Holocaust Memorial

Tuesday the 27th January will once again mark the Holocaust Memorial day here in Guernsey. The 27th of January was chosen as the day to mark the Holocaust internationally as this is the date the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, being the largest death camp in the Nazi holocaust machinery, was liberated by the soviet forces.

Here in Guernsey the Holocaust is remembered every year in a small service held at the white rock, but it is also commemorated in a larger service on the 10th anniversaries of the liberation of Auschwitz. Ten years ago the then Dean of Guernsey, the Very Reverend Cannon Paul Mellor, led an interfaith service held at St James. This year, the service will be held at the Town Church and will include the testimonies of those local people detained in various Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe. These narratives of the resistance fighters in Guernsey, deported to the Nazi camps, form part of the holocaust, as any person being deported from Guernsey, for whatever reason and to whichever destination, who died in this time can only be seen as victims of the Nazi regime.

A recent article in the Guernsey Evening Press that I contributed towards brought this event to the attention of many people, but had a mixed reception. Whilst I’ve been approached by many who were very pleased that I’ve raised the issue and that the event is happening, there is a minority who feel that I’ve unduly accused the Guernsey people who lived here through the occupation. I talked of how we in Guernsey deported the three jewish women, Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld, who were eventually murdered in Auschwitz. I also spoke of how we actively participated in the Holocaust.

Some have sought to portray these words as a condemnation of all Guernsey people, but of course that simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. We frequently refer to Guernsey as a wealthy island, but that doesn’t mean that every Tom, Len and Enid are rich. The holocaust encompasses both the acts of terror and the facilitating of them and by any measure, the actions of the authorities in passing the antisemitic orders and those of the police in handing over people for deportation can only, in my opinion, be viewed as complicit. This does not mean, as some have portrayed, that I claim the authorities here knew what fate awaited those being deported, I sincerely doubt that anyone on the island would have known of the death camps.

Others have questioned my motive in raising these painful memories. I honestly believe that the public narrative has become too narrow, that the story of the resistance fighters is little represented and that the black and white view of the occupation, which I hear on an increasingly frequent basis, is detrimental and betrays these variance narratives.

Having said all of the above, when I first saw the offence taken by some on social media, I responded to try and deal with the complaints. Having responded repeatedly over the past few days and today stood back, it is evident that twitter isn’t an appropriate space to be discussing these matters. Whilst I believe that I’ve responded with restraint, the response has given oxygen to views that wouldn’t have persisted had I remained silent. I’m committed to furthering the dialogue, study and discussion of the holocaust narrative and how it played out here, but I will no longer discuss the matter on twitter.

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