On this day in 1942

Three Jewish women are deported from Guernsey

It wasn’t only in mainland Europe that Jewish people were sent to concentration camps.

Marianne Grunfeld, Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz were deported from Guernsey by Germans forces during the occupation. They were initially sent to St Malo, in the occupied part of France, where they were allowed to take up jobs. However, their time there was short.

Within three months they had been sent to Auschwitz, in Poland, where all three died. They were sent to the gas chamber as soon as their train arrived at the camp.

Authorities alerted

The German authorities had initially been unaware that there were Jews living on Guernsey. They were only alerted to the fact when Therese Steiner approached the German High Command for information. At the time, she was working as a nurse on the island, and was hungry for news about her family in Austria.

The authorities initially seemed to be quite helpful. However, her approach prompted them to ask who else on the island might be Jewish. They required every Jew to register themselves, after which there was no possibility of escape.

Therese Steiner had originally come to Britain to escape anti Semitism in her native Austria and, when the war broke out, moved to Sark as a nanny. At that point, she was trapped, being unable to move back to the mainland as the German forces positioned themselves to occupy the Channel Islands because she was not natively British. She subsequently moved to Guernsey before the Germans arrived.

Auguste Spitz worked alongside Steiner and, like Marianne Grunfeld, had no choice but to register as Jewish with the authorities. From this point on, none of the women had any chance of hiding from the occupying forces.

Memorials to the deported

A plaque in their memory was unveiled on St Julian’s Pier in St Peter Port on 27 January 2001. This was vandalised in 2010, and following its restoration it was attacked again in August 2013. On this occasion, a saw was used to cut it from its mounting on the wall.

In total, more than 1000 Guernsey and Sark residents were deported to either Germany or France during the Second World War. Many of them had committed only minor offences. Sixteen of them are remembered on a separate plaque in St Peter Port, which was erected to their memory in 2010.

Another plaque, in the Bordage, St Peter Port, remembers the members of the Guernsey Underground News Sheet. They had been distributing news from the BBC, contrary to German regulations. Five of them were sent to prison in Germany, only two of whom made it back to Guernsey alive.

 

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