Today we visited the Jersey War Tunnels, housed is an underground tunnel complex (yup – even more German concrete) built largely by Forced & Slave Labour and about 4 miles inland from St. Helier.
The entry Gate Guardian is a German Sturmgeschütz III Assault Gun, shown in the header image (I tell you this because I know you all care)
The Tunnels are essentially a museum for the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, the only part of Britain to be occupied during World War II. It’s a clever display because, despite the picture above, it is primarily concerned with the human aspects, rather than being an endless display of weapons & military equipment. The entry ticket is a replica ID card for a Jersey citizen and you are encouraged to identify them during the self guided Tour.
I found the various sections about collaboration fascinating. Under occupation, could we all say for certain that we would have resisted? Might we, perhaps have been at least courteous to a German officer, or given directions to a young soldier who was lost? Might we have told the authorities about the illegal wireless set in our neighbours house, particularly if you thought they might have a grudge against you and do it first? Might young girls have danced with them, or young men kicked a football? At what point does normal human behaviour become fraternisation or even collaboration? These are questions that I cannot answer, but that faced the population of these islands not that long ago. Being human, some rose to the occasion and others rolled in mud. The winners might gain extra rations for their children, or simply prolong survival – the losers were sent to Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg.
After all that, I needed a cup of Tea – you do a lot of cups of Tea on the Channel Islands. And ice-cream.
We returned to our hotel, the Pomme D’Or in St. Helier. Still running with the theme, I discovered that the same hotel was the Nazi Headquarters for the Islands during the occupation. On 9th May 1945, the first British soldiers marched into St. Helier, struck the swatika flag and raised the Union Jack. This event is shown below, above a picture of our hotel today.
And to finish on something more positive, here’s the official statue commemorating the liberation in the square outside the hotel. Islanders waive the Union Jack.
2 Replies to “Fraternising with the enemy”
brilliant post, thank you. And I love the way you have considered the decisions people made under pressure. You can’t know what you would do until you’re there.
LikeLiked by 1 person