By Gilly Carr
Désiré Auguste Berezay was born in the parish of Grouville in Jersey and, at the start of the German occupation, was 40 years old. He worked as a plasterer, was widowed, but remarried (Florence Marie Berezay née Rebindane) on 2 October 1943, during the occupation. Berezay had fought in WWI, during 1917 and 1918, as a private in the army.
We do not know a great deal about Berezay’s experience during the occupation. However, court records show that on 8 September 1942 he was given the option by the German Troop Court of being fined 30 RM or given 3 days’ detention for infraction of the ‘Street Traffic Order’. It is not known which punishment he took. On 15 October 1943, he was again convicted of the same crime, and given a choice between 30 RM or a week’s imprisonment. On 19 February 1944 he was convicted a third time, and yet again by the Troop Court of the German Army in King’s Cliff House (a house still standing today in St Helier) for military larceny, for which he received a sentence of five months’ imprisonment.
There seems to be only a little evidence for Berezay’s deportation. His name does not feature in Jersey’s political prisoner logbook, indicating that his sentence was served elsewhere. As he was sentenced on the same day as Emile Paisnel (who received a sentence of 10 months) and as Cornelis van Ooststroom (who was sentenced to four months for military larceny), and both of these men were deported, it seems likely that this was also Berezay’s fate. Paul Sanders has stated that these three men were working together, describing Berezay as a ‘British driver for the German military’ (a position not stated on his registration form), and that he and van Ooststroom were ‘siphoning off fuel from German stocks.’ Neither van Ooststroom nor Paisnel are listed in the political prisoner log book, indicating that perhaps they were deported on the same day as their conviction, or that these men were kept incarcerated in the side of the prison guarded by the Germans, which was usually the pre-trial location. Whatever the situation, it appears that the local authorities were not notified. This was most likely deliberate and not without precedence.
We know that van Ooststroom, with a similar length sentence to Berezay, was in Fort de Villeneuve Saint-Georges Prison outside Paris, and there is evidence that Berezay joined him here. A letter of April 1944 from this prison written by Stanley Green makes reference to both van Ooststroom and Berezay, providing clear evidence of his deportation. If Berezay served his full five month sentence then it is unlikely that he returned to Jersey before the end of the occupation.
Jersey occupation registration documents, Jersey Archives ref St. H/4/8297; St.H/4/8298; St.H/4/8299.
Court records relating to Désiré Auguste Berezay, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/7/43.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey Heritage.