The untold stories of slave labourers, political prisoners and Jews who were persecuted during the German occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War will be revealed from today at a new exhibition co-curated by Cambridge’s Dr Gilly Carr.

Each person whose story I trace becomes a kind of ‘friend’ in a strange way. You get to know them so well.

GIlly Carr

On British Soil: Victims of Nazi Persecution in the Channel Islands, opens today at the Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide, London, and seeks to highlight the stories often omitted from the British narrative of ‘standing alone’ against Nazism and celebrations of the British victory over the Germans.

The exhibition draws upon the Library’s wealth of archival material, recently-released files from the National Archives, personal items belonging to the victims themselves and current research from Dr Carr.

“For anyone who wants to come and learn about the last untold story of the German occupation of the Channel Islands, this is the exhibition to visit,” said Carr, a senior lecturer in archaeology at St Catherine’s College and the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE).

“The Islands were the only part of British territory to be occupied and the victims of Nazism are almost entirely overlooked by those who prefer (incorrectly) to see the islands as a hotbed of collaboration. There are so many heart-breaking stories. We think of the Holocaust or Nazi persecution as something that happened only on the continent – but it happened on British soil. British citizens experienced the most horrific concentration camps, and Jews were deported from British territory to Auschwitz.”

From the experiences of a young Jewish woman living quietly on a farm in Guernsey and later deported to Auschwitz and murdered, to those of a Spanish forced labourer in Alderney, and the story of a man from Guernsey whose death in a German prison camp remained unknown to his family for over 70 years, the exhibition highlights the lives of the persecuted, and the post-war struggle to obtain recognition of their suffering.

Other exhibits going on display in London include a Christmas card made by a little girl and given to Frank Tuck from Guernsey as he suffered in Neuoffingen hard labour camp and a key of a prison cell from the notorious Cherche-Midi prison in Paris, belonging to Henry Marquand, deported for his role in sheltering two British commandos to Guernsey.

“The search for these unknown stories continues,” added Carr. “The exhibition coincides with the launching of a new website which is dedicated to finding and reconstructing the full journey of all deported Channel Islanders through various Nazi prisons and concentration camps. Theirs is the last untold story of the German occupation of the Channel Islands.”

Frank Falla, the Guernseyman after whom the archive is named, was a former prisoner and survivor of Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim and Naumburg (Saale) prisons. In the mid-1960s, Frank took it upon himself to help his fellow former political prisoners in the Channel Islands get compensation for their suffering in Nazi prisons and camps.

In 2010, Frank’s daughter gave Gilly her father’s extensive archives – the most important resistance archives to ever come out of the Channel Islands – and the project was born. Falla’s briefcase, used to collect the testimony of those persecuted by the Nazis is also on display in London from today.

“I’ve been writing the background stories for the website of islanders deported to Nazi prison, concentration and labour camps,” added Carr. “So far I’ve written 75 out of 200 plus. Every story is a labour of love. I see each as a form of ‘rescue’. While I can never go back and rescue any of these people from their camps and prisons, I can rescue their story and experiences for their families and for the Channel Islands.”

Carr says the experience of researching these stories brings about a strangely bonding experience with her subject matter as she becomes a co-witness to the horrors they faced – and responsible for making their stories more widely known.

“Each person whose story I trace becomes a kind of ‘friend’ in a strange way. You get to know them so well and I have been lucky enough to meet many families of those deported. I feel I can be a link between the living and the dead and tell the living what the dead were never able to.

 “I’m interested in hearing from anyone in the Channel Islands or further afield who had a family member sent to a Nazi prison or concentration camp from the Channel Islands to help supplement the journeys we have reconstructed from archival materials. Please contact me via the website with photos, documents and stories. I'd love to hear from you.”

On British Soil: Victims of Nazi Persecution in the Channel Islands until 9 February 2018, has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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