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Review into Alderney camps determines truth around death toll during Nazi occupation

An expert review of evidence has sought to give the most accurate possible assessment of how many prisoners and labourers died on Alderney between 1941 to 1945.

  • the review examines the evidence into the number of deaths in Nazi-occupied Alderney
  • its findings show a greater number of deaths than originally reported following liberation but finds no evidence of a ‘mini-Auschwitz’
  • in doing so, the review aims to bring an end to conspiracies and misinformation surrounding this crucial period of history

Today (22 May 2024), the United Kingdom’s Post Holocaust Issues Envoy, Lord Eric Pickles, announced the findings of the review of the evidence into the number of prisoners who died in the Channel Island of Alderney during the Nazi occupation. 

The review analyses the pre-existing evidence around the number of people who died in Alderney during the Nazi occupation, aiming to dispel conspiracy theories and provide the most accurate figure possible of those who lost their lives on the island. 

The review, commissioned by Lord Pickles, draws on the knowledge and experience of a team of eleven independent and internationally recognised experts. 

The extensive research conducted by the panel to determine the truth around the numbers of deaths on Alderney is not just crucial for bringing justice for those who died, but in ensuring that this period of history, and the Holocaust, is remembered fully and accurately. 

Lord (Eric) Pickles, UK Special Envoy on Post Holocaust Issues said: 

As the UK’s Special Envoy on Post Holocaust Issues, I have encountered many arguments over numbers. Nothing compares to the virulence or personal nature of arguments over numbers in Alderney. At a time when parts of Europe are seeking to rinse their history through the Holocaust, the British Isles must tell the unvarnished truth. 

Numbers do matter. It is as much of a Holocaust distortion to exaggerate the number of deaths as it is to underplay the numbers. Exaggeration plays into the hands of Holocaust deniers and undermines the 6 million dead. The truth can never harm us.  

While today Alderney is a peaceful island in the English Channel, famous for its beauty, tranquillity, and the welcome of its residents, the story was vastly different between 1941 to 1945 when the island was under Nazi occupation.

During this time, crimes were committed against forced and slave labourers, transported from countries across Europe and brought to Alderney to construct fortifications as part of the German war effort. 

Housed in camps that shared many of the traits of those in mainland Europe, these labourers were subject to atrocious living and working conditions, and, in some cases, executions.  

The team’s calculation of the minimum number of prisoners or labourers sent to Alderney throughout the German occupation stands between 7,608 and 7,812 people. 

Death figures calculated after Alderney was liberated by the British originally suggested that 389 people died as a result of this ill-treatment. 

Having initiated a review of the mortality rate, the Alderney Expert Review Panel is confident that the number of deaths in Alderney is unlikely to have exceeded 1,134 people, with a more likely range of deaths being between 641 and 1,027. 

The review panel has concluded that there is no evidence that many thousands of victims died, and that claims Alderney constituted a ‘mini-Auschwitz’ are unsubstantiated.  

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis KBE said:

The findings of the Alderney Review are a significant and welcome development. Having an authoritative account of this harrowing element of the island’s history is vital. It enables us to accurately remember the individuals who so tragically suffered and died on British soil. Marking the relevant sites will now be an appropriate step to take, to ensure that this information is widely available.

Additional research undertaken by Anthony Glees finds that war crimes investigations by Captain Theodore Pantcheff and others were wholly serious in intent.  

The case was handed to the Russians because the majority of victims were Soviet citizens; in exchange, the British were given and brought to justice the Germans who murdered British servicemen in Stalag Luft III during ‘the Great Escape.’  

The Soviet Union did not follow up the Alderney case and were thus responsible for the failure to bring the perpetrators to justice, causing much anger among members of the British government.  

Dr Paul Sanders said:  

The 2023 to 2024 Alderney Enquiry assembled a team of 12 experts from several countries and disciplines. They were able to develop synergies, on a scale and level that is unlikely to be repeated again. I am proud to have been part of this unique endeavour.

Dr Gilly Carr said: 

I am proud of the way the team of experts came together to provide answers to the questions set by Lord Pickles. It shows what can be achieved when you bring together the right people with the right experience and expertise who are committed to working in memory of those who suffered in Alderney during the Occupation.

Background  

The review was announced in July 2023 and was chaired by Dr Paul Sanders (NEOMA Business School, Reims, France) and supported by:

  • Dr Gilly Carr (University of Cambridge, UK)
  • Professor Marc Buggeln (Europa-Universität Flensburg, Germany)
  • Dr Daria Cherkaska (Staffordshire University, UK)
  • Kevin Colls, MSc (Staffordshire University, UK)
  • Dr Karola Fings (Heidelberg University, Germany)
  • Professor Anthony Glees (University of Buckingham, UK)
  • Fabian Lemmes (Universität des Saarlandes, Germany)
  • Benoit Luc, MA (Directeur, Service Départemental de l’Office National des Combattants et Victimes de Guerre de Loire-Atlantique, France)
  • Dr Antonio Muñoz Sánchez (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
  • Jurat Colin Partridge OBE (Alderney)
  • Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls (Staffordshire University, UK)
  • Professor Robert Jan van Pelt (University of Waterloo, Canada)
Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/review-into-alderney-camps-determines-truth-around-death-toll-during-nazi-occupation

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