How the British Betrayed Britain: The Story of the Forgotten Shame

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The occupation of the territories of Great Britain is one of the little-known pages of history, which the proud British don’t like to recall at all.

The Germans truly occupied a part of the English land, which became a large strike on the English mother country, they established their order, military bases, from which they carried out raids on England, and also extermination camps. Here is how everything began.


On June 10th, 1940, Italy entered World War II on the side of Germany. In response to this, already the next day British bombers made a raid on Genoa and Turin. The Italians managed to shoot down two planes, and during interrogations of captured pilots it was established that the raids were carried out from the base of the royal Air Force on the island of Guernsey.

The island of Guernsey is 78 km², as well as the adjacent-to-it more larger (116 km²) island of Jersey, was a part of the Channel Islands located in the English Channel belonging to the British crown since 1259.

The Germans couldn’t be reconciled with the existence of a long-distance aircraft base of the enemy located so close.

At first the planes of Luftwaffe did an air raid on Guernsey, having destroyed by bombing the port of the city of Saint Peter Port – the little town of this island – and five trucks with tomatoes. Then for more robustness the Germans decided to occupy Guernsey, and at the same time Jersey.

At that time the Germans did not yet know that the British had evacuated their troops from the Islands to strengthen the defense of Britain, the German invasion of which was expected day to day.

In addition to the troops, 25,000 children of the most respectable families were also evacuated from the Islands, who saw their parents only five years later.

On June 30th, the pilot of a German reconnaissance aircraft flew over the British airfield in Guernsey, but finding it empty, he landed on the runway.

After strolling around the island, the German pilot realized that there weren’t any single British soldier on it, and announced to the residents that Guernsey is captured by Germany as of this moment.

While the other island – Jersey – also without any battle was occupied by two German battalions the next day.


With the arrival of German power, new life came – and for the native English population it was rather quite good.

The population consisting of British had all civil rights, for violence over them the German soldier was subjected to criminal prosecutions.

The flag of Great Britain and the flag with the image of a swastika in 1940—1945 amicably fluttered over the Channel Islands — British territory occupied by the Wehrmacht.

The British bailiff (deputy) ordered to not show resistance — and to “fulfil the orders of Germans”.

Hitler’s occupational power was “welcomed with polite respect” by the “defeated subjects of the proud country”“so politely that it was impossible to imagine that a war was ongoing between them,” reported the American journalist Charles Swift in 1940.

After all, “Germans liberated Europe from communism [sic]” — and called the British their “cousins”, “COUSINS by RACE”.

On the Channel Islands — unlike the other occupied territories — the soldiers of Wehrmacht didn’t need to carry arms.

[British police actively collaborated with the occupiers]

[British children volunteers guarded German airfields from which planes took off to bomb London, Manchester, and Coventry.]

Throughout occupied Europe, for the German occupiers this British territory was the safest place to wait out the war: there (and only there) could they not fear any hostile actions.

It is argued that Neville Chamberlain predicted: “People will prefer to be unfree and alive than free and dead”. Because why would the British, if they won, again risk their heads? In the end, for this there were allies (particularly Poles and Serbs)…

If the British islands’ authorities refused to comply with at least… administrative functions of the German occupying authorities, it would be difficult for the latter to govern the [Channel] Islands

The opposite happened:

“Ambrose Sherwill, bailiff (essentially a Prosecutor) of Guernsey, expressed on the radio (in August 1940) not only his pride in the behavior of his citizens, but also his gratitude to the German occupation authorities — because they took into account the loyalty of British subjects (including) his Britannic Majesty…

Sherwill stated that the purpose of his activities is to implement the measures for the carrying out of the occupation in the greatest volume. In turn, the bailiff of Guernsey, Victor Carey, ‘used all means’ to help the Germans”.

The local British administration of these islands acted as an “agency of Germans”– Nazis.

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“As a result, national and socialist intentions were embodied by the hands of British officials”. Thus, on the islands of Jersey and Guernsey special laws against Jews entered into force. Sherwill and the British police on the island of Jersey cooperated with Hitler’s occupational authorities in identification and registration of Jews by the order of Germans. “No British official in Guernsey and Jersey considered Jews as important-enough persons to because of them spoil good relations with Germans”.

Contrary to some Germans (especially in Berlin) these islanders “didn’t defend neither Jews or those who were forced into slave labor, or those [a few] who resisted… Those who gave their lives for freedom caused an inconvenience to the majority who didn’t have such courage” — as well as in Germany.

In fact, resistance in these British territories occupied by Nazis was much weaker than in Germany itself. The only person who called for an uprising against Hitler’s occupiers was the German soldier Paul Mühlbach.

In 1948, when Germany was occupied by allied troops, Paul Mühlbach was judged “for desertion”… Would you look at that…


But not everyone fitted into the new happy life, many weren’t so lucky – first of all Jews and Slavs.

On the island of Alderney four concentration camps were built, which were affiliate departments of the Neuengamme camp near Hamburg.

They were named in honor of four Frisian Islands — Norderney, Borkum, Sylt and Helgoland. Prisoners in Alderney were building bunkers, reinforced constructions, and warehouses for arms and other military facilities. In the labor camps Borkum and Helgoland the “volunteers” (Hilfswillige) were housed – the workers of the Organisation Todt, the position of which wasn’t much better than the prisoners of the two other camps.

In camp Sylt the Jews were housed, in Norderney – prisoners from the countries of Eastern Europe and the USSR. In the Helgoland labor camp citizens of the USSR worked.

Since 1942 the Nordeney and Sylt camps were controlled by the SS Hauptsturmführer Maximilian List, who escaped trial after the end of war and, presumably, lived until 1980’s near Hamburg.

More than 700 people were killed before June, 1944, when the camp on the island of Alderney was closed, and the remaining prisoners were taken away to Germany.

When the German troops occupied Alderney on July 2nd, 1940, the civilian population of the island was partially evacuated. But many remained at their own risk. At first occupational troops weren’t numerous.

In January, 1942, French construction crews began to build on the island wooden barracks for workers of the Organisation Todt.
4 camps were created:

1. Helgoland. It contained 1500 prisoners, most of them “Russians”, so Germans called in such a way all prisoners brought here from the territories of the former USSR (Further – Russians). For the most part they were prisoners of war captured on the territory of Ukraine.

2. Norderney. The camp held 1500 Russian and Eastern European prisoners. The conditions of keeping in it were the most horrible in comparison with the other camps of the island. Karl Tietz commanded the camp.

3. Borkum. The camp held from 500 to 1000 professional workers, the majority of who were Germans who received a salary. Theoretically, all workers of the Organisation Todt also were paid 55 pfennigs per hour, but they were never paid this money.

4. Camp Sylt. The camp during the period from August, 1942, to March, 1943, held 1500 Russian workers of Todt. The camp was under the control of the “Erste SS-Baubrigade” or “Baubrigade West”). In effect it was a concentration camp.

Baubrigada was created during the autumn of 1942 for the cleansing of German cities after the bombings of allied aircraft.

Baubrigada West consisted of prisoners of concentration camps of Sachsenhausen (about 730 people) and Neuengamme (about 270 people). Also, the brigade included 100 security guards from SS-Totenkopf from Neuengamme. In Alderney there were only 74 security guards.

A half of the 1000 former Russian prisoners of war, and now volunteers of Organisation Todt, was very not productive and effective.

Also, in West’s brigade about 130 Poles, between 20 and 30 Czechs, 130 Germans (political prisoners, criminal and antisocial elements, about 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses), and a small group of Danes and Norwegians were registered.

Referring to the memories of Otto Spechr, 58 prisoners who ran away on the road from Germany to the French port St. Malo were replaced by “prisoners of the Spanish civil war housed in Paris as Todt workers”.

All prisoners of the SS camp Sylt wore a striped gray-blue uniform, unlike Todt workers who wore a yellow-gray uniform. A triangle with the first letter of the country’s name which the prisoner arrived from was sewed on.

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The color of the triangle differed too. The triangle of political prisoners was red, criminal elements had a green triangle, antisocial elements – black, Jehovah’s Witnesses – violet.

In addition to these signs, each prisoner had a camp number. In Alderney the majority of numbers began with 16,000 or 17,000 which meant their belonging to Neuengamme. The Russian prisoners of war stood on the lowest step of the camp hierarchy.

Here are well-known examples:

• Ukrainian Roman Melnyk at a depth of 10 meters found a certain mineral (similar to glue), the taste of which reminded of chocolate or caramel. After its use in food several people died.
• SS-Mann Rometsch shot a prisoner trying to gather potatoes from the field adjacent to the road.
• According to doctor Krijger, several people died after the consumption of poisonous plants.
• According to Otto Spehr (former prisoner of camp Sylt), 12 sick prisoners were shot allegedly “while attempting to flee”. After military personnel protested, the executions stopped. The ill (about 150 people) were sent to Hamburg where they were exterminated in gas chambers.
• In total about 250 people were hung or shot.
• 28 people were shot while attempting to flee.

• Willi Everts was detained after visiting a church, and was shot by SS security guards.
• Seppe Forster (professional criminal) was hung at the request of Lieutenant Klebeck for 2 bottles of cognac and 200 cigarettes.
• Two prisoners were executed for stealing from a warehouse.
• Kurt Schallenberg was shot “for attempting to flee” after stealing cakes from the camp dining room.
• SS-Mann Klaus (Volksdeutscher aus Serbien) shot a prisoner who “stole” an empty paper bag from near some cement to wrap his feet up.
• SS-Mann Adam Rometsch (Volksdeutscher aus Serbien. He hung himself in 1948) shot a prisoner who left the dining room during breakfast, for which he received 100 cigarettes from the camp commander.
• Prisoners were forbidden from saving a comrade who fell while working with cement solution.
• 15 people died from dysentery.


Here is some data on how many prisoners actually died on the island of Alderney (camp Sylt) during the German occupation. Figures range from “about 750 prisoners died” (Steckoll, p. 104) to “about 100” (Fings, p. 212). Doctor Karola Fings, having studied all available lists, came to the following conclusions:

[1000 prisoners left Germany from Baubrigade West at the end of February, 1943.]

• 54 (or about that) fled on the way to St. Malo,
• 150 sick prisoners were sent back to Germany and were exterminated,
• 60 prisoners of war were also sent back to Neuengamme,
• 636 prisoners left Alderney in the night of June 24th-25th, 1944,
• 100, according to Doctor Fings, were killed and were buried on the island (it is necessary to note that this is data only from the camp Sylt).

X.T.H. Pantcheff, conducting research on the island after the war, mentions the exhumation in 1961 of 400 bodies of former prisoners of war: 329 of them from the “Russian cemetery” and 60 from the church.

Pantcheff then said: “The German records from the island of Alderney are very complicated”, that “death certificates were manifestly misleading”, and that “reports on executions don’t always corresponded to certificates”. In 9 cases “two different names on the same grave with one body and 22 cases with identical names on different graves”All of this doesn’t look German at all.

Johan Hoffman, one of the commanders of Organization Todt said:

“People who didn’t care too much about the lives of Russians won’t care too much about their graves”. (A quote from Pantcheff). You mustn’t not notice that the number of prisoners was constantly replenished by prisoners of war from France. In addition, cases of drowning bodies in the sea are mentioned.

Thus, Kirill Nevrov, the former worker of Organization Todt from camp Helgoland recalls:

“Once the truck with bodies of the dead directly approached the edge of the water. Five prisoners, including I, began to dig a grave in the sand. When it was finished, the car driver dumped the bodies in the hole. All of them were nude. As I remember there were 12 dead. We sprinkled them with sand and the car left. After night’s tide, the next day, it was already impossible to find the place of burial any more. We did this two more times”.

Georgy Kandakov and the Spanish prisoner John Dalmau (camp Helgoland) witnessed how the bodies of the dead were dropped into the sea from rocks:

“Stones and coastal rocks were covered with skeletons”. The boxes serving as temporal coffins were used over and over again. The Czech Robert Prokop recalls that the SS security guards pushed workers from protective constructions in the sea, from a height of 150 – 250 feet.

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In the night of June 24th-25th, 1944, 636 prisoners of war of camp Sylt were taken out to the French port St. Malo. Then their way led to Belgium.

During the transportation 34 prisoners escapes, 22 prisoners were shot, 18 died in the region of Toul, and in their ranks there was one German, one Dane, and 14 Russians and Poles. In Belgium prisoners were placed in two small camps: Proven (near Poperinge) – about 200 people, Markhove (in the region of Kortemark) – about 300 people.

On the first of September, 1944, 120 prisoners escaped from camp Markhove. The escapees were helped by the security guards, a part of which disappeared too. According to the author of the article, it was possible that half of the 75 security guards were the same nationality as the prisoners.


After war, in British society the question aroused why such things happened on the islands?

The Ministry of Information of Britain limited itself to the statement of July 19th, 1945: “Collaborationism was almost inevitable”. Not only wasn’t any Brit from the Channel Islands made to answer for cooperation with the “enemy” — even the informant who was guilty of the deaths of two of five underground activists of the resistance.

Already after liberation from German occupation the Australian journalist Roland le Folet Hoffman, who was on the island of Guernsey, committed suicide as he couldn’t live with the shame and disgust at the sight of open cooperation with the enemy. Also no public criticism of the actions of the local leadership during enemy occupation was sounded. On the contrary: the highest employees of local British administration even received official honors.

In this regard Great Britain became an almost unique exception among the countries whose territories were occupied by “axis” powers, where collaborators appeared — including even such “middle class” countries as France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, not to mention “pre-capitalistic” ones — Poland, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia.

The post-war British press made the topic of British cooperation on the Channel Islands with the Third Reich taboo. (“This discipline of the press, this solidarity when the question is about prestige and the power of the empire is astonishing,” said the correspondent of “Völkischer Beobachter” before war.) Only one newspaper — “Daily Herald” of June 7th, 1945, noted that “judicial bodies of Great Britain don’t show any interest in the British collaborators cooperating with Nazis — even in those who helped to send people to concentration camps”.

The refusal to prosecute war criminals acting in the concentration camp of Alderney became an unpleasant fact for the labor government of Britain after 1946.

And in general “the British don’t desire to notice that on British lands there were [Nazi] concentration camps”. When the German social democrat Otto Spechr — after nine years of stay in the Himmler’s concentration camps — was transferred to the concentration camp of Alderney on the British Channel Islands, and reported about it to British radio listeners, he was reprimanded.

Also the written address of the inhabitant of the island of Jersey to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the labourist Morrison (the same one who in 1937 accused Neville Chamberlain of concealing fascist crimes) didn’t have any effect either.

The author of this address emphasized that “the civil authorities were pro-Nazi — since the date of the arrival of Nazis and until their capitulation”. According to rumours, about 50 of the most active collaborators from the Channel Islands were secretly taken away by the British secret services to England in order “to hush up around them”. In England they were covertly released. Because the failure of Nazi occupation of the British Channel Islands generated a nightmare of the future public revolt against the anti-democratic collaborators with fascists, “the nightmare that pursued each country that was under Nazi occupation, transformed into a storm of revenge”. And it is as if in the British territories a danger existed of such a revolt, even the labor government of England followed a policy of systematic concealment. “The most important documents with someone’s help disappeared”, obviously in order “to avoid trouble,” reported the courageous journalist Madeleine Bunting.

She absolutely fairly reminded that for Nazis “occupation of the British Channel Islands was a rehearsal of a meeting with the English population”, “the experimental platform of occupation of [all] Britain”.

And Madeleine Bunting rightfully asks a decisive question: “And you, British, would you behave in a different way?” The answer arises by itself.

So, although the British were earlier proud of their patriotic resistance to Hitler, subsequently they weren’t so sure any more that those who obeyed (or desired to obey) didn’t act so “patriotically”.

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