Guernsey guards its secrets of year under Nazi rule

Attempts to show the people of Guernsey how islanders collaborated with the *** have been thwarted.

Nick Cohen reports

Fifty years after the German invasion of the Channel Islands, Guernsey's main public hall has refused to stage an account of how the island's wartime leaders helped send three Jewish women to their deaths.

The decisions to deny a venue to Theresa, by Julia Pascal, has led to accusations that the island wants to hide from its history.

For the play is not only a critically acclaimed piece of theatre, but a chronicle based on documents from the occupation, which Ms Pascal was shown by ‘islanders with a conscience'.

Included in the archives which are closed to the public, were letters to the German Feldkommandantur from Victor Carey, Guernsey's senior wartime administrator. They detail how local officials gave the Germans information on Jewish refugees, cross examined others who were suspected of not being from ‘pure Aryan Stock' and seized the property of those who fled when the Germans came.

Last week the association controlling the St James concert hall in St Peter Port rejected an attempt by Maurice Kirk, a local vet, to book the theatre for two nights. Kirstin Simon, the association's director, said ‘All I can say is that the committee did not think it was appropriate to accept the booking. People from the mainland don't understand.  It's a very, very, delicate subject.'

Ms Pascal said yesterday that she was angered by the decision but not surprised. ‘I was met by a wall of silence when I went to Guernsey. The archives were closed and people didn't want to talk about what had happened'.

She believes that one reason for the refusal is that emphasis she places on Carey's role.

When collaboration on Guernsey has been discussed, attention has concentrated on Chief Inspector William Sculpher, head of the island's police force during the war. He was a London policeman nicknamed ‘Parson Joe' who ponderously obeyed the orders of his superiors, until he was sent to an internment camp by the Germans, possibly for stealing rations.

Carey, by contrast, was an islander and member of what is still, a leading political family on Guernsey. The son of a major general, he was a barrister and member of the Channel Islands Yacht Club, who rose to become Bailiff - president of the Guernsey legislature, the States - from 1935 to 1946.

After the fall of France in June 1940, the Channel Islands were indefensible. Officials left to contend with the German occupation had the choice of resigning and facing possible punishment of serving their new masters.

Carey stayed in his post and, as the documents show, helped implement one of the Nazi's first demands that the Island's parliament accept German anti-semitic legislation and identify all Jews. 

On 29 October 1940, Carey told the Feldkommandantur

‘Regarding the registration of Jews, I have the honour to report that the Order which accompanied your letter was communicated to the Royal Court, .. (where it) was registered and published.  I can assure you there will be no delay, in so far as I am concerned, in furnishing you with the information you require.  I have the honour, Sir, to be your obedient servant, Victor Carey.'

There were only a few people on Guernsey to furnish information on.  Theresa Steiner was one.

She fled from Vienna when she was 22 after the Nazi take-over of Austria in 1938 and became a nanny with a Kent family. When war broke out, Miss Steiner and the children were sent to the Channel Islands.

As an Austrian, Miss Steiner was technically an enemy alien and she was obliged to hand her passport to Sculpher.   8  weeks before the invasion, islanders who knew her, have alleged she begged the policeman to allow her to leave for England.  He refused and she was sent to work as a nurse.  By 25 November, Sculpher had given Carey the names and addresses of five Jewish women on Guernsey and investigated many others.

Meanwhile other sections of the island's bureaucracy were enforcing fresh legislation. Carey was able to tell the Feldkommandantur Boosch on 4 December that Guernsey's Custodian of Business and Industry had seized an underclothing business abandoned by a woman.

On 17 June 1941 Carey told the Feldkommandantur that he ‘had the honour' of ensuring that a third measure against the Jews, the severest yet, had been registered and published in the local newspaper. It described those whom the Germans deemed Jewish and said they should be sacked by their employers.

A year later the Germans sent Theresa Steiner and two other refugees - Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld - from Guernsey to the Auschwitz concentration camp.  She was 26 when she was gassed.

Carey was knighted in 1945 for his services during the occupation .   He died in 1957 aged 86.

[and his gibbering alleged grandson put me in prison 21 times]

Copy of letter published along with article


The Controlling Committee

States of Guernsey


Elizabeth College

26 November 1940

Feldkommandantur 515,
Grange Lodge Hotel


In reply to your letter of 22nd instant regarding the nationality of the Jews residing in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, I have the honour to enclose herewith a report form the Inspector of Police on the subject.

I am, Sir,

Yours faithfully

Acting President