27 January 2020
On Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), 27 January, we remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the millions of victims of Nazi persecution, and those of subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. The date marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, in 1945.
During the Occupation of Jersey from 1940 to 1945, dozens of Islanders were deported to Germany for offences against the occupying forces. Many of these offences were trivial, others highly significant. Of these Islanders, 21 perished in Hitler’s prisons and concentration camps, among them some who had committed no offence at all. These are their stories:
Canon Clifford Cohu
The Rector of St Saviour’s Church, Canon Clifford Cohu openly defied and challenged the German occupiers, most notably broadcasting news about the war effort while riding his bike through the town. Wireless sets were banned during the Occupation and Islanders who kept sets hidden away risked imprisonment. Cohu was part of a group in St Saviour who were tried in April 1943. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for ‘disseminating antiGerman news’. He died on 20 September 1944 in Zöschen, a camp run by the SS, 22 miles from Naumberg in Germany.
Joe Tierney Joe
Tierney was one of 18 members of the St Saviour wireless network who were tried by a German court. He worked in the parish cemetery. He was sentenced to two years ‘for manufacturing and distributing leaflets’. His wife was pregnant when he was arrested, but he was allowed to attend his daughter’s christening before he was deported to France in September 1943. He died in a cattle truck while being moved between camps on 4 May 1945.
German prosecutors branded John Nicolle the chief ‘criminal’ among the St Saviour wireless network. He received a three-year sentence and was deported in May 1943. After spells in several prisons he was send to Dortmund. It was there that on 14 February 1945 he succumbed to starvation, overwork and wounds sustained during an RAF bombing raid.
A member of the St Saviour wireless network, gardener Arthur Dimery received a sentence of three months and two weeks. He was deported on 5 May 1943 and after completing his prison term, was sent to Neuengamme concentration camp outside Hamburg. From there he was moved to Laufen, one of the internment camps for Channel Islanders, where he died on 4 April 1944.
William Marsh was born on 28 November 1920 in St Helier. A motor mechanic by trade, he began working for the German labour Organisation Todt in 1943. Rebellious by nature, in February 1944 he was reported for misconduct and put on trial. He was sentenced to 15 months for ‘insulting the German forces, disturbing the working peace and disseminating anti-German information’. He died in Germany on 9 March 1945, when probably part of a slave worker detachment building a fuel plant in Zeitz.
George Fox and Clifford Quérée
George Fox was born on 22 May 1896. The father of seven was a cabinetmaker by trade, but during the Occupation he was employed as a kitchen assistant. Clifford Quérée was born on 27 September 1906. He worked as labourer and storeman. They were tried together on 23 June 1943. Fox was charged with ‘continual larceny’ and Quérée for ‘continual receiving of stolen articles’. They each received a twoyear sentence. Fox died in Naumberg Prison in Germany on 11 March 1945. Quérée also died there on 1 May 1945. Both men are buried in the British Cemetery in Heerstrasse, Berlin.
Emile (Joe) Paisnel
Paisnel, who was born in St Clement on 9 April 1883, was a farmer living on the family farm in Boulivot de Bas, Grouville. He was denounced by an Islander for bartering wheat for coal, stolen from German fuel stocks. He was tried on 19 February 1944 and sentenced to ten months imprisonment on the Continent. He died in Naumberg prison on 29 August 1944.
Father and son, Clarence and Peter Painter
Clarence Painter was born in Berkshire on 2 November 1893 and fought in the First World War. He married Dorothy Smith, the daughter of a Jersey ice cream and mineral water manufacturer. He worked in the family business and their eldest son, Peter, was born on 11 April 1924. Peter was a pupil at Victoria College and like many youngsters he took part in acts of defiance such as taking photographs of German aircraft at the Airport, when photography was banned. He was reported to the Germans who searched the family home in New Zealand Avenue, St Saviour, in November 1943. They found a First World War German pistol, brought home as a souvenir by Peter’s uncle. Guns had to be handed in when the Occupation began. Father and son were arrested and sent to a prison in France just before Christmas. The following August, after spells in two camps, they were transferred to GrossRosen concentration camp. Peter died from pneumonia, in his father’s arms, on 27 November 1944. Clarence died on 16 February 1945 in a train wagon while being transferred between camps.
James Houillebecq was born into a St Saviour family on 24 February 1927. He had just left De La Salle College in May 1944 when a German search party discovered gun parts and ammunition hidden at the family home. Together with friends, he had stolen a German gun and concealed it without the knowledge of the family. They were all arrested and interrogated but only James remained in prison. He was deported in July 1944 and died in Neuengamme concentration camp on 20 January 1945, a month short of this 19th birthday.
St Ouen shopkeeper, Louisa Gould’s ‘crime’ was to harbour an escaped Russian slave worker, Feodor ‘Bill’ Burriy. Denounced to the German occupiers by neighbours, she was arrested on 25 May 1944 after her home was searched. Bill had been safely moved to another hideaway but a wireless set, a camera and gift labels which identified her as the giver and the Russian as the recipient, were found. At her trial the following month she was sentenced to two years imprisonment and deported. She died in the gas chambers of Ravensbrück concentration camp in February 1945.
Frankie Le Villio
In June 1944, at the age of 19, Frankie Le Villio was put on trial for ‘serious military larceny’, found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment. It was his third offence. He survived two prisons and three concentration camps and was repatriated after the War to Nottingham where he had relatives. Sadly, he had contracted tuberculosis and, weakened by the harsh treatment he had received in the camps, died on 26 September 1946. His body was eventually returned to Jersey in 2018, and reburied in Surville Cemetery on 6 September of that year.
Marcel Rossi was born in Lincolnshire on 14 December 1921. His father, Jean-Marie was born in Jersey to an Italian family and both men held dual Italian-British nationality. In February 1943, as part of deportations of UK-born British passport holders and their dependents, to internment camps, the father and son were sent to Kreuzberg internment camp in Silesia. At one point they were held in the Auschwitz camp complex. Marcel is believed to have died in April 1945. Jean-Marie survived and died in 1967.
Little is known of June Sinclair, a half-Jewish orphan from London, other than she worked in one of the hotels that were requisitioned by German occupiers. It is thought she was sent into the camp system after retaliating by slapping a German soldier’s face after he molested her at work. She is thought to have been about 20 years old when she perished in Ravensbrück concentration camp on 26 April 1943.
Frederick Page was born William Frederick White, in Portsmouth on 20 November 1894. At some point in his life he changed his name and dropped his age by six years and moved to Jersey. During the Occupation he worked as an agricultural labourer but in his earlier life he had served in First World War with the Grenadier Guards, and he played in goal for Southampton, and cricket for Hampshire. In July 1943, he was tried for ‘wireless offences’ and sentenced to 21 months in prison. He died in Naumberg on 5 January 1945.
Edward Peter Muels
Peter Muels was born on 2 July 1912. During the Occupation he worked as a lorry driver for the Parish of St Helier and lived at La Rocque, Grouville, with his wife and son. In June 1944 he was charged with assisting a German deserter, David Host, who had accidentally killed an officer, and sentenced to a long term of hard labour. He died in Kassel-Wehlheiden prison on 7 January 1945.