By Gilly Carr
Arthur Purtill was born in Clare Castle, Ireland, and was 19 years old and single at the start of the German occupation. He described himself as a labourer on his occupation registration card (although was described as a clerk in his court documents) and it is likely that, like other Irish men in the island at this time, he was in Jersey as seasonal labour to help with the potato harvest.
Purtill comes to our attention during the occupation because he had the great misfortune to have been deported to Germany on two occasions. However, no court records exist from his first brush with the Germans (if they ever existed) and no record of either of his deportations exist in the political prisoner log book of the island. This indicates either a possible deportation without trial the first time around, or a simple loss of records (which seems unlikely given the survival of what appears to be an almost complete set of duplicates of court records given to the local authorities for their records). Deportation without trial and without notification to the local authorities was not without precedence in the Channel Islands, and perhaps easier to do if the people concerned were less likely to be missed.
Purtill was convicted, charged and deported with two Irish friends: Dermot Bonas and Niall Bonass; the three young men had all been recently living and working together.
Turning to his first conviction, the only evidence we have for this comes from his occupation registration card, which states that he left for Germany on 30 June 1941 and returned on 20 January 1943 – the exact same dates as Dermot Bonas’ first deportation. We can safely assume that they were working together at this earlier stage of the occupation as well.
Within these dates, records from the International Tracing Service (ITS) note that Purtill was in Braunschweig Prison (i.e. Brunswick Prison) from 23 April 1942 to 14 May 1942 (during which Dermot Bonas was also imprisoned in the same place with him). No evidence has been found to suggest where else Purtill might have been during this first period of deportation.
Of Purtill’s second deportation, documents from Jersey Archives record that on 11 May 1944 he was court martialled by the Troop Court of the German Army. He was charged, with his two friends, of ‘serious larceny in complicity with one another’ and given a sentence of two years imprisonment with hard labour. He was now 23 years old.
As his name and date of deportation was not recorded in Jersey’s political prisoner log book, we cannot know when he was deported. Given the severity of his sentence and the fact that it was fairly late in the war, Purtill couldn’t hope to be sent anywhere other than Germany even if he had a brief sojourn in France beforehand.
The first prison record of his second deportation we have for him is in Karlsruhe Prison in Germany on 18 July 1944, where he stayed until 25 July 1944. After this he was deported to Bruchsal Prison, also in Germany, until 8 December 1944. From here he was briefly held in Ebrach Prison before being sent to Bamberg Prison on 10 December 1944, where he was held until 23 April 1945. After this, no more is known.
It is assumed that Arthur Purtill survived the war.
Jersey occupation registration documents, Jersey Archives ref Irish/2/459, Irish/2/460, Irish/2/461, Irish/2/462.
Court records relating to Arthur Purtill, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/7/83.
Records from the International Tracing Service (consulted at the Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide) refs: 11482501 (Bamberg), 11482543 (Bamberg), 33167513 (Bamberg), 11698487 (Braunschweig), 33167508 (Bruschsal), 11483336 (Ebrach), 1184337 (Ebrach), 11484338 (Ebrach), 33167510 (Ebrach), 11948624 (Bruchsal), 33167502, 33167503, 33167505, 33167509.