Loos-lès-Lille Prison

Country France
GPS 50° 37' 14.34" N, 3° 0' 0.954" E
Address (formerly) 1, avenue du Train de Loos, 59373 Loos. France
Dates Active 1817-2011 (razed 2016)

Channel Islander imprisoned in Loos-lès-Lille Prison:

Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Edwards (later Joanknecht)

By Roderick Miller

Only one Channel Islander is known to have been incarcerated in Loos-lès-Lille Prison (Maison d’arrêt de Loos, Centre pénitentiaire de Lille) in the northern French city of Lille. The prison was built on the grounds of the former Notre-Dame de Loos Abbey, founded in 1146 and secularized after the French Revolution in 1789. It was already in use as a prison in 1817, but the penitentiary buildings in use during the Second World War were built in 1906.

Lille was occupied by Nazi troops on 31 May 1940, and became part of the German military zone in Northern France under control of the German command in Brussels. Like all prisons in occupied France, Loos-lès-Lille Prison came under German command, and by May 1941 a section of the prison for political prisoners was run entirely by German staff; the Quartier allemand de la prison de Loos. This was one of the main prisons in Northern France for political prisoners of the German occupying forces.

It was in this section of the prison that Dorothy Edwards was imprisoned, from 17 October 1942 until 26 December of the same year, when she was transferred to Caserne Vandamme in Lille. Edwards was also briefly transferred back to Loos-lès-Lille just prior to her release and return to the Channel Islands on 19 February 1943.

Edwards did not leave any testimonials about her experience in Loos-lés-Lille, but another political prisoner, Roger Véroone described his experience in 1944:

They couldn’t get anything out of me, so they placed me in irons in solitary confinement: during the day with the irons in front of me, at night behind, in a cell with the windows broken by the bombardment of the Lille-Délivrance railway yards. A thin mattress on the floor with only one blanket to try to cover myself a little. I got really cold. And nowadays I’m more and more sensitive each winter. For the meal in the evening I was the last one served, and I had to swallow my soup too hot since the guard was waiting to put the irons on with my wrists behind me (20 days in front and 20 nights behind). I had to wear my left arm in a sling made from a towel tied around of my neck, otherwise my left side was paralyzed in the region of the chest, and it still is a little bit today. [1]

It is unlikely that Edwards experienced anything nearly that brutal, but it gives some idea of the terrible conditions in the prison for those whom the Germans viewed as dangerous political prisoners.

After the allied D-Day invasion of June 1944, the Germans began consolidating political prisoners for transport further east into the Reich. On 1 September 1944, 872 prisoners were transported in lorries from the prison to Tourcoing Train Station, about 13 miles away. From there they were deported to prisons and concentration camps in Germany. Lille was liberated from the Nazis by British troops two days later, on 3 September 1944. By the end of the war in May 1945, only 284 of the prisoners – less than one third of those who left Lille 9 months earlier – were still alive.

Loos-lès-Lille Prison continued to operate as a prison after the war. A memorial to the prisoners who were deported to Germany was consecrated at the prison in 2006. In 2014, a Lille court awarded damages of 34,000 euros to the family of a prisoner who had died in the prison in 2007 from medical neglect. The prison, badly deteriorated, was closed in 2011 and its main buildings razed in 2016.

Dorothy Edwards survived the war and eventually married a German soldier, with whom she had fallen in love during the occupation.

[1] Translated from the original French by Roderick Miller, see AJPN in Sources below.


AJPN (Anonymes, Justes et Persécutés durant la période Nazie dans les communes de France): Prison de Loos-lès-Lille durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale (WWII) (in French) Link

Archives départementales du Nord, Lille:
2025 W 1-11, 14-16, Quartier allemand de la prison de Loos
2025 W 12-13, Registre de dépôt des femmes détenues et transférées à la caserne Vandamme., 4 décembre 1942 – 7 févier 1944

Décès d’un détenu à la maison d’arrêt de Loos (in French), extracts of a statement of the OIP dated 01/08/2014. Link