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

History

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The story of slave labour and concentration camps on Alderney and in the Channel Islands, begins in 1940 when the Islanders on Alderney evacuated the island, leaving a handful of islanders behind, who had decided to stay-on. In June 1940 British demilitarise Alderney and on 2 July 1940 Germans occupy Alderney with a small occupying force. From early on in their occupation they decided to turn Alderney into a strong point, and October and December 1941 Hitler called for Alderney to be made into an impregnable fortress. Despite subsequent claims to the contrary, the fortification of the island made good strategic sense as it controlled the sea channel around Cherbourg, provided anti-aircraft cover and could have otherwise become a staging point for an Allied invasion of the main land and became part of the Atlantic Wall fortification.

The importance of the island intensified in November, when in Fuhrer Directive 51, (3 November, 1943) Adolf Hitler stated, '...All signs point to an offensive against the Western Front of Europe no later than spring and perhaps earlier. For that reason, I can no longer justify the further weakening of the West in favour of other theatres of war. I have therefore decided to strengthen the defences in the West particularly at places from which we shall launch our long-range war [with V. Rockets] against England...'

This later statement clearly suggests that a key purpose of Alderney was the construction and protection of VI installations.

In practical consequence, in December 1941 Hitler called for the construction of the Atlantic Wall and Alderney was incorporated in the plan. The Alderney slave labour camps were constructed from January 1942 onwards and both 'volunteer' and slave workers were culled from all across Europe, North Africa as well as a few prisoners from Indo-China (Thailand), as part of desperate attempts to get enough workers for the Atlantic Wall and the construction of the Block Houses in the Nord Pas de Calais.
Tunnel complexes would take between 1,200 and 1,500 men and very large cohorts of men were used in block houses - upwards of 5,000 men was usual - with the death rate on such heavy construction sites, running at 5 - 15 per cent per month. At Watten, 35,000 men passed through the camps serving this heavy site indicative of the exhaustion and death-rate. Each work site would be allocated the required number of men needed over the 6 month plus period needed to complete the construction, following a formula used to easily compute the resources needed for a project.

Other project which needed to be completed very rapidly would employ very large numbers over very short periods, so for example when 4 of the super-heavy batteries were constructed in the Nord Pas de Calais, a force of 15,000 men, with 400 lorries completed the project in just 10 weeks. Alderney has a multiplicity of large construction sites - heavy gun batteries, huge concrete anti-tank walls, tunnels, breakwaters, the construction of roads, and quarrying, as well as many smaller projects, so the evidence shows that the numbers of men on the island and moving on and off the island would have been very fluid, meaning the numbers of the prisoner cohort on the island would have been changing frequently and that the OT transport office would have been very busy organising shipments of slave workers. The notion that there were only around 4,000 slaves on the island seems probably significantly under-represents the situation and numbers, at key periods of intense construction work.

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