Alderney's losses and profit under Nazi rule

Files reveal brutality and tales of collaboration
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Details of the German occupation of the Channel Islands were disclosed yesterday, revealing evidence of islanders profiting from their neighbours' misery and the cruelty of the only concentration camp ever operated on British soil.

The last tranche of Channel Island documents, released yesterday at the Public Record Office, throw a harsh light on what the Germans called "the model occupation".

The files are largely transcripts of interrogations of escapees undertaken by MI19, the intelligence body charged with building up a picture of enemy resources and morale. They give lists of collaborators and "Jerrybags" - island women who slept with German soldiers and frequently bore their children.

The files also provide the fullest picture yet of the horrors of the Alderney camps, where slave workers - mostly Russian - were starved and beaten to death in the sealed-off island. The papers outline a sickening catalogue of ill treatment, including SS guards using their bloodhounds to hunt the prisoners across the "deadline" so that they would be shot "while attempting to escape".

Of the 1,600 Russian prisoners brought to the island - which was abandoned by the British after the Germans took France - in 1942 to work as forced labourers building fortifications for the Germans, at least half starved or were beaten to death according to MI19.

"Too undernourished and exhausted to work efficiently, these men were mercilessly beaten by the German guard and frequently when they were too weak after a beating to stand up, they were clubbed to death or finished off with a knife," one report said.

The most notorious of the camps on the island was the SYLT camp for political prisoners including Russian "defaulters". The MI19 report said: "One such was crucified on the camp gates, naked and in midwinter. The German SS guards threw buckets of cold water over him all night until he was finally dead.

"Another was caught by bloodhounds when attempting to stow away to the mainland. He was hanged and then crucified to the same gate. His body was left hanging on the gate for five days as a warning."

Jersey women's behaviour was resented even more than the food shortage. One anonymous informant told MI19: "The behaviour of a great number of women has been quite disgraceful. There are many illegitimate children on the island born to German fathers

He pointed out that under Jersey law a husband was responsible for the upkeep of his wife's illegitimate children.

The report says: "Informants report a considerable discontent with the states administration. There will after liberation be a general demand for the incorporation of Jersey into the UK ... they speak of timidity and passive acceptance of the demands of the occupying forces. The island bosses, moreover, have lived well ... they have never gone short of food, fuel and other commodities that are in short supply for the man in the street."

A 24-year-old farmer, Oscar Horman, and Charles Bordis, a clerk, who escaped to England via France after D Day, singled out two particular racketeers: Mr Le Gresley, the food controller, and Major Le Masurier, president of the supreme council, who were accused of taking the small amount of food not commandeered by the Germans.

The escapees described plans for revenge on unfaithful women. The patriotic youths, the papers say, "have been collecting stocks of tar and publicly tar and feather all Jerrybags ... The local police are determined to turn a blind eye when the husbands return because murder will be done and public opinion will in general approve".