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


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Two commissions were apparently conducted to investigate prisoner's conditions. One commission was sent out at the end of 1942, or early 1943, from Guernsey, by the island commander Zuske to inspect Helgoland and Norderney, though the result of this commission is not clear, except that it was very limited and may simply have been an oral report the following day.

Another medical commission was sent in May or June 1943 to Alderney to investigate complaints about inhumane treatment of Russian prisoners. The commission found that of the 1,600 men brought to the island only 800 were left and these were ordered to be brought back to France. Some 450 were sent to hospital and the other given light duties in view of their condition. There were some also slight ameliorations of conditions for prisoners. This report suggests a 50% death rate among prisoners, which is perfectly consistent with parallel camps on the main land.

These medical commissions can be explained by the fact that Himmler personally ordered a decline in death rates, from mid 1943, as an excess of deaths was becoming detrimental to the objectives of the SS, though in fact most work was already done in Alderney by mid-1943, but which also explains attempts to conceal deaths on Alderney by the Germans and the fact that the rate of deaths did decline on Alderney in this period.

The frantic efforts of the Germans to hide the deaths of prisoners (such as when Richter bull-dozed part of the Slave Cemetery) was not an over-reaction on their part as a number of Germans were severely punished by a court-martial in March 1944. A half-dozen German overseers were given various penalties by the Commanding General of 319 Inf. Div. because of the deaths of 600 Russians on the island in the space of 6 months. This would also explain why the Germans also favoured disposing of the dead in the sea, rather than by burial.

n terms of disposal of victims, prisoners were often taken to burial in a special double coffin with a hinged base, which is suggestive of numbers, though there are also reports of more novel methods of disposal with larger numbers of prisoners being buried in pits on the beach at low-tide, others were dumped into the sea, off the breakwater, or off cliffs. Also, there are reports of dead prisoners being buried in trenches or found dumped or abandoned on the island. However, sick prisoners were often entirely removed from the island before they died (one group of up to 200 is reported), or were killed, which means actual mortality rates could have been higher and far greater than the suggested by actual burials found in 1945.

It may be that the temporary alleviation of conditions could have been linked to the work of a special relief organisation for Russian workers (ran by White Russians and a Madam Krylatova) who took an interest in the prisoners in Alderney and the Cherbourg area and that the organisation made some attempts to persuade the Russian workers to better their lot by joining in fighting in German units, such as General Vlassov Russian liberation Army from the end of 1942.

This was though the medium of sending entertainment troupes to entertain them and then talk to them informally and bringing food and clothing and to assign all whom were interested with a sponsor / 'Godmother' in Paris, the later whom claimed not be Nazi sympathisers, but who independence from the Nazis was in many cases doubtful.

One of the other figures important in this movement was a Mark Issachar Tzadek, who had been born in China, but has lived in Belgium before the war and went to Paris after the German occupation, where he supported the White Russian cause and was appointed to support prisoners in camps around Cherbourg. It seems quite possible that he was of Jewish origins on the basis of his name, though he was not identified as such by the Germans.

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