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Nazi concentration camp Sylt on the British channel island of Alderney was uncovered in detail

A Nazi concentration camp on Alderney Island has been studied for the first time since its destruction at the end of World War II to reveal details of where Hitler’s soldiers carried out horrific actions against prisoners.

Alderney was home to Britain’s only concentration camps during the war, and the remains of more than 30 structures have now been revealed by archaeologists using the groundbreaking radar in the most sinister way, Sylt.

One of the new finds at the site of the extermination camp, which had been managed by the Schutzstaffel (SS) since 1943, was a tunnel from the soldiers’ bathhouse, under the barbed wire fence and in a villa outside the camp.

It was connected to the camp commander’s villa and this well-lit passage is regularly used by the German occupiers.

Archaeologists are unsure of the exact purpose, but say it may have been used to sneak up women for a brothel.

Other findings include prisoner and SS buildings – barracks, kitchens, toilets, and bathhouses – as well as gate posts and remnants of fences.

Depicted, the ground-penetrating radar images are labeled with some of what was found hidden under the bushes on Alderney. The camp was investigated for the first time since 1945

Depicted, the ground-penetrating radar images are labeled with some of what was found hidden under the bushes on Alderney. The camp was investigated for the first time since 1945

One of the new finds at the site of the extermination camp, which became an extermination camp for Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1943, was a tunnel from the soldiers' bathhouse, under the barbed wire fence and in a villa outside the camp. This well-lit passage is believed to have been used regularly by the German occupying forces, and archaeologists are unsure of its exact purpose, but say it may have been used to sneak women for a brothel

One of the new finds at the site of the extermination camp, which became an extermination camp at Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1943, was a tunnel from the soldiers' bathhouse, under the barbed wire fence and in a villa outside the camp. This well-lit passage is believed to have been used regularly by the German occupying forces, and archaeologists are unsure of its exact purpose, but say it may have been used to sneak women for a brothel

One of the new finds at the site of the extermination camp, which became an extermination camp for Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1943, was a tunnel from the soldiers’ bathhouse, under the barbed wire fence and in a villa outside the camp. This well-lit passage is believed to have been used regularly by the German occupying forces, and archaeologists are unsure of its exact purpose, but say it may have been used to sneak women for a brothel

Lidar survey data showing the remaining traces of the Sylt camp in 2017
An annotated image showing the different things found by the ground penetrating radar scans. 4) SS ordered room, 6) stables, 7) prisoners' barracks, 12) construction stores, 14) Commander's villa, 15) kitchen, clothing store and basement. The dotted white line is the dividing wall between the spaces for SS troops and the prisoners

An annotated image showing the different things found by the ground penetrating radar scans. 4) SS ordered room, 6) stables, 7) prisoners’ barracks, 12) construction stores, 14) Commander’s villa, 15) kitchen, clothing store and basement. The dotted white line is the dividing wall between the spaces for SS troops and the prisoners

Depicted, a bunker on Alderney, probably built by slave labor from Sylt and the other camps. They were starved, beaten and tortured by the occupying Nazis and forced to toil to establish part of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” designed to protect France from attack. This bunker would have been part of this defense

A handful of physical structures remain visible today, including a trough for horses and an SS ordinance built by slave labor, but the researchers tried to uncover hidden signs of the Nazi era.

The German occupier destroyed as much evidence as possible of the camp and its misconduct in 1944 when it was clear that the Allies would win the war.

Using non-invasive methods, the researchers were able to identify and map the main features of the camp and show how it expanded from a small 100-strong forced labor camp to a full-fledged Nazi extermination camp of SS tyrants.

A total of 32 functions have been discovered: four borders, five structures for SS soldiers, two for the commander himself, and 21 built for the prisoners.

A toilet block (photo) and bath house, stables and kitchen, with accompanying underground cellar, were among the buildings in the prison area

A toilet block (photo) and bath house, stables and kitchen, with accompanying underground cellar, were among the buildings in the prison area

A toilet block (photo) and bath house, stables and kitchen, with accompanying underground cellar, were among the buildings in the prison area

Pictured, the prisoner's kitchen cellar. The SS canteen was larger than the prisoner's kitchen, although far fewer people ate

Pictured, the prisoner's kitchen cellar. The SS canteen was larger than the prisoner's kitchen, although far fewer people ate

Pictured, the prisoner’s kitchen cellar. The SS canteen was larger than the prisoner’s kitchen, although far fewer people ate

DAILY LIFE AT SYLT

Survivor records indicate how difficult life was for people sent to work in the forced labor camp, which became a concentration camp.

Each prisoner was assigned to a labor company and forced to perform heavy construction work for 12 hours a day.

They were under-dressed and malnourished.

The daily ration consisted of black coffee for breakfast; a thin soup and bread between five prisoners for lunch; and a relatively thicker soup with butter for dinner

The organization Todt (OT), a civil and military engineering group responsible for providing labor to the Third Reich, led the camp for two years.

It came into the hands of the infamous SS, led by the infamous Heinrich Himmler.

They received no medical treatment from Sylt: sick prisoners who could walk were sometimes allowed to go to Norderney hospital.

One-fifth of the camp’s prisoners reportedly died between August 1942 and January 1943.

When a prisoner died, the SS gave doctor Sylt a pre-printed death certificate, which often labeled the cause of death as “poor blood circulation” or “heart failure.”

The camp was divided into two separate connections, one for the prisoners and one for the SS troops, through a stone-covered wall and gate posts.

Sylt, like the rest of the concentration camps across Europe, also had a central square for roll call.

A toilet block and bath house, stables and kitchen, with accompanying underground cellar, were among the buildings in the prison area.

Assessment by the archaeologists revealed the foundations of the site’s canteen, waiting room and workshops, as well as the prisoners and SS barracks, the infirmary and the construction office.

Guard posts, gate posts and the remains of the camp gates also survive in the underground fingerprint, shown as lines on a radar map.

The researchers, led by academics from Staffordshire University, used lidar and geophysical survey data to reveal what lay beneath the surface.

A digital map was created and no physical excavations were carried out to preserve the site. The findings were compared to historical camp blueprints that survived the war to understand what each structure was.

Only superficial depressions were seen for the prisoner barracks, in contrast to the deep foundations of the SS barracks, a clear indicator of the superior quality of the buildings for the soldiers.

Prisoners were housed in wooden barracks, which were destroyed when the Germans attempted in 1944 to destroy all evidence of the camp and its crimes, which were 28 meters long and 26 meters wide.

This space is about the same size as half a basketball court, and each building contained 150 prisoners.

Archival records indicate that much of this space was reserved for a single room occupied by a single prisoner named Kapo – prisoners chosen by the SS to maintain order and enforce discipline.

Of the remaining space, each prisoner had only 1.5 square meters to sleep and live in, barely more than a pay phone.

Shown is a 2D diagram of what the Sylt camp would have looked like in 1942. At that time, a handful of buildings existed, some of which were still under construction

Shown is a 2D diagram of what the Sylt camp would have looked like in 1942. At that time, a handful of buildings existed, some of which were still under construction

Shown is a 2D diagram of what the Sylt camp would have looked like in 1942. At that time, a handful of buildings existed, some of which were still under construction

Pictured, a digital reconstruction based on the latest findings showing what Sylt would have looked like in 1942 when it was first established as a forced labor camp led by the Organization Todt (OT), a civil and military engineering group responsible for providing labor to the Third Reich, led the camps

Pictured, a digital reconstruction based on the latest findings showing what Sylt would have looked like in 1942 when it was first established as a forced labor camp led by the Organization Todt (OT), a civil and military engineering group responsible for providing labor to the Third Reich, led the camps

Pictured, a digital reconstruction based on the latest findings showing what Sylt would have looked like in 1942 when it was first established as a forced labor camp led by the Organization Todt (OT), a civil and military engineering group responsible for providing labor to the Third Reich, led the camps

A 2D view of the Sylt camp in 1943, shortly before it was turned over to the SS to become a concentration camp. The radar images show that it grew quickly and was expanded with more buildings for both soldiers and prisoners

A 2D view of the Sylt camp in 1943, shortly before it was turned over to the SS to become a concentration camp. The radar images show that it grew quickly and was expanded with more buildings for both soldiers and prisoners

A 2D view of the Sylt camp in 1943, shortly before it was turned over to the SS to become a concentration camp. The radar images show that it grew quickly and was expanded with more buildings for both soldiers and prisoners

Pictured, a 3D view of the Sylt camp in 1943. On March 1 it was given to SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian List to run and he became commander

Pictured, a 3D view of the Sylt camp in 1943. On March 1 it was given to SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian List to run and he became commander

Pictured, a 3D view of the Sylt camp in 1943. On March 1 it was given to SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian List to run and he became commander

Depicted, the final size and structure of the Sylt concentration camp with over 1,000 SS prisoners, all of whom wore the infamous blue and white striped overalls

Depicted, the final size and structure of the Sylt concentration camp with over 1,000 SS prisoners, all of whom wore the infamous blue and white striped overalls

Depicted, the final size and structure of the Sylt concentration camp with over 1,000 SS prisoners, all of whom wore the infamous blue and white striped overalls

The German occupier destroyed as much evidence as possible of the camp and its misconduct in 1944 when it was clear that the Allies would win the war. Using non-invasive methods, the researchers were able to identify and map the main features of the camp and show how it expanded into a Nazi extermination camp of SS tyrants without destroying the area

The German occupier destroyed as much evidence as possible of the camp and its misconduct in 1944 when it was clear that the Allies would win the war. Using non-invasive methods, the researchers were able to identify and map the main features of the camp and show how it expanded into a Nazi extermination camp of SS tyrants without destroying the area

The German occupier destroyed as much evidence as possible of the camp and its misconduct in 1944 when it was clear that the Allies would win the war. Using non-invasive methods, the researchers were able to identify and map the main features of the camp and show how it expanded into a Nazi extermination camp of SS tyrants without destroying the area

Shown, the visible remains of a stable block from Sylt on Alderney. In a local committee meeting to discuss Sylt’s inclusion on the Register of Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments, a member said, “If there were buildings or something worth preserving, I might have a different opinion. [to not wanting it preserved]; but there is nothing except a broken old sink […] and a lot of brambles’

Depicted, the remaining place of the SS ordered room. The SS buildings are easier to identify because they are built to a higher standard than the rickety buildings the prisoners were housed in

Depicted, the remaining place of the SS ordered room. The SS buildings are easier to identify because they are built to a higher standard than the rickety buildings the prisoners were housed in

Depicted, the remaining place of the SS ordered room. The SS buildings are easier to identify because they are built to a higher standard than the rickety buildings the prisoners were housed in

Pictured, drone footage from the 2017 Sylt site. Inset, a photo with the plaque that a survivor of Sylt installed on the gate posts in 2008. Witnesses from the war say that the front gate of the camp had a sign with the words 'SS-Lager Sylt'

Pictured, drone footage from the 2017 Sylt site. Inset, a photo with the plaque that a survivor of Sylt installed on the gate posts in 2008. Witnesses from the war say that the front gate of the camp had a sign with the words 'SS-Lager Sylt'

Pictured, drone footage from the 2017 Sylt site. Inset, a photo with the plaque that a survivor of Sylt installed on the gate posts in 2008. Witnesses from the war say that the front gate of the camp had a sign with the words ‘SS-Lager Sylt’

“This work has shed new light on the German occupation of Alderney and, crucially, on the experiences of the thousands of forced and slave workers sent there,” said Professor Sturdy Colls, who led the study today in the journal Antiquity published.

“Historical, forensic and archaeological approaches have finally provided an opportunity to uncover new evidence and give a voice to those who died and died of Alderney so long ago.”

Nazis occupied the Channel Islands in 1940 after the British decided it would be too expensive and difficult to protect during the war. Instead, residents were evacuated to the mainland.

Almost the entire population of Alderney fled, allowing the invading Nazis to claim the island unhindered, much to the chagrin of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, turning Alderney’s five and a half square miles into a cut-off German enclave.

They had a free hand there to do whatever they wanted without fear of supervision or interference. And they have used that freedom without restriction.

Over the next five years, Organization Todt (OT), the monolithic company that led Nazi construction projects, hired volunteer work from Germany and France, but shipped it mainly as slaves – thousands and thousands of Russian prisoners of war and forced laborers, men and boys dragged from their villages Russia and Eastern Europe, Jews from France, French and Spanish prisoners of war and even prisoners from Morocco.

During the occupation of the islands, slave workers made up at least three-quarters of the workforce on the island.

With them, as elsewhere in the Third Reich, the Germans started an orgy of beatings, torture, starvation, recreational killing, crucifixion and systematic mass murder.

THE MONSTROUS REPUTATION OF SYLT

Sylt had a reputation for being the most terrifying camp on Alderney by far, with archived testimonials that speak of unprecedented cruelty and abuse.

Prisoners were killed as a sport, their deaths were denied with a generic death certificate, and their mutilated bodies were used as decorations on top of walls and gates.

For sports, the SS guards sometimes used dogs to force prisoners through security gates. The prisoners were then shot for trying to “escape.” The SS documented many such executions as “suicides”.

For example, German soldier Otto Tauber recalled how four men were tied to the barbed wire fence on top of a wall and beaten for killing and eating a lamb.

The gate posts were also a favorite place for the SS to commit and demonstrate cruelty. A former Norderney prisoner explained: “We saw a Russian at Lager Sylt, who was just hanging from the main entrance.

He had a sign on his chest that said, “for stealing bread.” Others lingered for days and were beaten or given cold water all night until they died, according to archived testimonials.

Bodies were left as a warning to others not to commit crimes. Even the German garrison on Alderney knew Sylt was a brutal camp to which access was limited, the archaeologists who led the latest investigation say.

During a visit to Sylt in 1943, German Corporal Otto Taubert explained that “no one [in the Wehrmacht] was allowed to enter the inner [prisoner] link ‘. German Lieutenant D.R Schwalm stated that “access to the camp was only permitted with the permission of the camp leader and then only in his presence.”

Historical sources confirm that the SS used food to enforce dominance and control.

Prisoners starved while their food rations were stolen by SS guards, who ate, sold, traded, or kept the supplies for themselves.

One of the prisoners’ kitchens also became a murder site when, as former Sylt prisoner Wilhelm Wernegau recalled, the cook was strangled by the SS for not liking his food.

The prisoners of the slave labor camp lived their pathetic and short lives in constant fear.

One who survived against expectations remembered being marched to work and a fellow prisoner falling to his knees and unable to walk.

“The Germans shot him there,” he told The Daily Mail in 2017.

Another man was crucified for theft, hung on his hands. When I got up in the morning, I saw corpses in the bunk beds around me. Sometimes their lips, nose and ears were eaten by rats.

“There was a special hut where the bodies were piled up. Later they were taken, loaded onto trucks and dumped in the sea.

“We only got water with a few pieces of turnip in it, so life was a constant struggle for food. I found a dump near the construction site where I worked and filled a bag of vegetable peelings and cabbage leaves when someone put a dog on me.

“It attacked over and over and ripped all my clothes. When it came off, a German hit me with a stick. I was very weak at the time. There were about 500 men in my camp and at least 300 died while I was there. ‘

Prisoners were placed in labor camps for slaves on Alderney under appalling conditions. The existence of four of these – named Norderney, Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland, after German islands – is known.

However, no studies have been done to learn about the camps since a government-led audit in 1945, which had not been made public for more than 35 years.

When it was released, the details were toned down to lessen the sense of disgust and outrage at the island’s atrocities. Since then, preserving the site and commemorating the camp has been a controversial topic among the locals.

Sylt was initially a forced labor camp run by the OT from 1942, but on March 1, 1943, it was placed under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian List, officially making it a concentration camp.

Witnesses from the war say that the front gate of the camp had a sign with the words ‘SS-Lager Sylt’.

Most of the OT prisoners, around 100-200, were transferred to Heligoland and Norderney and replaced by SS prisoners who entered and rammed into the rickety camp from all over Europe, mostly residents of the Eastern Bloc.

Just over 1,000 prisoners arrived via the German concentration camps Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme and Sylt became a formal subcamp of the latter.

The prisoners included about 500 Russians and Ukrainians, 180 Germans, 130 Polish, 60 Dutch, 20-30 Czech and 20 French nationals, most of whom were classified as political prisoners. Most wore the infamous SS-striped blue and white overalls of the concentration camps.

Photo of the Sylt concentration camp, taken in 1945. The Germans destroyed much of the camp in 1944, and few survived their attempts to stamp out evidence of their crimes.

Photo of the Sylt concentration camp, taken in 1945. The Germans destroyed much of the camp in 1944, and few survived their attempts to stamp out evidence of their crimes.

Photo of the Sylt concentration camp, taken in 1945. The Germans destroyed much of the camp in 1944, and few survived their attempts to stamp out evidence of their crimes.

The existence of four Alderney labor camps - named Norderney, Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland, to German islands - is known (shown, their locations on the island)

The existence of four Alderney labor camps - named Norderney, Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland, to German islands - is known (shown, their locations on the island)

The existence of four Alderney labor camps – named Norderney, Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland, to German islands – is known (shown, their locations on the island)

According to official SS documentation, 103 prisoners died. However, eyewitness statements and several contemporary sources indicate that many more died.

Sylt had a reputation for being the most terrifying camp on Alderney by far, with archived testimonials that speak of unprecedented cruelty and abuse.

Prisoners were killed as a sport, their deaths were denied with a generic death certificate, and their mutilated bodies were used as decorations on top of walls and gates.

In total, at least 700 people died in the work and concentration camps at Alderney, and more died while traveling to or from them.

Even before being handed over to the relentless monsters of the SS, a fifth of the camp’s forced laborers died in the first four months of the operation.

They were starved, beaten and tortured by the occupying Nazis and forced to toil to establish part of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” designed to protect France from attack.

Slave workers also built the vast array of fortifications, bunkers, frames and defensive walls that made the mysterious Alderney one of the most fortified outposts of the Third Reich.

Hitler and Churchill recognized that the Channel Islands had no practical use in the war and their main function for the Nazi regime was as a promotional tool.

According to Nazi party propaganda, the abandonment of the deserted and undefended islands was the “final step before the conquest of the British mainland.”

The researchers hope that, showing clear signs and concrete evidence of Alderney’s darkest moment, it will encourage locals to embrace and protect history.

In the study, published today in the journal Antiquity, the researchers say, “Sylt’s future remains uncertain. While some members of the local government and community are keen to develop it into a memorial, there is also fear that this focus on slave labor will put the island in a negative light, ”write the archaeologists.

They add: ‘Archaeological research has now shown that significant traces of the camp survive both above and below ground, allowing us to rewrite the story surrounding the destruction of the camp and to question the idea that nothing’ bothered worth “is to keep.”

In the study, published today in the journal Antiquity, the researchers say, “ While it looked different in many ways, since its shape was influenced by the surrounding landscape, in mid-1943 Sylt possessed many of the physical features and operational features from other SS camps in Europe. ‘

OCCUPANCY NAZI OF THE CANAL ISLANDS

In June 1940, the Allied forces in France were defeated.

The British government decided the Channel Islands would be too expensive to defend and started evacuating military personnel and equipment.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reportedly reluctant to simply leave the oldest possession of the British crown, but succumbed to the reasoning of military advisers.

Thousands of Channel Island residents fled to the British mainland to avoid the incoming Nazis.

On Alderney, the most northerly of the major Chanel Islands, the vast majority of the 1,400 natives left the rock only three square miles in size.

Many people evacuated from greater Guernsey and Jersey, but much of the population chose to stay.

Unaware that the Allied forces were no longer protecting the islands, the Nazis began reconnaissance battles along their coasts for the next two weeks.

A total of 44 islanders were killed in a series of attacks on the ports by the Luftwaffe.

The Nazis soon occupied the islands, which became the only part of the British Empire to be conquered by the German army.

The German authorities have changed the time zone from GMT to CET in accordance with the rest of the Third Reich. The German occupation also saw the island change to driving on the right, as opposed to on the left.

Residents were forced to sell their cars and houses; Speaking German in schools; give up weapons, boats and cameras; and had limited access to beaches.

Hitler believed that the occupation of the islands had value as a propaganda tool. As a result, they were heavily fortified.

Hitler sent one-twelfth of the steel and concrete used in the Atlantic Wall network to go to the Channel Islands.

The islands were some of the most densely fortified areas in Europe, with a myriad of Hohlgangsanlage tunnels, casemates, and coastal artillery positions.

Forced labor camps were built on some islands, with so-called volunteer camps on Guernsey and Jersey.

This forced labor led to the establishment of bunkers, gun emplacements, bomb shelters and concrete fortifications.

In 1942, camps on Alderney, called Sylt and Norderney, were built for a few hundred forced laborers.

Een jaar later, op 1 maart 1943, werden ze echter onder de controle van de SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian List geplaatst, waardoor ze in concentratiekampen veranderden.

Hij werd in maart 1944 opgevolgd door SS-Obersturmführer Georg Braun. Beide mannen waren lange tijd dienende leden van de nazi-partij. List beval de ‘beveiliging om de gevangenen hard te behandelen’ en Braun was ‘wreed tot overdreven’, volgens archiefinformatie.

De arbeiders werden gedwongen om kustverdediging te bouwen als onderdeel van Hitlers ‘Atlantikwall’ en men denkt dat 20 procent van de kampbevolking alleen al in de eerste vier maanden stierf.

Het concentratiekamp Sylt werd in 1944 gesloten en de SS vernietigde veel ervan om hun misdaden te verbergen.

Tijdens D-Day op 6 juni 1944 omzeilden de Britse troepen de zwaar gepantserde eilanden.

Het duurde tot 9 mei 1945 voordat de nazi’s op de eilanden zich overgaven, 24 uur na VE-dag voor het grootste deel van Europa.

Guernsey en Jersey werden op deze dag door Britse troepen en schepen bevrijd. Sark werd op 10 mei 1945 bevrijd en de Duitse troepen in Alderney gaven zich op 16 mei 1945 over. Krijgsgevangenen werden op 20 mei 1945 uit Alderney verwijderd.

Alderney was het laatste Duitse garnizoen dat zich overgaf na het einde van de oorlog.

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