We must end this myth about Jews in the Occupation

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From Bob Le Sueur.

YOUR issue of 24 January carries that moving interview by Peter Rhodes with a Holocaust survivor. Presumably it will have appeared in other papers which use his syndicated column.

What a shame that the interviewee, in all good faith, no doubt, should have repeated the totally false story that the Channel Island authorities collaborated in sending Jews to concentration camps and even their deaths – a myth widely and falsely written by the Guardian journalist Madeleine Bunting in her infamous book, A Model Occupation.

In this context, it must first be made clear that nobody in the islands knew of the existence of the death camps until Auschwitz was liberated by the advancing Russian army in January 1945 – nearly three years later.

The problem is that denials never catch up with the first-published accusations, no matter how false.

At least the correction must be made here for Jersey readers and also, hopefully, for Peter Rhodes’ readers elsewhere. The truth, deeply researched, covering the history of every CI resident Jew at that awful period in our history, is available in Senator Frederick Cohen’s excellent 158-page book available at the Jersey Museum bookshop.

What did happen? The Jews were in two categories: British nationals and others. All foreign citizens, before the war, during it and to this day are on a state register. This could not be hidden from the occupying authority.

Of these, one was a Romanian national. His country entered the war in 1941 on the German side and later instructed that all Romanian Jews in occupied Europe should be sent to Germany. There was nothing the Jersey authorities could have done to stop a man now a citizen of a German allied country from being deported. In fact, he went first to the single men’s internment camp at Laufen with the other Jersey deportees in February 1943.

This meant a lack of freedom, but those who were there were not ill-treated and received mail and Red Cross parcels. It was an internment camp, not a punishment camp, which is something very different.

Later he was moved to Buchenwald and suffered hell, but survived. Not one other Jersey-resident Jew ever reached a true concentration camp.

In Guernsey there were three single Jewish ladies of pre-war German nationality, later rendered stateless by Nazi decree. They were moved by German order in April 1942 to Laval in France, where they took up employment. Later they were rounded up with French-resident Jews and were murdered, we now know, in Auschwitz.

The Guernsey authorities could not have intervened to stop the Germans moving their own citizens.

None of these ladies could have moved to England in June 1940 at the time of the mass evacuation (one certainly wanted to) because, by Home Office order, they were ‘enemy aliens’ and were forbidden to move about the country.

There were other ‘foreign’ Jews in the islands who had been naturalised, some of them originally German. These were treated as British nationals and those who were deported went to the internment camps with the other CI deportees. Not one British national Jew went to a concentration or extermination camp.

Yes, of course those Jews who had registered suffered constant fear and lost their livelihoods; it was a hideous story. However, not one Jew in Jersey ever wore the hated yellow star. A surprising number of Jersey-resident Jews never registered even though known by many to be of that race. Remarkably, not one was denounced. Not one was hunted down by the Jersey police.

Our authorities walked a tightrope in their constant efforts to do the best possible for the majority of the inhabitants. As a young adult at that time, I was often critical but I also wondered how people like the Bailiff kept their sanity.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that at times mistakes may have been made as unforeseen situations developed into unforeseen new problems. However, the story as recounted to Peter Rhodes in the article is not true.


Pontac Common,

St Clement.

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