Monday, 9 May 2011

Liberation Day

Today is Liberation Day on Jersey. Thousands will attend an outdoor service in Liberation Square, commemorating the release of the Channel Islands from the Occupation in 1945.

The subject of the Occupation is still a raw one because the Channel Islands are a mirror for Britain. They are what would have happened to us. To get an idea of the scale of the invasion there is a trail which is best visited but the download gives an idea of the magnitude of the event.

The most important site is the complex known as The Jersey War Tunnels - the underground hospital Hohlgangsanlage 8. It is one of the most important war museums in Europe, although it is comparatively small. Allow a full day to walk through the long corridors which are set up to chronologically document how the war affected a small island.

The Channel Islands were also a laboratory for Goebbels who took keen personal interest in how the invasion was handled as it formed part of his PR strategy for his German audience. He arranged for photos to be taken which allowed the folks back home to imagine that this was the Isle of Wight - something even the invading soldiers were sometimes confused about - and suggested that far from resisting, the inhabitants had all but welcomed them with open arms. The sore point being, that some - a very few it should be grimly noted - did welcome them with open arms and legs. The Germans were good-looking and appeared to have cash.

Anyone stranded on the Island at that point would have thought the Reich had triumphed and there was nothing for sensible people to do but knuckle under and be enfolded in to the new empire, inch by inch. There was nothing left but a thread of hope and small acts of resistance, such as hiding"V" lapel pins made out of Victorian sixpences. Each act was met with increasing ferocity and repression. Albert Bedane decided to hide a Jewish woman and a number of other people; his thinking was that if he was to die, he might as well make it for a large risk.

The Islanders hung on despite the risks, the deaths, the deportations. On May 8 1945 the starving fag-end of the Reich finally accepted they had run out of arms, men and money. On May 9 the formal surrender locally was done on HMS Bulldog in St Peter Port, Guernsey.

Happy Liberation Day, Channel Islands.


banned said...

My understanding is that the Allies chose not to liberate the Islands to avoid civilian caualties on English speaking soil, prefering to see them liberated by default as the Reich collapsed.

Bill Quango MP said...

9th May 1940 was the day the cabinet, almost by accident, appointed Winston Churchill PM.

Anonymous said...

The Underground Hospital is well worth a visit - it was created by Russian prisoners, many of whom died there.

It's one of those places that you will never forget - an atmosphere of absolute evil.

Shinar's Basket Case said...

I thought the whole 'plucky Islanders' resisting the evil Hun thing had been exploded as a myth a longtime ago...back when the government decided to keep the files sealed for another thousand years or so ?

As some comedian remarked at the time: "The Islanders told Jerry where to stick his dirty money-namely in the top pocket of their overalls, thank you very much".

Anonymous said...

And the difference between the Nazis and the EU?
From the tunnel guide:
"With little physical resistance to deal with, it wasn't long before the German command began interfering in daily life. Its main weapon - a formidable bureaucracy, generating new laws and orders on a daily basis."