Papers reveal islanders' collaboration with Nazis

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Whitehall documents released yesterday on the German occupation of the Channel Islands reveal the extent to which the Jersey and Guernsey administrations collaborated with the occupation, and the Home Office's determination to sweep complaints under the carpet after the war.

No Channel Islanders were prosecuted for war crimes or collaboration, despite extensive evidence of their help in deporting English and Jews, fraternising with the Germans and operating a black market. At the end of the war the British even agreed to redeem marks in pounds sterling, enabling those who had accumulated wealth under the Germans to keep it.

Such was the official embarrassment that the 27 folders of papers released yesterday had originally been classified for 75 or 100 years. They were released after censorship, following pressure from David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North. Of the files, 14 have had names removed because of 'personal sensitivity' and two on grounds of national security. Seven more have been withheld completely. The Channel Islands' own Second World War archives have never been made public, and there are no plans to release them.

The records disclose that 'numbers of women including a surprising number of married women formerly considered respectable have carried on and lived with Germans. Illegitimate babies are common.' A secret club was set up - the Guernsey Underground Barbers - to punish women who had 'misconducted themselves' with Germans. In a report to the Home Office, Judge Fred French, who organised the evacuation of Alderney, said the Guernsey civil authorities were 'guilty throughout of a gross failure to perform their duty' by not evacuating the island earlier.

One of the most telling documents, which shows that British officials and politicians chose to ignore local anger, is a private memorandum from a senior judge to the Home Secretary, James Chuter-Ede, in 1945. Lord Justice du Parcq had been asked by Home Office officials to comment on allegations of collaboration within the Jersey and Guernsey administrations.

He criticises the role of the Channel Island governments in the deportation of 2,000 English and Jews to concentration camps in 1942, on Hitler's orders. 'I think that a strong case can be made . . . that the authorities ought to have refused to give any assistance in the performance of this violation of international law. I have had some communication with the War Crimes Commission on the subject, and I know that the Commission has recommended the prosecution of the Germans responsible . . . I should feel happier if I thought a strong line had been taken.'

Of the Bailiff of Guernsey, Victor Carey, whose grandson is the current Bailiff, and who was under consideration at the time for a knighthood, he says: 'There is strong feeling in responsible quarters in Guernsey against the Bailiff by reason of the orders issued by him. Some at least were shocked by the use of the words 'enemy forces' to describe His Majesty's and Allied Forces, and by the promise of a pounds 25 reward to any informer against a person writing the V sign (symbol of resistance) or other words calculated to offend the German authorities.'

He concludes: 'I would assume that these orders, with any explanation which Mr Carey has to offer, would be brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, if not His Majesty, before any honour was conferred.'

Chuter-Ede's attitude is clear as he tells an official to write to the Bailiff asking him to comment unofficially on the allegations, and suggests the reply emphasises 'the difficulty of the main line of policy' of working under the Germans.

Correspondence among legal authorities in late 1945 considers whether constitutionally there could be prosecutions against Channel Islanders, and concludes that there could not. The Attorney General's office advised in November that even a tribunal to hear evidence against the worst collaborators would be 'undesirable'.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments