By Roderick Miller
At least three Channel Islanders were imprisoned in Amberg Prison (Zuchthaus Amberg, Strafanstalt Amberg, Justizvollzugsanstalt Amberg) in Amberg in the Upper Palatinate district of Bavaria, Germany. Amberg Prison was first placed in use as a prison in 1786 in a former royal hunting lodge. In the Nazi era, it was first used primarily for political prisoners and later for foreign forced labourers. By the late 1930s it was largely staffed by Nazi SS and SA members. Amberg Prison provided prisoners for forced labour to Zeiss AG, an optics manufacturer. Amberg Prison also operated two forced labour sub-camps during the war: one in Wöllersdorf, and the other for the Amberger Kaolinwerke company in Hirschau, with 100 Russian forced labourers. The Luitpoldhütte AG foundry in Amberg exploited over 2000 forced labourers, some of whom may have been supplied by Amberg Prison.
A postwar document in the Wiener Library Archives from Amberg Prison dated 15 May 1948 confirms the incarceration of four Channel Islanders in the prison. The imprisonment dates listed on this document are inaccurate, however, and appear to reflect instead their earlier sentencing dates. Of the Channel Islanders imprisoned in Amberg, only Frederick Short mentioned Amberg in a written testimonial, albeit without a specific date:
After being on this train for a couple of hours or so I was again put off where four armed Nazi Prison Guards awaited me, I was handcuffed to two of them put in a motor truck and arrived at a large Nazi Prison in a town named Amberg, After spending three days in this prison I was again removed taken to the railway line and again the prison train treatment, after a few hours I was again put off and find myself in Nuremberg Prison where I stayed two days then once again the prison train treatment. —Frederick Short, 15 January 1965
It is probable that all of the Channel Islanders only spent a very short time in Amberg, and that for them the prison was primarily a stopover en route to other places of imprisonment.
Amberg was occupied by the US Army on the evening of 22 April 1945 with no opposition, and mayor Sebastian Regler formally surrendered on the next day. Prison chaplain Benedikt Wein testified about Amberg Prison at the Nuremberg Military Tribunal ‘Justice Trial’ on 28 April 1947:
… a large proportion of the inmates of [Amberg] prison were Poles who had been sentenced under the ‘Poles’ Act.’ Many of them died from undernourishment. They were forced to eat potato peelings and hunt through rubbish heaps for eatable refuse. From this prison, ‘asocial elements’ were picked out and sent in batches to Mauthausen Concentration Camp. All of the first batch was said to have perished. Among the prisoners were Jews who had been sentenced for ‘race pollution’. —From Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals
German judges were the defendants at this trial, among them judges who had sentenced prisoners who were incarcerated in Amberg Prison. One of these Nazi judges committed suicide just prior to the start of the trial, and ten of them were sentenced to prison terms. 46 prisoners died in Amberg Prison, presumably due to maltreatment. A memorial in the Katharinenfriedhof cemetery in Amberg names 23 of them, and honours the memory of a further 300 Russian forced labourers buried in a mass grave and 293 further victims of the Nazi Regime who died in Amberg.
Two Amberg residents in the SS were active in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp system, SS-Oberscharführer Vincent Klose (born 13 January 1890) and and SS-Unterscharführer Ferdinand Ibscher (born 19 May 1909). Ibscher was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 1948 in Krakau and his last known residence was Amberg. Klose died on 1 March 1972 in Amberg. It is not known if they participated in the Amberg Prison system.
Sidney Ashcroft died in Nazi custody in Straubing Prison. James Quick and Frederick Short survived the war in other Nazi prisons and concentration camps. Like most survivors, they probably suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
Amberg Prison continued to operate after the war and is active today for male prisoners serving sentences up to six years, with a maximum capacity of 589 prisoners.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Sanders, Paul: The Ultimate Sacrifice: The Jersey islanders who died in German prisons and concentration camps during the Occupation 1940 – 1945, Jersey Heritage Trust, Jersey, revised and updated edition, 2004.
Klee, Ernst: Auschwitz — Täter, Gehilfen, Opfer und was aus ihnen wurde: Ein Personenlexikon. S. Fischer Verlag, 2013
International Tracing Service Arolsen, Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, 1949-1951.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO)
TNA FO HNP 2766 (Quick)
TNA FO 950/1224 (Short)
Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals, October 1946-April 1949, United States Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1951, p. 1103.
Wiener Library, London: International Tracing Service Archives, Doc. No. 11366697#1