Guernsey Press

Radio 4 looks at Nazi occupation of Alderney

BBC national radio looked at the Nazi occupation of Alderney last night in a programme which both reflected on the events during the Second World War and looked forward to the investigative work being done by the expert panel under Lord Pickles.

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Prisoners of war and Nazi soldiers at the anti-tank wall at Platte Saline in Alderney during the occupation. (Picture from Channel Islands Occupation Review)

Alderney – The Holocaust on British Soil was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and was introduced by journalist Christine Finn, who was born in Jersey and whose mother and grandmother lived during the Occupation.

During the programme Ms Finn was accompanied at the sites of the two Alderney camps, Lager Sylt and Lager Norderney, by retired Jurat Colin Partridge, himself a member of Lord Pickles’ panel.

The panel’s goal is to examine the surviving evidence in the archives.

‘The aim is to end eight decades of speculation and intrigue by calculating, as accurately as possible, how many died on Alderney during the German Occupation and how many were brought here as forced, slave or volunteer workers,’ said Ms Finn.

The programme also heard from Dr Marcus Roberts of jTrails, the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, who has been researching the labour camps on Alderney for more than 15 years.

He spoke about Jewish prisoners and how Lager Sylt was regarded as ‘one of the most dreadful OT [Organisation Todt] camps’, with the death rate far higher during the first year of operation than it was under the SS.

The programme mentioned how there were claims of between 1,000 and 1,200 bodies having been buried on Longis Common alone and how technology was used to identify other sites.

Historian Gilly Carr spoke about how the panel was trying to get information from a variety of sources, such as transport, employment and ration lists, with people in many countries also searching through records. The goal is to advance what was already known as well as come up with a minimum number of those who died, she said.

Dr Roberts was sceptical about how this figure might be worked out and wondered if it would include those who died in transit from the island.

The programme included some disturbing and brutal stories of life for the slaves, using interviews recorded several years ago by survivors and their descendants.

‘The debate continues on how best to preserve and memorialise these sites, but for Colin, commemoration is part of daily life,’ Ms Finn concludes.

Mr Partridge had the final word, saying he suspected that the reason some people resented the level of interest in the Alderney Occupation was that they did not want to be reminded on a regular basis about what happened.

‘That’s not to say you don’t have sympathy for those who suffered.’

  • The programme is broadcast again at 11am today and is also available on BBC Sounds.