By Roderick Miller
Two Channel Islanders, Peter Hassall and Maurice Gould, are known to have been imprisoned in Trier State Court Prison (Landgerichtsgefängnis Trier) in the city of Trier in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The site of the prison had been used as a prison since 1833, but the buildings were used as a military casern between 1876 and 1893 and then again as a prison from 1897. The main building had 84 cells and had an underground passage to a second building with further cells. During the Nazi era, Trier Prison was primarily used to imprison political prisoners and those racially persecuted by the Nazi regime.
Maurice Gould and Peter Hassall were Nacht und Nebel (NN, ‘night and fog’) prisoners of the Nazis, part of a secret hostage program devised by the Nazis as a means of controlling potential resistance in occupied territory. The NN program was declared a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
Gould and Hassall were deported with 50 other NN prisoners from Fresnes Prison in Paris to Trier on 12 June 1942. They spent but one night in Trier Prison, but Peter Hassal left an extremely detailed of their stay in Trier in his memoirs:
No sooner had the train stopped, when it was illuminated by flood lights mounted on police vehicles. We were kept in the little cells while preparations for our exit were made; then finally, the doors opened, and we were ordered off the train, and as we were herded onto the platform, our once-affable guards acted like Attila the Hun’s hordes, as they screamed their war chants: ‘Raus! Los! Maul zu! Rühig!’ [‘Out! Go! Shut up! Quiet!’] …
There was a large, black and white sign on the platform, and although partly painted over, it told us that we were in Trier – a German border town …
We were assembled in columns of three, then surrounded by about 15 Schutzpolizei (Schupo – regular policemen from county and municipal police forces) … In the searchlights’ beams we noted that some of them carried sub-machine guns and rifles, but for the most part they were armed with sidearms …
After calling the roll … and being counted three times, our bodies were signed for by the senior Schupo. This was followed by a round of handshakes and numerous ‘Sieg Heils’. Then our military guards re-boarded their little train, and went out of our lives … Then, after more yelling we were marched out of the station, surrounded by Schupo.
The cobblestone roads were narrow and all windows were blacked-out, making it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. In the night’s fog, one sensed, rather than saw, many stone buildings. I made out two church spires against the skyline, and from their design they appeared to be very old, however, we could see very little as the fog was quite dense.
It did not take long to reach a large, double gate, over which a low wattage, yellow light bulb glowed through the fog – it was the entrance to another prison. We walked through a short archway into a small cobble-stone courtyard, where we were met by a diminutive, barking warder, who wore a long sabre, which almost dragged on the ground. The swordsman ordered the Schupos to take us into the prison through a small door, and once inside, the usual roll-call and counting of our fifty-two bodies began all over …
When the sabre-carrying warder was satisfied that we were all accounted for, he signed for our bodies from the Schupo sergeant, then escorted him out of the prison. When he came back, he split us into two sections, then crammed us into two medium-size cells. Neither had enough floor space for us to lie down, and our cell stank of stale urine and feces, which came from a large portable toilet in one corner of the cell, and in front of which, a line soon formed. The odour soon became unbearable, and there were yells asking if anyone had any toilet paper. When the dawn’s light crept through the barred windows, we saw that the toilet had overflown and added to the woes of those who were compelled to stand near it.
It had been impossible to sleep, because of the lack of space and incessant chatter, and during the night several younger prisoners came and introduced themselves to us. They expressed surprise that two Anglais were locked up with them. But then, so were we. I told our questioners that we were from the Channel Islands, but it was necessary to explain where the Islands were and the facts of their occupation. After listening to our story, they shook our hands – it appeared that we were accepted into their fraternity.
Before noon we were each given a bowl of thick soup and a slice of black bread. The soup was better than any we had eaten at Fresnes, and was most welcome, given the fact that I had eaten all the bread and sausage given to me in Fresnes …
As soon as we had eaten that morning of Saturday, 13 June, we were ordered to get ready, as we were about to leave. I asked one of the warders where we were going, but was told, ‘Keep your trap shut!’
An hour or so later we were marched into the prison yard, where our Schupos from the previous night waited. Then, three abreast, we went through the usual roll-call, and when everyone was satisfied, we were marched out of the prison onto the streets of Trier. As our little ‘terrorist’ group trudged along the cobble-stone streets of Trier, we passed many Germans going about their daily tasks – they barely gave us a glance. I suspected that it must have been an every day occurrence for them to see dirty, unshaven, and obviously foreign prisoners, being hustled through their nice, clean streets …
When we arrived at the railway station, several more Schupos waited for us.
Hassal and Gould and the other 50 NN prisoners were then transported to Hinzert Concentration Camp. Maurice Gould died in Wittlich Prison on 1 October 1943 as a direct result of the conditions of his imprisonment. Hassall survived the war, but like most survivors, probably suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.
Trier Prison remained in use until 1977, and the main building was completely gutted internally and converted to a museum of the church diocese in the early 1980s. The rest of the prison buildings were razed and the remaining site is occupied today by the August-Viktoria and Max Planck secondary schools. There is no known memorial at the former prison site to commemorate those persecuted by the Nazis and imprisoned there.
Hassall, Peter D.: Night and Fog Prisoners, testimonial, Canada, 1997. Link
International Tracing Service Arolsen: Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, Bad Arolsen, 1949-1951, p. 172.
Linz, Jacob (publisher): Einwohnerbuch der Stadt Trier 1930/31, Verlag des Einwohnerbuches der Stadt, Trier, 1929. Link
Peitz, Alois & Ludwig, Helmut (editors): Vom Gefängnis zum Musueum: Der Neubau des Dom- und Diözesanmuseums in Trier, Werkbericht 7, Bau und Kunst im bischöflichen Generalvikariat, June 1988, Trier.
Trierisch e. V. v. Ortsbeirat Trier-Mitte / Gartenfeld, Trier (publishers): (Unge)rechtes Trier. Die Verfolgung der Juden zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus und ihre Deportation, Verlag für Geschichte und Kultur, Trier 2016. Link
Wiener Archives, London