UK to probe possible cover-up of Nazi camps on English Channel island

A United Kingdom commission of inquiry into Nazi atrocities on the English Channel island of Alderney during World War II will investigate why the wartime British government decided against prosecuting the German officers responsible for the crimes.

The German army, which conquered Britain’s dependencies in the English Channel after the Allies’ defeat in the 1940 Battle of France, set up labor and concentration camps — but no extermination camps — on the self-governing Channel island of Alderney, the only known instance of Nazi camps on British soil.

Prisoners from some 20 countries, including hundreds of French Jews, were sent to the island, where slave laborers constructed a forward part of Adolf Hitler’s so-called “Atlantic Wall” — a coastal wall of defenses with which the führer hoped to forestall an Allied incursion into the continent.

The British government — which recaptured the Channel Islands in 1945 — decided against prosecuting the German officers detained there, including major Carl Hoffman, Alderney’s wartime commandant, despite the Allies’ 1943 Moscow Declaration agreement that Nazi war criminals be tried in the countries where they had perpetrated their crimes. In 1981, the Guardian revealed that multiple Nazi officers responsible for atrocities at Alderney were living freely in Germany.

Hundreds of people are known to have been killed at the Alderney camps, and many more were sent to extermination camps on the continent, but problems in documentation and the Germans’ practice of dumping inmates’ corpses at sea have prevented the commission of inquiry from determining the precise extent of atrocities — the inquiry’s original goal. However, the committee had been pressed from the start to investigate why the Nazi war criminals had never stood trial in Britain.

“This is important not just because these events happened on British soil, but because the barbarity and inhumanity were felt with full force here,” Lord Pickles, the UK government’s Holocaust envoy, told the Guardian. “From the very beginning, the big question was why there were no war crimes trials for the atrocities committed there.”


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