Visit to Jersey from Bad Wurzach Partnerscaft committee.
It was with great pleasure that the St Helier/ Bad Wurzach Partnerschaft recently hosted a visit to the Island from our German counterparts. It was so good to see them again and be able to return the excellent hospitality we had received when we visited Bad Wurzach last September. It was also a return visit for the Mayor of Bad Wurzach Alexandra Scherer who came last June for the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations . We welcomed 5 members of the Bad Wurzach Partnerschaft , from Germany who joined in with our celebrations of King Charles ‘ Coronation on May 6th and the Island’s Liberation on May 9th.Although the weather over the long weekend could have been kinder, it did not seem to spoil our visitors’ enjoyment of all the official and unofficial events and activities they attended. On Saturday morning they were able to watch the Coronation Ceremony which was screened live in the Town Hall and also attend the Liberation Day celebrations and re – enactments in Liberation Square on May 9th. In between our guests visited some of the beauty spots and historic sites around the Island and also enjoyed meals in local restaurants sampling the Indian and Thai cuisines. On Monday 8th there was a very special discussion forum called “How We Remember”. Held in the Town Hall and hosted by the external relations minister Philip Ozouf . Led by Dr Gilly Carr, an expert on the Second World War , it focused on the various ways we have commemorated and recorded events of the past, in particular the Second World War and the Holocaust. Frau Scherer was included on the panel of speakers as was the German Ambassador to the UK and the Mayor of Dorsten. A town in Northern Germany , during World War 2 Dorsten had a transit camp for deportees , through which some of our Islanders travelled in 1942 on their way to Bad Wurzach. The main thrust of many of the speakers including Frau Scherer was the importance of reconciliation and education. She emphasised how important our Partnerschaft has been in forging links between us . In the afternoon some of our older members and deportees were able to meet with Frau Scherer and our visitors while enjoying afternoon tea . Our 5 guests were presented with a gift bag each containing local Genuine Jersey products. On the afternoon of Liberation Day Frau Scherer, the German Ambassador and the Mayor of Dorsten all laid wreaths at the German Soldiers’ memorial at St Brelade’s Church before attending the Slave Workers’ wreath laying ceremony at Westmount. While it was a very full and active 4 days it was a very enjoyable time and we look forward to their Youth Band’s visit for the Battle of flowers and other future events .
78th Internee Liberation Celebration Jersey War Tunnels
We were so lucky to have such settled weather to hold our service of commemoration and remembrance . It is always held on the Sunday nearest to April 28th the day the camp was liberated by the Free French in 1945. Altogether there were 54 of us including former internees, their families and friends, members of the partnerschaft and of the Arts Centre youth theatre. The ceremony began with our chairman, Clive Armstrong , welcoming everyone, then 3 members of the youth theatre read selections of poetry and prose. Lola Garvin (a former internee) read from the late Michael Shepherd’s published Memories of April 1945 Liberation in Wurzach Camp. A short service of prayers was led by Father Nick Barry from St Luke’s Church. Clive Armstrong then read the remembrance list of those who are buried in Wurzach Cemetery and did not return to Jersey and the ceremony concluded with a minute’s silence.
Those who wished to could then visit the garden of remembrance and lay red roses on the memorial plaques to those who did not return. Red roses were also given to former internees. We all adjourned to the café to reminisce and meet our friends over excellent cake and afternoon tea. It was so heartening to see so many people meeting together again after the past years of uncertainty due to Covid. We are very grateful to the staff at the War Tunnels for allowing us to hold our ceremony there and for providing excellent refreshments. They are always welcoming and very accommodating.
Gill James – Secretary St Helier/ Bad Wurzach Partnerschaft
2022 has been a memorable year for many reasons but it holds especial meaning for 2 towns in different countries linked by a moment in history. Recently a group of people returned from visiting Bad Wurzach in Southern Germany, a town which has unique links with St Helier and Jersey.
When, during the Occupation, in September 1942, 620 islanders were deported to Bad Wurzach , they could have no idea that 80 years later we would still be commemorating that event; or indeed that in the future we would be so closely linked by friendship that a formal twinning group or “Partnerschaft” would be established between Bad Wurzach and St Helier in 2002 – this year also marks 20 years of Partnerschaft.
The reason for the deportations was as a reprisal for the Allies interning German civilians in Iran and on the direct orders of Hitler. The 620 internees were men, women and children, some born in Britain, many born in Jersey, of all ages, from babes in arms to the elderly. After three days travelling by boat to St Malo and train through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, and weeks at Biberach , a camp not far from Bad Wurzach, they finally arrived and were marched from the station, through the town to their internment camp in the Schloss (more like a stately home or mansion than a castle) where they would spend the next almost three years. The local townspeople were shocked that women and children were in the group and so many of them did all they could to help the internees with food and many other acts of kindness. In fact, when the camp was liberated in April 1945, the internees owed their lives to the people of the town who warned the Free French liberators that there were British people in the castle and not Germans (thinking it was a Nazi HQ they were going to shell it.) In return the internees explained to the Free French that the townspeople had been very kind to them. Perhaps this was the beginning of the subsequent friendship and Partnerschaft which exists today and perhaps accounts for its uniqueness amongst our Island’s many twinning groups.
People have been making informal journeys to and from Bad Wurzach from the 70s onwards and from small beginnings the Partnerschaft has burgeoned with exchanges of students, musical and youth groups, the establishment of bursaries and visits between each town and the hospitality shown to each group by the other is legendary. Covid put paid to the last planned visit in 2018 so this year was all the more special.
Our group consisted of three internees – Lola Garvin from the St Helier Partnerschaft who organised the trip, Roy Newton and Angela Thom who was born in Bad Wurzach. Also with us were relatives of the original internees and their families. We were accompanied by the Constable of St Helier, Simon Crowcroft and his wife Angela, and St Helier Deputy Mary Le Hegerat . At Heathrow we met up with some more relatives and when we arrived in Bad Wurzach we joined others who had travelled earlier, including two former Bailiffs and their wives and Angela Francey who, with the late Michael Ginns, was one of the founders of the Partnerschaft. Michael’s widow Josephine was also in our group and reporter Rod McLoughlin accompanied us to record the visit for the JEP, which he did admirably.
Our visit was memorable for many reasons. For many in both the St Helier and Bad Wurzach groups it was so good to reconnect and re – establish friendships after the last two plus years of Covid enforced separation. The welcome and hospitality shown to us from the German group was incredible and we enjoyed many informal gatherings as well as the more formal ceremonies. One memorable evening was a wonderful buffet prepared and served by the German group, who catered for around 75 people. Some of us particularly enjoyed the choice of puddings, going back for seconds! A very large chocolate cake decorated with the crests of both towns was ceremonially jointly cut by Simon and Frau Scherer the Mayor. We were entertained that evening by a very talented and enthusiastic group of young brass players. We also had organised visits to Lake Constance for a day trip to Mainau Island celebrated for its beautiful gardens, a guided walk around the local wetlands area – known as the Moor and a visit to the nearby town of Memmingen.
We were very well looked after by our German friends who organised everything, including ensuring that one of our groups who had walking difficulties received personal assistance and was able to enjoy our activities.
A highlight for most of us was the guided tour of the Schloss by Gisela Rothenhausler, a member of the German Partnerschaft and an expert historian who has written a book describing the history of Bad Wursach’s Schloss. She was able to show us the rooms where the internees lived during their years in the castle and although it has now been beautifully restored, we were able to imagine what it would have been like then. It was a very moving and emotional experience especially seeing those rooms that were used as hospital wards. We were so impressed with the restoration of the main entrance hall and staircase – adorned with murals of gods and goddesses in the Baroque style complete with carved marble columns. Apparently, it was called Marble Arch by the internees and used as a meeting place. It is now used for official civic occasions and wedding ceremonies. An official ceremony was organised for us so that Simon could sign the special Golden Book of Bad Wurzach reserved for important visitors to the town.
The more formal ceremonies were also very moving. A very special church service was held in the restored chapel attached to the Schloss, which was led by two Roman Catholic priests from Bad Wurzach and the Rev Dr Sarah McClelland, herself the daughter and granddaughter of internees. The service, which included hymns, prayers and readings, was conducted both in German and English and seemed to be a perfect symbol of the way our two communities have come together with friendship and mutual respect.
A more sombre ceremony was held in the town cemetery to commemorate those internees who did not return home at the end of the war but remain buried in Bad Wurzach. We gathered in front of the cemetery’s memorial wall, inscribed with the names of all those from Bad Wurzach who died in two world wars, and which includes the names of 11 internees. A wreath was laid jointly by Frau Scherer and Simon Crowcroft; readings were given on the theme of Hope by Lola Garvin an internee, Judy King, the daughter of an internee, and prayers were said by Rev Dr Sarah McClelland. After which white roses were laid on the gravestones as a mark of respect and remembrance. The cemetery is beautifully maintained and our section of it is immaculate. For those of our group whose family members lie here, this was especially moving.
One of our final events was the opening of a very special exhibition curated by Partnerschaft member and local historian, Gisela Rothenhausler, who has extensively researched the history of Bad Wurzach’ Schloss and its war time role as an internment camp. The exhibition consists of photographs taken of pictures and cards drawn and painted by the internees. The originals remain in the collection of Jersey Archive and due to their fragile state were unable to be transported so copies were made. They depict local scenes around the Schloss as well as everyday life inside it and are a vivid representation of the conditions and activities of the internees. There were many artists who recorded their experiences, the principal ones being Harold Hepburn and TS Webber whose daughter Angela Thom, was among our party. The exhibition is remaining open in Bad Wurzach for local townspeople to view it but it is hoped that soon it may travel to Jersey to be put on display here so that islanders can view it too and gain an impression of what life was like for the internees.
This visit was a wonderful experience for all of us – we were all overwhelmed by the kindness and friendship shown to us by the people of Bad Wurzach .The Partnerschaft has proved to be stronger than ever, and it seems an appropriate way forward in these uncertain times to encourage future interaction between our two communities. For me, personally as the granddaughter of internees and a first-time visitor, this has been an unforgettable experience and I look forward to future gatherings.
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.
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
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
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