Alderney Holocaust and Slave Labour Trail
(c) Marcus Roberts 2014.

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When the Nazis first occupied Alderney with a small force, it could not have been anticipated at the time that the island would effectively become one giant concentration camp with many thousands of captives culled from countries across three continents, nor that the island would be host to the western-most SS concentration camp in Europe, Camp Sylt. The French Jews who experienced it called it, 'Devil's Island', the 'Buchenwald of the West', or 'Little Auschwitz', such was the suffering and similarity to the conditions in the most notorious of the Nazi camps. Furthermore, the island witnessed great human suffering and death, on a large scale, with monthly death rates of between 4-15%, in many cases, based on the Germans' own statistics and the evidence shows that the majority of prisoners sent to Alderney died or were killed, with the island also becoming a staging post of the Holocaust.

Evidence and analysis for this project demonstrates that rather than hundreds, several thousands Jews - perhaps 9,000 Jewish captives were on the island, over the period of Nazi occupation, working and suffering in some of the most abject conditions of all. Some died on the island and others were then sent on to other camps in France, or for extermination in camps in Germany and fresh shipments of prisoners would be brought in regularly to replace those who could no longer work. The project has also shown that the number of prisoners probably exceeded 30,000 over the period of occupation and could even have been higher and that there were significantly more camps on the island than previously recognised and the death rate is likely to have significantly exceeded 50 per cent and been up to 85 - 90 percent.

There is a new theory, awaiting full-publication of the evidence, from Weigold and Kemp, that the island was used for secret and sinister VI Rocket projects, with VI rockets, weaponised with Sarin gas, targeting Weymouth to disrupt any Allied invasion, which in their view may have been the prime reason for the occupation of the Island and the cause of suffering on a large scale particularly in the construction of tunnels on the island. There are no known survivors from the tunnelling activities.

JTrails research had shown evidence for the presence of planning for VI activities and other possible secret activities, on the Island, as the tunnels were of the same type as the VI tunnels in NW France, prisoner testimony attested to the presence of VI Engineers at the tunnelling project at St Anne's, and the fact that most of the work of the SS Baubrigade on Alderney, when it returned to France, was on VI sites. However, there is no evidence that VI Rockets were ever delivered to Alderney and the chemical weapons theory awaits further validation and the tunnels were used for munitions and stores instead.

It is also very likely that another intended purpose of the island would have been to imprison and provide 'special treatment' for the British establishment and key political enemies, should Hitler have successfully invaded England. This is based on the history and presence of special prisoners at Sylt.

We believe that Longis Common, the Anti-Tank Wall and the bay should be preserved as a 'Site of Memory' for the slave-workers and that there should be a new memorial to the slave-workers at Longis Common and the cemetery should be appropriately marked, especially as there is eye-witness testimony from 1961, collected by JTrails, stating that some of their remains are still at the cemetery site, but the graves are now unmarked and the remains are not awarded proper respect or recognition. There are also reports that remains of prisoners under the Anti-Tank Wall have been seen after storms have washed away sand.

We have been working with islanders and with the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the CPJCE, to help protect several identified and potential burial sites from damage from the FAB Link cable project, which threatens both human remains and to severely damage the World War II historical landscape across the eastern end of the island and urge that the cable is taken on another route. Damage has already been caused by prospecting activity on the common, which has turned up bone (of undetermined origins) near to the Anti-Tank Wall. The proposed line of the cable will pass within 20 meters of the Jewish burial area which we now believe was also the site of a cremation pit and a mass-grave. We also argue that the site has European Heritage Significance for understanding the Nazi slave labour programme, and should receive a European Heritage Label as it has some of the best preserved remains of the slave labour camps system and work sites and should be designated as such. We have also contributed original research to the Alderney Land-Use Plan to facilitate the protection of key heritage features, as the plan recognises the need to preserve key sites and to integrate them into existing visitor activity on the island.

The historical record shows that the commandants, such as SS man List, specifically sent worked-out prisoners to be exterminated and knew the purpose of their transportation and sometimes commissioned the murder of larger groups of prisoners on the island by shooting and had been ordered to kill their prisoners in case of an Allied invasion. While the camps on the island were not intended to be extermination camps as such, they proved eminently suitable for killing large numbers of prisoner. It seems clear that most of the workers and prisoners were regarded as entirely inferior and expendable in the Nazi's master plan for Europe and that they would find only death at the end of their labours, at a time and place of the Reich's choosing, either on, or off, the island.

There are also accounts that prisoners were habitually thrown off several local cliffs and the break-water and were effectively swept away by the tidal races of Alderney, thus the island needed no gas chambers or crematoria and we do not know how many prisoners were disposed of in this way on Alderney, except that most were probably disposed of in this way and is one of the many secrets of Alderney. The identified graves on the island are clearly represent only a small number of those who died and may have been only for special categories of prisoners, such as so called 'volunteers'.

This project was initiated in 2009 in partnership with Birmingham University as a project to identify, research, survey, interpret and memorialise 'lost' slave labour camps on the western fringe of Europe and the creation of the web-trail was funded from 2013 by a UK Jewish heritage foundation as a project researching and presenting slave labour camps and Holocaust histories in both Alderney and the Nord Pas de Calais.

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Click here to download the Archaeological Assessment and Report on the Slave Cemeteries under Threat

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