By Gilly Carr
James Thomas William Quick was born in St Peter Port in Guernsey on 30 October 1910. At the time that he comes to our attention, he was married to Augustine and had a son, James William Quick, born on 19 March 1934. James Quick senior worked as a farm foreman, and lived in the Câtel parish.
Documents in Guernsey’s archives show that on 8 September 1942, Quick was brought to Guernsey Prison by the German Feldgendarmarie. The prison records show that he left the prison on 2 October, presumably to be taken to Jersey jail for his tribunal. On 28 October 1942, he was sentenced by the tribunal of Feldkommandantur 515 for ‘repeated serious thefts to 1½ years’ hard labour’. Jersey’s political prisoner logbook notes that he was deported on 18 November 1942.
To build up a picture of what happened to him next, we have three sources: prison records from France, records from the International Tracing Service, and Quick’s own testimony from his application for compensation for Nazi persecution written in July 1965. We start with the latter record for building up the best understanding of Quick’s trajectory.
In his testimony, Quick explained that an officer of the Organisation Todt (a paramilitary engineering force in the Channel Islands to build the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall) was billeted in his house. This officer made frequent trips to France, returning with large quantities of cigarettes and tobacco. Also in Quick’s house was a 17-year old son of a family friend. This lad was accused by the officer of stealing cigarettes, and Quick became involved. He was then arrested, imprisoned in Guernsey, and taken to Jersey, where:
a document was read to me in the Court house, and which I did not understand, and I was informed that I was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. I was then taken via Granville to St-Lô, where I was held a short while then I was transferred to ‘Fort Villeneuve St George’, where I worked for a short while in the ‘Gardeners Working Party’. I was then taken to Bernau, where I worked on the land. Next I was taken to ‘Deetz’ and from there to ‘Metz’ where I was told that my sentence was finished and I was to return to the Islands. This did not materialise and I next found myself held in ‘Fresnes Prison’ in Paris. From there I was shipped in cattle trucks with many others to ‘Buchenwald’. After my release I returned via Paris to England.
Extract from testimony by James Quick, July 1965, TNA ref. FO 950/3595
Quick was remarkably restrained in giving us any information about conditions in any of these places. From surviving documents, we can begin to add some dates to his journey. Records from Villeneuve show that he was held there from 8 December 1942 to 21 May 1943, meaning that we can work out that he was in Saint-Lô Prison from 18 November 1942 to 8 December 1942.
Following Villeneuve, Quick’s journey into Germany took a day and a night; he arrived in Bernau Prison and Labour Camp on 22 May 1943 and left on 4 September 1943 for Amberg Prison (although he may have been at this location for only a brief period). About Bernau, Quick says nothing, despite detailed testimonies of brutality from other Islanders who were there.
Although in his 1965 testimony he says that he was in Diez Prison from September 1943 to May 1944, at which point he was taken to Metz Prison, in May 1945 he wrote (as we shall see) that he was in Metz Prison instead during these eight months. How are we to read this contradictory information? Might we argue that by 1965, Quick had forgotten where he was? Or, in 1945, when Quick probably had severely compromised health, might his memory have been affected – or was it fresher and therefore more reliable? With the records from neither Diez nor Metz yet located, we might simply leave this contradiction on the page for future researchers to resolve. However, records from the ITS show that Quick’s name appears in Saarbrücken Prison from 8 to 9 May 1944. Saarbrücken is just 40 miles from Metz. Could it be that he spent a night here as he travelled 40 miles to Metz, just over the border in France? Might his sojourn at Diez have been very brief, no more than a stop-over on route to another prison, but perhaps lasting more than a single night so that it stuck in his memory? In fact, records at the International Tracing Service also show Quick’s name in Frankfurt Prison, and there is a tracing card for him in Regensburg Prison. These are both undated. If these are reliable sources, might we use these to trace his convoluted train journeys from Bernau on 4 September 1943, via Regensburg, Frankfurt, and Diez, to Metz? Alternatively, if those eight months were really spent in Diez with only a brief sojourn at Metz on route to Fresnes Prison in Paris, the appearance of Saarbrücken makes more sense for May 1944, as he travelled from Diez to Metz via this prison on the German-French border.
In any case, this gives us our closest approximation for when Quick arrived in Paris: May 1944. He remained here until 15 August 1944, at which point he was put on a cattle truck for five days as he travelled back into Germany, arriving in Buchenwald concentration camp on 20 August 1944.
Quick’s records for Buchenwald show that he was registered on 21 August 1944, was given prisoner number 77290, and wore an upside-down triangle with an E (for Englander) in the middle to show his English political prisoner status. Within Quick’s Buchenwald records is his medical record card. From this we learn that he was brought on two occasions (8 November 1944 and 3 December 1944) to the camp revier suffering from oedema (dropsy), where his tissues would have been swollen with fluid (most likely due to hunger), and that he was brought in with a corneal ulcer on 20 December 1944. James Quick’s grandson contacted the Frank Falla Archive to share a family story, namely, that Quick shared his food with a Polish man in the camp and went hungry himself. After the war he received a letter of thanks from this man.
Quick was liberated from Buchenwald by the American army on 1 May 1945. Unusually, within his Buchenwald records is a concentration camp inmate questionnaire, issued by the American military government. This questionnaire is dated 6 May 1945, which Quick would have filled in at the time of his release. Within this document he indicated that he was in Bernau from May 1943 to September 1943. He was then in Metz from September 1943 to May 1944, at which point he was taken to Fresnes Prison where he ‘awaited transport to Buchenwald August 20th 1944.’ There is no mention of Diez prison here. About his Buchenwald treatment, he wrote only that he held a position of ‘manual labour’ in the camp, and that the treatment he endured was ‘usual inhuman treatment.’ Quick was officially given his release papers on 7 May 1945, on which he indicated that it was his intention to return to Guernsey.
We do not know what happened to James Quick after the war, although in 1965 he was living in Stockport. As this was, according to his Buchenwald card, where his parents lived, we can assume that he moved to Stockport to look after his parents.
As for Quick’s family, Augustine and James junior, both were deported on 16 February 1943 because of Quick’s criminal record and deportation three months earlier. That Quick was able to indicate on his Buchenwald card that his family were prisoners indicates that he was able to correspond with them, most likely when his was still in Villeneuve prison. An undated record for James junior in Liebenau civilian internment camp survives. Other lists show that Augustine and James junior were deported from Guernsey first to Compiègne transit and internment camp and, in May 1943, to Biberach civilian internment camp. In the autumn of 1944, Augustine and James were transferred to Liebenau, a women’s internment camp, from where they were liberated in April 1945.
No records have yet been found of the reunion of the Quick family, although it is known, thanks to Quick’s grandson, that the family stayed in Stockport after the war and reside there today. James Quick (senior) died in 1973 in Stockport, Cheshire; his wife Augustine died four years earlier, in 1969. James junior, it seems, became disturbed through his own experience of deportation and his father’s experience in the camps, in a way that had serious repercussions for his own family. Sadly, such transmission of trauma through the generations is not unknown among victims of Nazism.
The Frank Falla Archive would like to thank James Rigby, born James Quick (grandson of James Quick senior), for sharing his family experiences.
Harris, R. 1979. Islanders Deported. Ilford: Channel Islands Specialist Society.
James Quick’s occupation registration form, Guernsey Archives.
James Quick’s charge sheet, copyright Guernsey Archives, ref. CC14-05/165.
List of Admissions (Guernsey Prison), Guernsey Archives ref. HA/P/08-03.
James Quick’s entry, Jersey’s political prisoner log book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7.
1943 Deportations List, Guernsey Archives ref. FK 12-14.
James Quick’s compensation claim for Nazi persecution, TNA ref. FO 950/359
James Quick’s prison records at Fort de Villeneuve Saint-Georges Prison, Val de Marne Archives, ref. 500W/3.
Records for James Quick, copyright International Tracing Service records, the Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide, refs: 689116/1 (Buchenwald), 11366697 (Amberg), 11538729 (Bernau), 11548874 (Frankfurt), 77785228 (Liebenau), 5387282 (Buchenwald), 11296856 (Saarbrücken).
Fondation pour la memoire de la deportation, entry for James Quick: http://www.bddm.org/liv/details.php?id=I.264.#QUICK