By Gilly Carr
The story of Maurice Gould’s wartime experience was described by his close friend Peter Hassall, in his detailed memoir, finished in 1991, entitled Hitler’s Night and Fog Decree or The Unknown Prisoners. The full document is available in PDF on this website. The two young men were deported together and experienced Nazi prisons and camps together. Only Peter survived to write his memoirs.
Maurice was born in Leicester on 31 May 1924. He came to Jersey aged two to live with his grandfather. By 1941 he was working as an apprentice herbalist at his grandfather’s herbalist shop in St Helier. Maurice was over six feet tall and Peter Hassall later described him as a ‘gentle giant’ with a ‘mass of chestnut coloured hair’ and ‘even, white teeth … always in evidence, because of a built-in grin.’
Maurice, Peter, and their friend Dennis Audrain decided to escape from Jersey, each for their own different reasons, and all inspired by the successful escape by Dennis Vibert; each were united, however, in their hatred of all things Nazi. On the night of 3 May 1942, the three young men decided to escape carrying hundreds of photos of German war materiel, and a map showing the positions of gun emplacements.
They set off in a boat which capsized. Dennis, who could not swim, drowned, despite Peter’s best efforts to rescue him. Maurice and Peter managed to return to shore and were met by the German Harbour Police, who had been tipped off by Peter’s mother. They were arrested and taken to the military wing of Gloucester Street prison in Jersey, where they underwent three days of harsh interrogations.
Peter and Maurice became the first Channel Islanders to be categorized as NN (Nacht und Nebel) prisoners. The NN decree was meant to intimidate local populations into submission by denying friends and families of seized persons any knowledge of their whereabouts or their fate. The prisoners were secretly transported to Germany and vanished without a trace.
In mid-May 1942, Peter and Maurice were taken to Fresnes Prison on the outskirts of Paris. They were interrogated and tortured at the Rue des Saussaies, Gestapo HQ in Paris, and were then deported by the Gestapo to Germany. On 12 June, 1942, with fifty other French NN prisoners, Peter and Maurice were sent to a German prison in Trier, where they were held overnight. The next day, they were taken to the train station of Reinsfeld, in the Mosel Valley, from which they were marched to a small concentration camp – SS Sonderlager (Special Camp) Hinzert Concentration Camp where, for the next six weeks, they were continuously tortured and beaten. They were strenuously worked for twelve hours a day on very low rations. Maurice was singled out, because of his stature and inability to speak French or German, for bad treatment, which severely weakened him.
On 24 July 1942, Peter and Maurice, together with one hundred other men under 20, were transported to the maximum security penitentiary of Wittlich Prison, where they were put to work in a basket factory. Peter later described Wittlich as ‘an ‘oasis’ in the centre of Germany’s wartime morass of concentration camps and prisons’, as the director of the prison tried to make life easier for the prisoners. The beatings from Hinzert, starvation diet and damp conditions in the basket factory fatally weakened Maurice, who succumbed to tuberculosis and died on 1 October 1943. He was given a Christian burial in Wittlich’s old cemetery by the prison priest, in defiance of Gestapo’s orders. In 1973, however, his body was insensitively moved to a military cemetery.
In January 1997, aged 71, Peter Hassall kept his vow to Maurice Gould and was able to repatriate his body to Jersey, where he was buried in the Allied War Cemetery of Howard Davis Park in a special ceremony. The order of service from this ceremony can be found on this webpage.
Hassall, P. 1997. Hitler’s Night and Fog Decree or The Unknown Prisoners. Unpublished memoir, Jersey Archives.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey: Jersey Heritage Trust.
Maurice Gould occupation registration card, Jersey Archives ref. St.H/5/4483, 4484 and 4485.
Gould’s deportation list for Hinzert, Jersey Archives ref. L/C/24/D1/2
International Tracing Service list of records for Maurice Gould, Wiener Library, refs. 103886387, 77502669/0/1, 78099241/0/1, 78099241/0/2, 78099242/0/1, 7899243/0/1, 7899243/0/2, 23099068/0/1, 23099068//1, 23099066/0/1, 23099065/0/1, 23099065/0/1, 103886387/0/1.