By Gilly Carr
Niall Hubert Bonass was born in Dublin, Ireland, and was 22 years old and single at the start of the German occupation. He described himself as a labourer on his occupation registration card (although this was later changed to ‘motor driver’ on his court records) and it is likely that, like other Irish men in the island at this time, he was initially in Jersey as seasonal labour to help with the potato harvest.
Bonass comes to our attention during the occupation because he was deported to Germany in 1944. However, no record exists of his deportation in the political prisoner log book of the island. This indicates either 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), or deportation without notification to the local authorities, which was not without precedence in the Channel Islands, and perhaps easier to do if the people concerned were less likely to be missed.
Bonass was convicted, charged and deported with two Irish friends: Arthur Purtill and Dermot Bonas; the three young men had all been recently living and working together. It seems that the similar spelling of the surnames of Dermot and Niall was not an administrative error; their surnames are also spelled differently in their signatures on their occupation registration cards.
Of Bonass’ 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 one year and six months of imprisonment with hard labour. He was now 26 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, Bonass couldn’t hope to be sent anywhere other than Germany even if he had a brief sojourn in France beforehand.
The first prison record we have for him is in Karlsruhe Prison in Germany, where he arrived on 18 July 1944. He was then transferred to Bruchsal Seilersbahn Prison, also in Germany, on 25 July 1944, where he stayed until 8 December 1944. After this he was deported to Ebrach Prison. He was then sent, on 10 December 1944, to Bamberg Prison until 23 April 1945, presumably the time of his liberation. All this time, his movements were the same as that of Arthur Purtill.
After this, no more is known, although two years after the war, records show that Niall Bonass and Dermot Bonas (spelled Bonass at this time) lived at the same address in London, which increases the possibility that they were related.
Jersey occupation registration documents, Jersey Archives refs D/S/A/14/A18, D/S/A/14/B17 and D/S/A/14/B18
Court records relating to Niall Bonass, 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: 11482517, 11482543, 15787146, 15787147, 15787149, 15787150, 15787151, 15787152.
15787147, 15787149, 15787150, 15787151, 15787152.