p.9.
MI5 documents, 16 December 1942, TNA ref. KV 2/455 to KV2/463 (“Edward Arnold CHAPMAN, codenamed ZIGZAG”). Link.