Guernsey Press

Alderney death toll claims dismissed as ‘guesswork’

A panel of experts which is about to publish a controversial report into the number of Nazi-era deaths in Alderney is now fighting accusations that findings of more than 1,000 deaths have been leaked to national newspapers.

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Dr Gilly Carr alongside the gate posts from SS Lager Sylt. (Picture by David Nash)

Ahead of its official announcement in London this week, several newspapers claimed yesterday that the panel had concluded that more than twice as many slave labourers died in Alderney than the 389 recognised by the UK Government as the official figure since the 1960s.

Alderney Representative Alex Snowdon, who has repeatedly criticised the panel for failing to work closely enough with the island, suspected the findings had been leaked.

‘It is disappointing that the report outcomes appear to have been leaked to the media,’ he said.

‘This is why engagement should have taken place on the island.

‘A member of the panel said last week that nobody had seen the report and that it was totally confidential. Clearly, that is not the case as it has been leaked to the UK media.’

But panel member Dr Gilly Carr, who also represents Guernsey and Jersey at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, flatly denied that its findings had been leaked.

She dismissed the newspapers’ reports of more than 1,000 deaths as ‘made up based on their own rival research’.

Dr Carr had previously warned that any newspaper article claiming to know the panel’s findings ahead of their official publication was ‘pure conjecture’ and ‘guesswork’.

The panel’s year-long inquiry, led by the UK’s special envoy on post-Holocaust issues, former Tory minister Lord Eric Pickles, is due to conclude at 11am on Wednesday when it publishes what it hopes will be authoritative findings on the number of Nazi-era deaths in Alderney, which has been disputed for decades.

A separate study published in 2019, led by Caroline Sturdy Coles, a professor in conflict archaeology and genocide investigation, compared official records with aerial drone surveys of unidentified graves to estimate that between 701 and 986 people died in four Nazi prison camps in Alderney.

An earlier study by two military authors which put the number of deaths at 40,000 was widely criticised as lacking credibility.

Over the weekend, Lord Pickles rejected criticism from Mr Snowdon that his inquiry had been too remote from the island’s community and that it was disrespectful to announce its findings in London.

He pointed out that the president of the States of Alderney, William Tate, had been invited to Wednesday’s event.

Mr Snowdon said that ‘totally missed the point’ of his criticism.