Channel Islanders imprisoned in Augsburg Gestapo Prison:
Charles Albert Friend, Paul Desiré Gourdan, Jack Harper, Herbert Percival Smith, Frank Hubert Tuck
By Roderick Miller
At least five Channel Islanders were imprisoned in Augsburg Gestapo Prison (Gestapogefängnis ‘Katzenstadel’, Amts- und Landgerichtsgefängnis Augsburg) Augsburg, a city in the German state of Bavaria. The prison building was built in 1895 and was nicknamed the ‘Katzenstadel’, which despite its apparent reference to ‘cats’, is actually referring to a medieval armoury that stood here previously. The Katzenstadel originally served as a prison for the district and state courts until the Nazi takeover in 1933, at which point it became a Gestapo Prison. Socialist Party members such as the mayor of Augsburg, Friedrich Ackermann, were among the first political prisoners to be incarcerated here by the Gestapo. Many of the prisoners were transported via this prison to Dachau Concentration Camp. The Katzenstadel could hold up to 500 prisoners.
In 1942, four of the policemen sentenced in the Guernsey police trial and Paul Gourdan from Jersey were deported to a series of prisons in France, and then to Landsberg Prison in Germany, followed by the Katzenstadel. After a presumably brief time here in August 1942, they and around 60 French political prisoners were taken to perform forced labour at Neuoffingen Forced Labour Camp, which was administered by the Augsburg prisons system. Soon after being transferred, Paul Gourdan and Jack Harper escaped from Neuoffingen. Harper was caught after five days and returned to the Katzenstadel to serve 28 days of solitary confinement on bread and water rations. A few days later, he saw Gourdan in the prison, confirming his re-capture. Harper was returned to spend two more years performing forced labour at Neuoffingen, and Gourdan went on to survive a series of German prisons.
At Neuoffingen, Percival Smith had been ‘deprived of food and clothes when it was terribly cold… and beaten with a shovel and a pick-axe in the stomach. Later he was taken to Augsburg and left to die in a cell and refused treatment by the doctor there.’ Frank Tuck’s testimony confirms that he had this information in a signed affidavit from a French prisoner who was with Smith when he died.
Percival Smith was buried in a field of graves with a mass plaque and no individual grave markers in the Westfriedhof cemetery in Augsburg (see photograph above). His grave is tended by the German War Graves Commission. The remaining Channel Islanders imprisoned in Augsburg survived the war, but many of them would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
The camp commandant of Neuoffingen, who was employed by Katzenstadel prison, was identified in writings of Frank Tuck and a number of French prisoners as a senior prison guard (Gefängnis-Oberwachtmeister) named Franz Sellmeir, who lived at Sedanstr. 51/0 in Augsburg. One of the chief guards was named Weishaupt (or Weisshaupt), but little beyond that of their identities and post-war fates is known. Sellmeir continued to work as a prison guard after the war, living from at least 1950 at Leonhard-Hausmann-Str. 51 in Augsburg. As of 1955, the Augsburg address book lists the ‘widow of senior prison guard’ Maria Sellmeir at this address, so presumably Franz Sellmeir died around 1954. Frank Tuck and a number of eyewitness French prisoners held Sellmeir and Weishaupt directly responsible for the murder of Percival Smith.
Augsburg Gestapo Prison Katzenstadel was destroyed by allied bombs in February 1944. The Augsburg Bürgerbüro (‘Citizen Information Centre’) was later built on the site, and a plaque was dedicated in its interior hallway to the victims of the Augsburg Gestapo Prison (see photographs above).
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Adreßbuchverlag der Industrie- und Handelskammer (publisher), Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Augsburg, 1940.
Adreßbuch Verlag Konrad Arnold (publisher), Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Augsburg for the years 1950, 1951-52, 1953, 1954, 1955.
The German War Graves Commission
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1748 (Friend)
TNA FO 950/1263 (Gourdan)
TNA FO HNP/1358 (Harper)
TNA FO 950/1161 (Smith)
TNA FO 950/962 (Tuck)
Nerdinger, Winfried: Bauten erinnern: Augsburg in der NS-Zeit (‘Buildings remember: Augsburg in the Nazi era’), Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin, 2012.