The era of Nazi Occupation was a dark one in the history of the Channel Islands.
Now, hundreds of documents from Jersey’s period under German rule have been released for the first time.
Due to exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents were closed to public access until January this year, just as the island prepares to commemorate 75 years since its liberation on 9 May 1945.
Documents released include hospital admission records and witness depositions in criminal cases. But the most fascinating of those unveiled must be the Political Prisoners’ Register.
Kept by the German Troops Court between August 1940 and December 1944, it contains the names of 506 individuals deemed to have committed crimes against the occupying authorities.
Along with the prisoners’ details, the register specified the type of offence, which was often ‘political’.
To a modern reader, such offences seem minor. They were often no more serious than painting V signs, spreading anti-German propaganda, or listening to Allied radio broadcasts.
But the punishments were severe: individuals prosecuted were sent to the Continent to serve out their sentences. Some never returned.
Those listed vary greatly in age and occupation, while sentences themselves ranged in length from hours to years.
The longest was handed to Philip George Ozard. In May 1942, he was sentenced to five years for the unauthorised possession of weapons.
Imprisoned in France and later Germany, he was liberated by American forces in 1945 and returned safely to Jersey where he died in 1969.
In contrast to this ordeal was the sentence handed to Kathleen Duckworth, who was convicted for political offences while still at school. Aged 15, she served just one night in prison.
Commenting on the release of the documents, Linda Romeril, Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage, said, ‘It is always fascinating to be able to study these documents and to use them to tell the stories of individuals who lived in Jersey up to a century ago.’
The register and other records are now open for the public to view at Jersey Heritage.
This article was published in the March 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.