The article below has been published by kind permission of the Jersey Evening Post
At mid-day on 28 April 1945 ona bright and sunny morning,a column of tanks from theFree French Second Armoured Division rolled down the main street of the small German town of Wurzach, led by three men on foot. One was a French soldier carrying the French tricolour, a Jerseyman with a Union Jack and the town mayor with a white flag. A large white cross had two days before been painted on the roof of castle indicating that this was not just a Hitler Youth camp (they were located at the back of the castle) but contained civilians.
Earlier that day the French officer in charge had stopped his tank at the castle gates and after speaking to a small group of Jersey prisoners waiting impatiently behind the gates, kicked these in allowing the Jersey folk to pour on to the little square and taste freedom for the first time in 2.1/2 years.
After such a long incarceration, everyone in the camp took in the sights and sounds of freedom in their own way : the joy and emotion of the camp adults when the French tank Saint Malo trundled down the main street over the cobble stones; the new shopping experience in the local shops to spend their few precious Reichmarks on materials and silk stockings.
Teenagers, exhilarated by their new found freedom, explored the surrounding villages, some completely demolished by tank fire and still smouldering. Young Jersey lads having commandeered abandoned German army motorbikes roamed around the countryside, even arriving at the Mengen airfield where American troops plied them with food and fruit juice (causing stomach upsets due to such rich food).
The camp children who had known nothing of the big world outside were confronted with completely new sights and sounds : the biggest impression was of the fierce looking North African soldiers (Goumiers) dressed in their traditional long flowing robes and headwear many mounted on smelly, bad tempered mules. They were weighed down with several rifles, bandoliers of ammunition, knives and pistols in their belts and an array of watches on their arms, camping out with their mules at night and playing cards by the roadside by day.
Many of those very camp children who today are in their early 80s have been back to Bad Wurzach (now a spa town) to visit the castle with its grand entrance hall and staircase, locating their dormitories and looking out over the area where the Hitler Youth camp was located and where the Jersey kids marched up and down along with the German boys (some no older than the Jersey lads) picking up their marching songs and only separated from each other by a sturdy barbed wire fence.
Fast forward to 2020 when a special 75th anniversary trip to Bad Wurzach had been under preparation organised by the St Helier – Bad Wurzach Twinning Committee to enable those internees who were still strong enough to make the trip, some of whom had never yet returned to the camp since leaving in 1945 to revisit the town and relive old memories. In the party also were to be many children and grandchildren of internees themselves too frail to travel or who had passed on. 28 April 2020 being the special day, as was the tradition, a commemorative ceremony was to be held in the beautiful Gottesberg chapel on the hill with an ex-Mayor playing the beautiful organ, followed by wreath laying in the ceremony. In the town cemetery the names of the 11 Jersey internees who did not return would be read out and the visiting internees would lay a single red rose on each of their graves. That evening a tattoo ceremony was to be organised in front of the castle with the town’s marching band (Stadtkapelle) followed by a nightcap in the Hotel Adler opposite.
The 4 day programme was to include a day’s excursion to Lindau, a picturesque town on Lake Constance with its old town and yacht marina. There would of course be dinners with speeches and lively entertainment with lots of time for everyone to talk, walk, relax or take a mud bath in the Spa Hotel.
This year Bad Wurzach’s new Lady Mayoress, Frau Alexandra Scherer, would have met the visiting internees, members of the Twinning Committee and Jersey dignitaries for the first time. Jersey would have been officially represented by the Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, the Deputy Chief Minister Constable Richard Buchanan, the ex-Bailiffs Sir Philip and Sir William Bailhache and their wives. In total there were to be just over 30 in the Jersey group visiting Bad Wurzach for the 75th anniversary. Sadly, it remains to be seen whether many internees will be strong enough to visit in 2021 since it was anticipated that the 2020 trip would be the last official visit.
On a positive note, the Twinning Committee intends to organise a get-together later this year for all those internees who would have travelled in the group, those who were physically unable to travel and the children and grandchildren of internees who would have been on the trip. When the date is known, details regarding this event will be posted this website
This years Liberation memorial service and afternoon tea will be held at the War Tunnels. Sunday 28th April 2019 Commencing at 15.00
Welcome – Clive Armstrong, Chairman
Internment reading – Clive Armstrong
Extract from “A Jersey Child Interned by Hitler Gloria’s Story” Susan Symons 2018
Service of Remembrance – Deacon Iain MacFirbhisigh
Reading – Former internee Francelise Davison
Readings by members of the Jersey Arts Centre youththeatre
Tamsin Hollyman – reading ‘1980’ by Abraham Sutzkever
Mac Galvin – reading ‘On Hearing A Name Long Unspoken’ by Leonard Cohen
Gen Hargreaves – reading ‘The Bridge Builder’ by Will Allen Dromgoole
Life in the camp Reading – Former internee Mrs Lola Garvin
Names of Those who did not return – Clive Armstrong
A Minute’s Silence for reflection – Deacon Iain MacFirbhisigh
Liberation reading – Clive Armstrong
“Extract from Three years behind barbed wire” Joan Coles 1985
Closing Prayer– Deacon Iain MacFirbhisigh
FOLLOWING THE SERVICE, THERE WILL BE A LAYING OF ROSES IN THE GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE
YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN US FOR AFTERNOON TEA.
JOIN THE ST HELIER – BAD WURZACH TWINNING TEAM
VISIT BAD WURZACH FOR THE JERSEY INTERNEES’
75TH LIBERATION CEREMONY IN APRIL 2020
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAD WURZACH IN JERSEY’S RECENT PAST
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Jersey’s involvement early in WWII
In wartime, events seem to evolve through a relentless chain reaction. Jersey, just a pinprick on the world map became directly caught up in world events on 28 June 1940 first with the bombing of the harbour by the German Luftwaffe then on 01 July 1940 after surrender of the oldest possession of the British Crown to a senior German military officer. There followed 5 years of isolation and German military occupation.
Islanders’ lives and their uneasy routines were subsequently abruptly shaken on Tuesday 15th September 1942 by a directive published in the Jersey Evening Post addressed to all British nationals not born in the Channel Islands between 16 and 70 years of age to report for duty the next day, together with their families, at the Weighbridge with a minimum of luggage. Original summons documents were also delivered personally to each household affected.
Why did Jersey become caught up in wider WWII events – the Iranian connection
Following the German invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941 and with the German Army steadily advancing through the Soviet Union, in August 1941 in the interests of securing Iranian oil fields and safeguarding Allied supply line, British and Soviet Union troops invaded Iran.
For many decades Iran and Germany had cultivated ties as a counter balance to the imperial ambitions of Britain and Russia. From 1939 to 1941 Iran’s main foreign trading partner had been Germany which had helped Iran open modern sea and air communications with the rest of the world. Despite Iran’s claims of neutrality, Britain feared Iran was supporting Nazism and protested that a German advance in the region would threaten British communications between India and the Mediterranean.
Inevitably demands from the Allies were made for the expulsion of German residents in Iran (mostly workers and diplomats) but these were initially refused by the Shah. Ultimately the German legation and women and children from the expat community were permitted to travel to Europe and German men of fighting age (18-45) were rounded up, most preferring British to Soviet control. A few went into Soviet hands and were shipped to Siberia. The British then separated out Jewish Germans who could remain in Iran, the remainder being sent to India for internment, some even ending up in camps in Australia.
Upon learning of British action in Iran, Hitler was furious and complained somewhat hypocritically of invasion of a neutral country and internment of German citizens, his immediate reaction being to find out what reprisals were possible.
The German Foreign Office’s response was that British people in the Channel Islands were effectively interned as they could not leave without permission, a rough estimate indicating that about 2,000 men in Jersey had been born in the United Kingdom. This was short of the 5,000 that were needed if a ratio of 10:1 was to be applied according to German figures. More accurate lists of men were demanded and finally women and children were included and by 10 November 1940, lists were submitted by the Island authorities. However, in Berlin the order was passed from department to department but remained buried until September 1942 when a Swiss attempt to organise an exchange of injured soldiers and civilians resulted in Hitler being reminded that the British civilians were still in Jersey. Inevitably, on discovering that his orders had not been complied with, Hitler reissued the order.
In the Islands, everything then moved very quickly. The order arrived in Jersey on 15 September 1942. The same day a meeting was held with the Bailiff and Parish officials, and a notice appeared in the local paper. Because island authorities refused to serve the notices, soldiers required parish officials to show them where to go, and served the deportation orders on the first batch of people that evening.
In total about 2000 Channel Islanders (either non-resident and caught by the outbreak of war or men between 16 and 70 years of age not born in the Channel Islands together with their families) were deported in 3 sailings via a convoluted route across France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to first Biberach arriving finally at the small town of Wurzach in the marshes north of Lake Constance.
The internment years in the Schloss Wurzach :
Twinning with that small, but for Jersey islanders, significant German town in Baden-Württemberg in the summer of 2002 has hopefully brought both communities closer together and some closure on those difficult times has been achieved.
OUR INVITATION TO YOU:
If you find Jersey’s recent history fascinating, especially the 1940-1945 Occupation years or are interested in cultural exchanges, meeting people from abroad with close ties to our island, helping to organise local commemorative and celebratory events or joining in entertaining our twinning partners when they visit Jersey then we invite you to join our team.
Young and old are warmly invited to join the St Helier – Bad Wurzach Partnerschaft Committee which was set up in 2006 to strengthen cultural and historical ties with Bad Wurzach, the southern German town north of Lake Constance where 1186 islanders from Jersey were interned during WWII.
Bad Wurzach visit in April 2020 : At this time we are beginning preparations for a special trip to Bad Wurzach in April 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Internees’ liberation on 28 April 1945. We are organising a group trip of about 30 Jersey folk to southern Germany comprising surviving Internees and their families, friends and other islanders interested in visiting this attractive, sleepy little German town and participating in the commemorative celebrations.
We can promise you a wonderful welcome in Bad Wurzach as well as moving commemoration ceremonies in the beautiful little Gottesberg pilgrimage chapel and in the cemetery where 12 Jersey Internees are laid to rest. During the cemetery commemorative service a single red rose is laid by a Jersey visitor on each of the graves. Amongst special events there will be a special day out to visit the surrounding beautiful countryside or to an attractive German city with evenings filled with lively German atmosphere and good food.
We would invite you to visit our Partnerschaft website for further background on our activities : https://www.sthelierbadwurzachpartnerschaft.com/. Please note that you do not have to be a resident of St Helier to join our Committee. The organisation has deep island-wide relevance and all islanders are welcome.
- And importantly, if you are interested in joining the organised visit to Bad Wurzach in April 2020 please contact Clive Armstrong, the Committee Chairman on :
- e-mail : email@example.com.
Sadly due to the Covid-19 Outbreak 2020 we have had to cancel this visit for the protection of all those involved.
The ceremony began in the Occupation Tapestry Gallery at the Jersey Maritime Museum.
Proceedings then moved outside to the Lighthouse Memorial, where wreaths were laid by the Lieutenant Governor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, on behalf of the Crown; Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, on behalf of the people of Jersey and Chief Minister Ian Gorst, on behalf of the States of Jersey. 2 former internees (David Peacock and Roy Newton) were in attendance and laid the above wreath.
On Saturday 26th January, the Partnerschaft attended the local history fair at the Jersey Library.
We were kept busy with many questions from visitors wishing to learn more about the internment events, a number of visitors raised questions with regards relatives that had been at Bad Wurzach, giving them details and the POW numbers for their research.
We met with some interesting individuals who had interesting stories to tell.
Many thanks to Clive, Lola, Sarah, Sandra and Lillian for helping making our attendance at this even a success.