British military intelligence covered up the horrors of wartime Nazi labor camps on an English Channel island and ignored a recommendation to charge at least one German officer with war crimes, an investigative report written by former top British army officers claimed.
The report, the second part of which was published on Monday in the Daily Mail, revises the accepted numbers of prisoners who died on the island from 400 to 40,000-70,000. It radically challenges the known history of the wartime German occupation of Alderney, the northernmost of the inhabited Channel Islands.
It was authored by Col. Richard Kemp CBE, a former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, and John Weigold, an officer who served in the Gulf and Northern Ireland.
The history of the Nazi occupation of Alderney is murky because the residents were evacuated before the Germans came in 1940, leaving few witnesses. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British isles occupied by the Germans in the war.
The report asserts that the true horror of the Nazi killings there was covered up by British military intelligence, which sent a young and inexperienced officer, Captain Theodore “Bunny” Pantcheff, to interrogate the Germans on Alderney, where they had tried to build a secret base to launch chemical gas-tipped rockets at the British mainland.
Pantcheff spoke to German guards and prisoners, and estimated that the number of people who died on the island was about 400. The number was accepted by his superiors, who were allegedly embarrassed that the Nazis had set up a camp on British soil. Even though Pantcheff recommended that at least one German officer be charged with war crimes, no charges were ever leveled. His report was filed away and subsequently lost or destroyed.
Kemp and Weigold assert that it was well known that there were four German slave labor camps on the island — Norderney, Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland — and allege that there were seven additional subsidiary camps. Using aerial photographs, the report also presents sites of suspected mass graves.
“Thousands upon thousands of Russian prisoners of war and forced laborers, men and boys [were] dragged from their villages in Russia and Eastern Europe, Jews from France, French and Spanish PoWs and even captives from Morocco,” the report stated.
“The Germans shot him right there,” one survivor of the camp told the authors. “Another man was crucified for stealing, hung by his hands. When I got up in the mornings I saw dead bodies in the bunks around me. Sometimes their lips, nose and ears had been eaten by rats.
“There was a special hut where the corpses were piled. Later, they were taken away, loaded onto trucks and dumped in the sea. We were fed just water with a few bits of turnip floating in it, so life was a constant struggle for food,” the man, who was not named, continued. “I found a rubbish heap near to the construction site where I worked and was filling a bag with vegetable peelings and cabbage leaves when someone set a dog on me. It attacked again and again, tearing all my clothing. When it let go, I was beaten with a stick by a German. I was very weak at the time. There were about 500 men in my camp, and at least 300 died while I was there.”
Pantcheff went to live on Alderney, and wrote what became the definitive book on the Nazi occupation of the island. That book “perpetuated the myth of a relatively benign occupation there, along the same lines as Guernsey and Jersey, where islanders and occupiers managed to live side by side in reasonable harmony,” the report stated.
“To our seasoned military minds, having between us 45 years of Army experience — Pantcheff’s figures are pure hokum,” Kemp and Weigold wrote.
Rejecting the numbers in the wartime report, the article stated that “there would have to be thousands more to dig pits into the rock, build wooden molds for the concrete, lay wire, work in the quarry, make roads, dig cable trenches, excavate tunnels, unload ships etc.”
Based on the volume of construction carried out on the island, the authors estimated that at any one time some 10,000 people would have been required. And as the slave laborers were given minimal equipment and little food, it must have taken many more. In addition, life expectancy in the Nazi camps was said to be only three months.
Although others have claimed that the workers were repatriated to Europe after finishing their work, the Mail report said that such a policy would not have been consistent with the Nazi worldview, which looked at “slave laborers from Russia, Ukraine, Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe… as untermenschen, sub-humans.”
Based on reports from eyewitnesses, Russian documents and British military records, the authors stated, “We are confident in estimating that in the peak Organization Todt construction period between January 1942 and October 1943, a minimum of 40,000 slave laborers died from exhaustion, sickness, injury and brutality, and perhaps as many as 70,000.”
Organization Todt was the civil and military engineering group responsible for a huge range of engineering projects in Germany and German-occupied territories.
They estimated that the many of the bodies were thrown into the sea and carried away by the tides, while others would have been cremated. Yet others may have been thrown into the foundations of the concrete structures that were being built and covered over.
Monday’s report was a follow-up to a report on Saturday in which the authors claimed to have uncovered a previously unknown site on the island built by the Nazis in order to launch V1 rockets at Allied forces that were gathering in Britain in preparation to launch the June 6, 1944, D-Day offensive to liberate Europe.
— Rɪᴄʜᴀʀᴅ Kᴇᴍᴘ (@COLRICHARDKEMP) May 6, 2017
Specially constructed and finished rooms inside the tunnel complex were believed to have been built to put chemical warheads on the rockets, the authors alleged, speculating it was the deadly sarin nerve gas.
Accepted histories of Alderney hold that there were some 6,000 Jewish and Russian slave laborers held in two labor and two concentration camps on the island, brought there to build the massive fortifications.
Fewer than 1,000 were known to have died there, with the rest thought to have been transferred back to France in 1944.
There are only 397 known prisoner graves on the island.