By Roderick Miller
Three Channel Islanders are known to have been imprisoned in Alderney Gaol (Arresthaus Alderney, OT-Gefängnis Alderney) in St Anne in the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands. The gaol, an extension of the courthouse and police station, was built in 1850 at the then not inconsiderable cost of £4,000. At the time it was considered a necessary expense to deal with additional crime brought on by the sudden influx of workmen brought to the island for the construction of Victorian fortifications. The gaol was constructed with 12 cells.
Prior to the German occupation of the Channel Islands on 30 June 1940, the circa 1500 residents of Alderney were mostly evacuated to mainland Britain, and some to Guernsey, where they would stay for the remainder of the war. The Germans immediately began to fortify the island as part of the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ Nazi defensive fortifications, since they saw the island as essential to the conquest of Britain. The Nazi Organisation Todt (OT) built four major concentration or OT labour camps on the island, all of them named after Frisian Islands in the North Sea: Borkum, Helgoland, Norderney, and Sylt. Lager Sylt was run by the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (WVHA) as a Baubrigade or ‘construction brigade’ and was a sub-camp of Neuengamme Concentration Camp in Germany. The rampant corruption and level of collusion on the small (3 square mile) confines of the island between the SS, OT personnel and the German military led to crimes against humanity by all three organisations.
The buildings housing Alderney’s courthouse, police station and gaol were taken over by the OT and German military, and the gaol – a building adjacent to the courtyard behind the main building and not visible from the street – was used to imprison minor offenders from amongst Alderney’s OT civilian and forced labour population, as well as German military remand prisoners. The German army had its rations office and store in the courthouse and billeted its staff around the corner in Victoria Street. The gaol was administered by the German garrison officer and was used for prisoners with sentences of longer than seven days whose offenses were not serious enough to warrant transport off of the island. Three to five prisoners were incarcerated in each cell, making for a maximum capacity of 60 prisoners. Germany military prisoners comprised two-thirds of those incarcerated and they were kept strictly separated from the OT and forced labour prisoners.
It is estimated that 3000 to 4000 prisoners were incarcerated at any one time on the island of Alderney and made to perform forced labour for the Nazis under brutal conditions. The prisoners consisted primarily of Ukrainians, Russians and other Eastern Europeans, together with a number of Western Europeans, including Spanish Republicans, North Africans from Algeria and Morocco, and French Jews. According to survivor accounts, prisoners often described in Island histories as ‘Russian’ were, in most cases, actually Ukrainian nationals from the Soviet Union. Anti-communist sentiment in Britain made many loathe to use the term ‘Soviet’, thus the ‘Russian’ tended to be used as a blanket description for all Slavic Eastern Europeans.
In summer 1943, a former Sylt Camp Kapo (collaborationist prisoner-guard) named Ebert tried to escape the island but was found hiding in St Anne Church. As he fled the church he was shot several times by the SS. They caught up with him as he stood bleeding at the courthouse gate. A German corporal working in the courthouse ration office testified that ‘Ebert tried to hold on on my side of the road by seizing the concrete pillars in front of our building and holding on to the iron gate, but the SS men kicked his hands away and trod into his stomach with their boots, so that he slumped forward, and when he fell they shot him in the body. He was dying and asked for some water, whereupon one of the SS men had finished him off with a shot in the head.‘ 
After the Germans occupied the island, Alderney also became home to a number of civilian workers from other islands in the Channel Islands — Guernsey in particular, as it is the closest of the major islands to Alderney. It was as civilian labourers that Guernseymen Raymond Goasdoué and Eric Kibble came to Alderney.
Raymond Goasdoué had been an ambulance driver on Guernsey and was part of a group of young men who were sent by the States of Guernsey to Alderney to work for the OT as cowherds on Jennings Farm. He wrote a letter to his mother in which he mentioned that he was working hard, eating well, and had been able to save £22 from his work. He was able to send his family money for stamps and envelopes so that they could afford to write back to him. According to the family history, Goasdoué was eating lunch one day and was ordered by a German officer to return to work and struck by the officer with his glove. As a response, Goasdoué struck back and ‘flattened’ the officer, resulting in a sentence of 6 months’ solitary confinement that he served in Alderney Gaol. The officer wanted to have Goasdoué executed, but other Germans knew him from Guernsey and made sure he only received a prison sentence. Goasdoué had only a ‘half a page of Reader’s Digest’ to distract him. According to the family history, ‘… It was a brutal existence, on many occasions fellow prisoners were taken out and shot. Ray never knew when his turn might come’.
Most of the prisoners in Alderney Gaol were foreign forced labourers, many of whom would not survive the war, dying either in Alderney OT or concentration camps or later in other camps and prisons in German occupied territories. There are no other testimonials of prisoners in Alderney Gaol being executed, but there are so few survivor testimonials that the possibility cannot be ruled out on the basis of otherwise-lacking evidence. Former forced labourer Albert Domaille testified after the war that he had witnessed ‘the shooting’ in the street in front of Alderney Gaol, but no details were given as to the context of what he saw. Most likely it related to the incident of a former Sylt capo (prisoner-guard) who had tried to escape the island and was shot by the SS.
Engineer Eric Kibble was living in Guernsey when he was denounced by an informant for having a radio. He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment by the German military tribunal, and his son – as they had only moved to Guernsey from England in 1938 – sent to an internment camp in Germany. He served the first six months of the sentence in Guernsey, but was transported to Alderney to serve the remainder of the sentence in February 1945:
When in prison I was merely bullied (made to work when not fit) but the other nationalities were knocked about, bullied and starved. I was the only Englishman out of about 30 in the prison. People were in the prison for minor offences, e.g. stealing potatoes, being in possession of pamphlets dropped by the RAF etc. Prisoners were knocked about particularly by Obergefreiter Fritz LENDERING and Oberfeldwebel FREMPGEN, 13th Company. The worst incident was when a man named Ben Abbitt, an Algerian, was knocked about all over the room by FREMPGEN, knocked to the floor, and had great difficulty getting up. No one died as a result of the beatings, but they were physical wrecks. Ahmoudi and Ben Abbitt were continually knocked about. The weaker ones were continually knocked about. Part of the rations were set aside by a Georgian interpreter to give to LENDERING in order to appease him and to ensure that he did not impose extra punishment on the prisoners after the day’s work had been done. –Eric Kibble, post-war testimonial, TNA WO 311/12
Gerald Bird wrote in his 1960s compensation testimony that he was sentenced in Alderney in 1943, where he was possibly employed as a driver for the OT, although the only documentary evidence shows his sentencing in Jersey in January 1944 for possession of anti-German leaflets. A 2004 letter from the Veterans’ Agency of the Ministry of Defence states that Bird was imprisoned in Alderney Gaol. He was deported in 1944 to prisons in France and survived Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
A Russian survivor from Smolensk named Ivan Makarenko left additional testimony with British intelligence officials in May 1945 that his entire time in Alderney was spent ‘in the prison in the town. There was very little food and he was beaten by warders.’
The personnel of Alderney Gaol consisted of man named Lendering, who was in the Feldgendarmerie or ‘military field police’, and both he and the above-mentioned Frempken (also written ‘Frembgen’) are included on a British military list of guards in Alderney Gaol. Others listed as having served until April/May 1945 are the non-commissioned officers Birringer, Wolf, Franzen, Gärtner, and Hellbach, as well as a Private Zinecker and an OT-Meister named Freipont, making up a total of 10 German Alderney Gaol personnel. None of the Germans working in Alderney Gaol are known to have been prosecuted for their maltreatment of prisoners there.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that one in ten foreign forced labourers in Alderney died on the island. Of an estimated 4,000 Spanish Republicans who performed forced labour in camps in Alderney, only around 59 survived, most of them having perished later in Mauthausen Concentration Camp. It is unknown how many people were imprisoned by the Germans in Alderney Gaol from 1940 to 1945, and it is unlikely that it will ever be known how many of them survived the war.
Allied troops landed in Alderney to accept the German surrender on 16 May 1945, perhaps one of the last occupied territories in Europe to still have active German troops on it — over a week after the German unconditional surrender on 8 May. British Army Captain C. Kent took control of Alderney Gaol on 17 May and reported finding very poor sanitary conditions there. The remaining German troops were taken into custody as prisoners of war and removed from Alderney on 20 May. The native population of Alderney began returning to the island in December 1945. Alderney Gaol was active again by 1947. The interior of the courthouse had been destroyed by the Germans and was rebuilt in 1955.
None of the sites in Alderney from the Second World War have historical protection status and Alderney Gaol is no exception. In a telephone conversation with the author on 10 October 2017, an Alderney courthouse employee described the adjoining gaol as ‘in disuse’, ‘possibly structurally unsound’ and the back courtyard as ‘overgrown’. The Alderney General Services Committee has been making attempts to find a solution for the former gaol, with suggestions in 2012 to try to find funding to renovate the structure, but later 2014 suggestions opt for the solution of demolishing the gaol in favour of a parking lot. A decision was undertaken to by the Alderney Building and Development Control Committee on 15 July 2014 to undertake ‘A full study of the historic importance of the gaol building… by a qualified person or body to allow the Committee to work out the relative importance of the building’. As of date (October 2017) Alderney Gaol is still standing but probably still under threat of demolition.
There are three memorial plaques at the entrance to the Alderney Court House for the islanders who were forcibly removed in 1940 and to commemorate the visit of Queen Elisabeth II after the war, but there is no memorial at the Alderney Gaol site to the many prisoners who suffered or perhaps even died there. Alderney Gaol is one of the last remaining structures on the island where German forces imprisoned Channel Islanders and foreign forced labourers. It would be unfortunate if the local government chose to demolish rather than preserve a building so central to the history of the Nazi occupation of Alderney.
Gerald Bird, Raymond Goasdoué, and Eric Kibble survived the war, but as with many survivors, likely suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
 From Pantcheff in Sources below, p. 35.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot, Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Bonnard, Brian: Alderney from Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing, 2009.
Crespo , Martí: Esclavos de Hitler: Republicanos en los campos nazis del Canal de la Mancha, Editorial UOC, 2015 (in Spanish).
International Tracing Service Arolson (publisher), Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, Arolsen, 1949-1951.
Kelly’s Directory of The Channel Islands (1899).
Megargee, Geoffrey P. (editor): Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, Vol. 1 , Part B. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2009, pp. 1361-1362.
Mière, Joe: oral testimony collected for exhibition in the Jersey War Tunnels Museum.
Pantcheff, T. X. H.: Alderney Fortress Island: The Germans in Alderney 1940–1945, Phillimore, 1981, 2005 reprint.
States of Alderney: Building and Development Control Committee, 15 July 2014, PA/2014/055, discussion of studying historic importance of Alderney Gaol. LINK
The National Archives (TNA), War Office (WO):
TNA WO 311/11, ‘War Criminals, Channel Islands, General’
TNA WO 311/12, ‘Atrocities on Alderney’
Pike, David Wingeate: Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, Horror on the Danube, Routledge, 2003, Chapter 1: ‘Captives in the Channel Islands’.