This Joint Letter.
Marcus Roberts is the leading researcher of the Occupation of Channel Islands and Director JTrails, the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail.
Joint letter with Channel Islands WW2 Remembrance Campaign.
Holocaust Memorial Day Jersey Open Letter
8th December 2022
Dear Jersey Assembly Members (and to those whom it may concern),
RE: Jersey Government Official Holocaust Memorial Day and Missing Jewish and other
Victim Groups from the Official Commemoration.
We would jointly like to draw your attention to current configuration of the annual Jersey
Holocaust Memorial Day event and what we perceive to be vital omissions from local
commemoration as well as on-site memorialisation. The Jersey HMD does not include or
commemorate local Jewish victims of the Holocaust, from the period of German
Occupation, as well as other victim groups brought to Jersey, who suffered in similar
measure too. The annual HMD ceremony which takes place at the Lighthouse Memorial is
coincidentally at the precise location in harbour used to bring Jewish and other slave labour
to and from Jersey, as well as being the key transhipment hub for movement of the Slave
labour around the islands and to France. There are no references to any of this on the
current memorial and in the current Jersey HMD and Memorial is structured around the 21
Islanders who died after deportation to German camps.
We understand that the Jersey January 2023 commemoration will be as stated on the Jersey HMD web-site. This states the official commemoration will be to remember Holocaust in general as well as other genocides, but with a local focus on commemorating the ‘dozens of
islanders’, who were deported to German Prisons and Camps, with particular reference to
the fate of 21 islanders whom lost their lives in German camps, because they had resisted
the Germans (one of these, June Sinclair, is listed as a ‘half-Jewish orphan’ from London).
While we note and applaud the importance and the admirable spirit of the event, in
acknowledging local resistance against Nazi tyranny, it is important to specify the groups
missing from commemoration and whom are equally worthy of honour and remembrance.
These omitted groups also have important local sites of memory associated with them and
are as follows:
1) The 12 Jersey resident Jews, of whom 5 were deported to German camps, but survived
their deportation. The deportations of these and other islanders were investigated as a
‘German war crime’ by British investigators.
2) A group of Polish, Czecho-Slovak and Alsatian Jews, who had been arrested in the
Toulouse area and brought to Jersey and who were held prisoner from 1941, in ‘Lager
Ehrembrestein’, a slave labour camp in the ditch at Fort Regent, Jersey. They worked on the
construction of the Jersey War tunnels for two years. An official letter, sent to the War
Tunnels in 1970, by a former Jewish prisoner, Pascal Pomar, recalled how they (along with
the Spanish Republicans) were the first constructors and victims, of the Ho8, the ‘Jersey War
Tunnels’. In 1943 they were sent to Lager Norderney, the SS camp for Jews on Alderney,
from 1943-44. While the Jersey war Tunnels have now included most of the Russian and
non-Russian prisoner groups in its interpretation, the Jewish victims are still omitted, even
though the War Tunnels must constitute an important Holocaust ‘site of memory’.
3) The current commemoration fails to include the many other slave labourers brought to
Jersey, mistreated and some worked to death. The displays at the War Tunnels
acknowledges many of these groups, including the Spanish Republicans, though the
Russians appeared to have been a principal victim group and endured some of the greatest
brutality. The former Strangers’ Cemetery had 73 Russian graves, out of 116 slave-worker
burials, though this can only be regarded as a minimum indicator of the actual number of
deaths. We note that North Africans were also brought to Jersey and some of the victims
were Algerian Muslims – as can be seen in photographs of the headstones at the former
4) The HMD fails to commemorate the use of Fort Regent, not only as a slave labour camp
for Jews, but also as an important transit camp, for Jewish prisoners and other slave
workers, with St Helier as the key transit and deportation port in the Channel Islands
throughout the German Occupation. For example, the Pantcheff Report discloses that in
June 1944, as the Allies advanced, the Germans sought to evacuate slave labourers from the
islands, from Alderney, via Guernsey and then finally from Jersey, with prisoners often being
held at Fort Regent operating as a transit camp, before being sent via St. Malo, on towards
Germany and an uncertain fate, but likely to be killed on route, or ‘euthanised’ in a German
camp. There were at least 11 sailings in June, 1944, but because of weather conditions and
advancement of Allied forces in Normandy many prisoners remained at Fort Regent.
5) The Commemoration should include specific and special remembrance of the deaths of
250 French Jews, in the torpedoing of the slave ship, Le Minotaure, just after its departure
from St Helier, as part of the deportations noted above. On 3 July, 1944, the slave ship, Le
Minotaure, left St Helier, in a convoy and exactly four hours later, when off St Malo, it was
attacked by British MTBs and up to 250 French Jews were killed out of the 500 slaves as
torpedoes struck the cramped holds onboard. They have no memorial, in the Channel
Islands, or France (as far as we can ascertain) and since their final departure point was also
Jersey, and the British forces were the cause of their deaths, their inclusion at this location,
in official commemoration is urgently merited.
All of these groups were victims of Nazi persecution, caught in the deadly mechanism of the
Holocaust and the Slave Labour system, at ‘Bauleitung Julius’ and most either understood
that if they could not work, they would die, or were told that it was not intended that they
would survive their captivity. Within the OT system, Russians and Spanish communists,
Polish and Czech conscripts, partisans, convicts (German soldiers and foreign civilians),
miscellaneous politically hostile elements (foreign), workers considered intractable,
homosexuals, Jews, part-Jews and state-loss individuals had the lowest status and no
protections from death. All should be included in the official Jersey HMD remembrance.
We would urge you to reconsider the structure of the planned HMD on Jersey to include
both the forgotten Jewish victims on Jersey and other slave laborers, as well as all those
who passed through Jersey as a transit hub, in the formal commemorations and to ensure
that they are appropriately referenced on the relevant HMD web-sites.
The official Government report, ‘Britain’s Promise to Remember - The Prime Minister’s
Holocaust Commission Report (2015)’, makes it clear that the inclusion of these groups in
indubitably mandated. ‘The Commission concluded that it would be an injustice to the
memory of those other victims not to reflect upon their tragic experiences too. Furthermore,
without in anyway impinging on the centrality of the Holocaust in the Commission’s
recommendations, understanding of the Holocaust can be strengthened further by learning
about the fate of other victims of Nazi persecution.’
We would also request that the Jersey Government website is updated with Jersey
Holocaust history. We are sure the public would want the history of Jewish
People to be correctly represented when marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and not
forgetting all those other groups who suffered alongside them.
This chimes with our shared principal of universal remembrance in the Channel Islands and
we urge both inclusion of the missing groups in the local HMD and that the Jersey
Government looks urgently into updating memorials, and potentially providing additional
one, as well as improving historical interpretation at the ‘Sites of Memory’ described, at the
Harbour and Fort Regent in particular.
During the German Occupation, Islanders resisted the Germans, by befriending the
otherwise friendless and stateless slave labourers, through individual acts of kindness, and
thereby acknowledged their common humanity. The inclusion of the missing groups into
the Jersey HMD commemoration today would aptly remember this resistance through
kindness and declare this common humanity to the World today with the people of Jersey
the guardians of their memory.
(Director JTrails, the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail, part of the Europe Route of
Jewish Heritage, a registered UK Charity)
Campaign Lead of Channel Islands WW2 Remembrance Campaign.
Campaign for Universal Remembrance.