Channel Islanders imprisoned in Saarbrücken Prison:
Clifford John Cohu, Alfred James Connor, Norman Leslie Dexter, George James Fox, Paul Desiré Gourdan, Walter Henry Lainé, Percy William Miller, John Whitley Nicolle, Frederick William Page, Clifford Bond Querée, James Thomas William Quick, Joseph James Murray Tierney
By Roderick Miller
At least twelve Channel Islanders were incarcerated in Saarbrücken Prison (Untersuchungs- und Strafgefängnis Saarbrücken, Justizvollzugsanstalt Saarbrücken). The prison was built between 1904 and 1907 in the form of three wings forming a “T” shape, two of the wings for male prisoners and one for female prisoners. Saarbrücken Prison is known regionally by the nickname ‘Larkesflur’ (‘larks’ meadow’) or simpley ‘Lerch’ after the street it is on. By 1939, the prison was intended for prisoner stays of three weeks to two months, and a maximum capacity of 460 male and 48 female prisoners. The capacity had been increased with the addition of a fourth wing with 100 cells in 1939, completing the building’s current cross shape. The prison had been filled over capacity in the late 1930s with 618 men and 66 women, but by the time Channel Islanders arrived in 1943, the capacity had dropped to 349 men, although the women’s prison remain over capacity with 74 female prisoners.
Ten Channel Islanders (all, excepting James Quick) were transferred out of Fort d’Hauteville Prison near Dijon, France, on 19 December 1943 and arrived in Saarbrücken two days later. The Nazis decided in late 1943 to transfer all prisoners from the Nazi-occupied territories in Western Europe from Saarbrücken to Frankfurt, and the islanders were all transferred to Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison on 7 January 1944, except for Alfred Connor and John Nicolle, who transferred to Bochum Prison on 12 April 1944. The reason for their later transfer and separation from their compatriots remains unknown. James Quick spent only the night of 8 to 9 May 1944 in Saarbrücken Prison in transit between other prisons. Of the twelve Channel Islanders who were incarcerated in Saarbrücken Prison, only Paul Gourdan, James Quick, Norman Dexter, and Walter Lainé would survive the war. Many of those who survived would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
The prison was heavily bombed on 11 May 1944, with 51 prisoners killed and 32 badly wounded. On 6 December 1944 the city’s civilians, including the inmates and staff of the prison, were given the order to evacuate the city. The US Army entered the city on 21 March 1945.
Saarbrücken Prison was staffed almost entirely by Nazi Party members or by members of other Nazi organizations. Its director from 1940 to 1944 was Regierungsrat (‘Government Advisor’) Erich Keil (born 25 May 1899 in Dresden). The post-war fate of Keil and the identities and post-war fates of the other prison staff is unknown.
The prison was heavily renovated, starting in the late 1970s, and many additional buildings were added to the prison, as can be seen from the aerial photos. There are no memorials on the prison site for the many political prisoners who were incarcerated there in the Nazi era. Saarbrücken Prison is still an active prison today.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Jung, Heike & Müller-Dietz, Heinz (editors): Strafvollzug im “Dritten Reich”. Am Beispiel des Saarlandes (in German). Baden-Baden, 1996.
Herge Harnischfeger, Ina: “Preungesheim, du schönes Städtchen. Strafgefangenakten der Anstalt Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim bis 1945 in Hessische Staatsarchive (publisher): ARCHIVnachtrichten aus Hessen, Heft 11/2, Wiesbaden, 2001, pp. 13-17. Link.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO HNP/1235 (Dexter)
TNA FO HNP/1402 (Fox)
TNA FO HNP/1195 (Lainé)
TNA FO 950/1220 (Nicolle)
TNA FO 950/ (Page)
TNA FO HNP/1407 (Querée)
TNA FO 950/1254 (Tierney)
The Wiener Library, London (International Tracing Service), record for James Quick: ref. 11296856.