Channel Islanders Imprisoned in Pankrác Prison:
Anthony Charles Chevalier Faramus
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander, Anthony Faramus, is known to have been imprisoned in Pankrác Prison (Gefängnis Pankratz, vazební věznice Praha Pankrác) in the Pankrác district of the city of Prague, in the then Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, currently the Czech Republic. The prison was built in 1889 and was considered modern for its day, with central heating and running water in the individual cells. The prison was lit with gas lamps, fitted with baths, and the prisoners were required to learn work skills that could help them find work when released. Pankrác Prison was designed to have a maximum capacity of 800 prisoners.
After German troops occupied Prague in March 1939, Pankrác Prison became a remand prison for the Nazi Gestapo. From 15 April 1943, the prison became a central place of execution in the region for supposed enemies of the Reich. There were three cells for the condemned and a guillotine for executing the prisoners. By the time Anthony Faramus arrived there in December 1944 from an unknown prison in Dresden, the prison was overcrowded with more than 2,000 inmates. In his 1954 memoir, he recounted that Pankrác Prison had:
…an extraordinary mixture of prisoners, consisting of soldiers, airmen and civilians of almost every nationality… We got very little sleep, for the guards continually came to inspect us and whenever they appeared we all had to spring to attention facing the wall. As they passed us we shouted out our numbers, at the same time keeping our hands above our heads until permission was given to lower them.
Faramus was only in Pankrác Prison for one night, but a more detailed description was given based on the testimonial of survivor Jerzy (George) Rynecki:
The cell was perhaps eight feet long and five or six feet wide. At the entrance was a toilet bowl that also provided the only available drinking water. Hanging directly off one wall there were two very narrow bunks, stacked vertically. There was a tiny table and a single chair in the cell. And up high on the wall was a very small window. Because it was twelve feet off the ground, inmates couldn’t see out of it. The cell was generally bitterly cold or stiflingly hot. Pankrác Prison was tremendously overcrowded an inmates were given verly little food. Every morning after coffee, rain or shine, there were outside exercises. Oftentimes the guards beat inmates during these exercises and subsequent roll call.
By the time Prague was liberated on 9 May 1945, 1087 prisoners had been executed in Pankrác Prison and their remains cremated. After the war, a number of Nazi war criminals were executed at the prison, including Heinrich Himmler’s deputy Kurt Daluege. The communists used the prison to incarcerated supposed enemies of the state, and a number of prisoners of the communist regime were executed behind the hospital, where a memorial stands today.
Anthony Faramus was deported from Pankrác Prison to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, which he survived under the most brutal conditions imaginable. He suffered for the remainder of his life from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Faramus, A.: The Faramus Story. Digit Books, London, 1954.
Rynecki, Elizabeth: Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy, New American Library, New York, 2016.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO HNP/1381, HNP/1901 (Faramus)