From 1940 to 1945 the Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to fall under German Occupation. During that period, local courts continued to function and to apply Island law. Lawyers, judges and government officials in Jersey and Guernsey continued to swear oaths of allegiance to the British Crown. But German anti-Semitic laws and other measures were introduced and became part of the legal system.
During the occupation of the Channel Islands by Nazi Germany during World War II, laws were imposed on the authorities that required registration. All non Guernsey and British foreigners (Aliens) had already been required to register with the police, but the records did not mention their faith. An advertisement appeared in the newspaper in October 1941 calling on all Jews to identify themselves. The Germans issued identity cards to everyone, which listed their nationality and faith.
Jews identified in Guernsey and Sark
- Elda Brouard née Bauer, 27/4/1884, British by marriage, born Italy
- Elisabet Duquemin née Fink, 21/7/1899, British by marriage, born Austria
- Auguste Spitz, 28/8/1901, German, born Austria
- Therese Steiner, 22/4/191625 German, born Austria
- Anny (Annie) Wranowsky, 22/4/1894, Czech but held German passport, living on Sark
Marianne Grunfeld, born in Poland in 1912, had studied horticulture at the University of Reading before going to work on a farm in Guernsey. She was identified in April 1942 as Jewish.
Therese Steiner, an Austrian, non-practicing Jew, who had come to the Islands from England ,and become trapped in the Islands by the invasion as she had been detained as an alien, amongst 30 enemy aliens who were arrested and detained in June 1940.She didn’t have a UK visa to go to the UK as required for immigrants from Germany and Austria (from 1938).
A qualified dental nurse, she was then employed as a nurse by the States of Guernsey, working at the Castel Hospital, She went, after 18 months to the German authorities to ask to contact her parents. This act alerted the Germans to the presence of Jews in the Island, resulting in anti-Jewish laws being forced through and ultimately led to Jews being deported.
The registration process, was the beginning of a systemized persecution, first all Jewish businesses had to display a sign stating the shop was “Jewish owned or “Jewish Undertaking”, then the business was subsequently “Aryanised” and turned over to non-Jews.
The Channel Island authorities in particular Bailiff Alexander Coutanche cooperated throughout this entire process, and to a great extent he even administered much of it.
‘The Third Order’, registered in the Royal Courts of Guernsey on 17 June 1941 and of Jersey on 31 May 1941 as Regulation and Order No 307, redefined those persons considered to be Jewish.
Any person having at least three grandparents of pure Jewish blood shall be deemed to be a Jew. A grandparent having belonged to the Jewish religious community shall be deemed to be of pure Jewish blood. Any person having two grandparents of pure Jewish blood who:
(A) … belongs to the Jewish religious community or who subsequently joins it; or
(B)… is married to a Jew or subsequently marries a Jew; shall be deemed to be a Jew.
There was a determined effort by the Germans to show their best side for propaganda purposes. The harsher treatment of France was not to prevail here. British goods that still remained in the shops were bought up by the Germans, who were unused to seeing so many luxuries. These stocks could not of course be replaced.
Singing “God Save the King” was a serious offence, yet no attempt was made to remove the “royal crest” from the courthouse. Newspapers were strictly controlled, printing the news according to Dr Goebbels. The editors left the curious Germanic English in news stories so that nobody would be deceived.
At first it was possible to listen to the BBC until later, when radio sets were confiscated. From then on many Channel Islanders risked imprisonment, deportation and even death to hear the BBC news on hidden radios.
The first group of three Jews were ordered to leave the Island in April 1942.The three, Marianne Grunfeld, Auguste Spitz, and Therese Steiner, were first sent to Saint-Malo, where they took up local employment, Marianne Grunfeld was reported to be living in Laval, France, until three months later when they were rounded up in a mass deportation of French Jews. They were sent directly to Auschwitz, where they all died.
The night before their deportation Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz visited their friend Elisabet Duquemin, a fellow registered Jewish refugee from Vienna. Elisabet Duquemin remembered:
“They had a paper with them from the Germans that they had to report the next morning to be taken away to France and were in a terrible state of anxiety. They borrowed a suitcase from me and I never saw the poor girls again”
The remaining Jews on the Channel Islands were deported in February of 1943 sent to internment camps in France and Germany. Of course while the authorities in the Channel Islands helped the Germans deport the Jews, they had no certain idea on what their fate would be.
It was clear however that no matter what their inevitable fate, their persecution under the Germans would most certainly be “unpleasant”, yet they did nothing to prevent the deportations.
The Normandy landings in 1944 heralded the final phase of the of the islands’ German occupation. By August St Malo surrendered and the islands’ supply routes were cut off.
For the next eight months, the local population and the 28,000-strong German garrison went close to starvation. Liberation finally came when an Allied task force headed by HMS Bulldog arrived off St Peter Port, Guernsey on 8 May, 1945.