Alderney Concentration Camps - Stories
Remains of Lager Sylt, May 1945, Alderney
The Alderney concentration camps were prison camps built and operated by Nazi Germanyduring its World War II occupation of the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands were the onlyBritish Commonwealth soil to be occupied by the Nazis.
The Nazis built four concentration camps on the island of Alderney, subcamps of theNeuengamme camp outside Hamburg. They were named after the Frisian Islands (this was probably the Germans trying to show what would happen to Britain): Lager Norderney, Lager Borkum, Lager Sylt and Lager Helgoland. The Nazi Organisation Todt operated each subcamp and used forced labour to build bunkers, gun emplacements, air-raid shelters, and concrete fortifications. The camps commenced operating in January 1942 and had a total inmate population of about 6,000.
The Borkum and Helgoland camps were "volunteer" (Hilfswillige) labour camps and the labourers in those camps were treated harshly but marginally better than the inmates at the Sylt and Norderney camps. The prisoners in Lager Sylt and_Lager Norderney_ were slave labourers forced to build the many military fortifications and installations throughout Alderney. Sylt camp held Jewish enforced labourers. Norderney camp housed European (usually Eastern but including Spaniard) and Russian enforced labourers.Lager Borkum was used for German technicians and "volunteers" from different countries of Europe. Lager Helgoland was filled with RussianOrganisation Todt workers.
In 1942, Lager Norderney, containing Russian and Polish POWs, and Lager Sylt, holding Jews, were placed under the control of the SS Hauptsturmführer Max List. Over 700 of the inmates lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to Germany in 1944.
Only old bunkers such as this one remain
War crime trials
After World War II, a court-martial case was prepared against ex-SS Hauptsturmführer List, citing atrocities on Alderney.. However, he did not stand trial, and is believed to have lived near Hamburg until his death in the 1980s.
(February 9, 1910 - c. 1980)
Maximilian List was born in Munich on February 9, 1910.
SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) List moved from the Neuengamme concentration camp to become the commandant of Lager Sylt, a labour camp on Alderney. He commanded SS-Baubrigade I, arriving on the island on February 23, 1943. The camp housed the foreign workers for the Organization Todt which was building fortifications on the island.
List had a chalet built in the style of Adolf Hitler’s Berghof outside the camp perimeter, with an underground passage linking it with the camp. This building was later moved to another part of the island. List later took full control of another camp, Lager Norderney.
In June 1943, workers were being deported back to Neuengamme, probably to be exterminated, but fled and a disciplinary enquiry against him took place in September 1943. Subsequently to avoid a recurrence sick workers were killed on Alderney. List left the island in March 1944, replaced by SS-Obersturmführer Georg Braun.
After World War II a court-martial case was prepared against List, citing atrocities on Alderney. However, he did not stand trial, and is believed to have lived near Hamburg until his death in the 1980s.
By June 1940 most of the inhabitants of Alderney had been evacuated with labour brought in from Europe to construct the islands defences. In January 1942 four camps were built with a volunteer labour force of French workmen to house these workers. Each camp was named after a German North Sea island, Helgoland, Norderney, Borkum and Sylt.
Of the four labour camps 'Lager Sylt' was in reality a concentration camp; it was handed over to the SS Construction Brigade in March 1943 and used by Organisation Todt (OT) to house Russian and other forced labourers. Sylt and Nordeney were the only concentration camps ever to exist on
Islanders who were caught breaking the law or who were seen as being undesirables could find themselves drawn into the continental prison system and for some the journey ended in the concentration camp.
Life in the camp was very rough with regular atrocities meted out by the SS. One former inmate, Wilhelm Wernegau recalled "It is difficult to conceive how it was possible to survive this camp life and the extremely hard work of building bunkers and fortifications. At one stage our camp was half empty, as around five hundred men had died from being murdered, from hard work, from starvation and from the climate. Some were beaten to death and many more were strangled. Occasionally men were hanged. The most popular form of killing by the SS in Sylt was strangulation. Many were also shot.
There were three extremely sick Russians who were left to lie in the camp for several days during which time they were given nothing at all to eat. And then an SS officer gave an order to carry them out of the camp to the gate where he shot them there. He explained to us that he did it because these men were very sick and they would infect the whole camp with their illness. I pointed this man out after the war, but he walks around today a free man. He was the one who did this. When people could no longer work there was only one thing that happened to them. The SS would kill them."
Photo:Entrance to the tunnel
Photo by Nick Catford
Another former inmate Font Francisco recalled, "While doing jobs in Alderney we were near Sylt one day where we saw a Russian strung up on the main gate. On his chest he had a sign on which was written 'for stealing bread'. His body was left hanging like this for four days"
Today little evidence remains of 'Lager Sylt' as the camp was completely cleared by the Germans before the end of the war, presumably to cover their tracks. The entrance to the camp is clearly identified by two concrete gate posts alongside an unmade road close to the southern perimeter of the airport. There is also a short concrete lined tunnel that connected the camp commandant's house outside the perimeter fence to the camp, entering the camp below the ablutions block in a 3 metre square room with stairs up to the surface; this is the only remaining building on the site. This concrete lined tunnel is 2 metres high and about 10 metres in length. The commandant's house was demolished in 1989 and moved to another site on the island. Around the perimeter were five conical concrete sentry posts, at least two of these still exist.
Plan of the camp with the tunnel shown top right
Photo:The tunnel, looking in to the camp
Photo by Nick Catford
The States [Alderney's governing body] decline to commemorate the sites of the four labour camps, local historian Colin Partridge feels this may be due to the locals' desire to dissociate themselves from the accusations of collaboration. A faded memorial plate, tucked away behind the island's parish church, vaguely mentions 45 Soviet citizens who died on Alderney in 1940-45, without saying how they died and why. Colin Partridge is convinced that a decent memorial must be built on Alderney. He and a group of enthusiasts have managed to establish the names of all 460 people who perished in the island's four camps. To begin with, they are now planning to unveil a memorial plate with 460 names on it.
Anton Yezhel~Forced Worker
Alderney's Losses and Profit Under Nazi Rule
Files reveal brutality and tales of collaboration
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".