Author Topic: A Nazi concentration camp on British soil? A fuller history of Alderney comes to light  (Read 1242 times)

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A Nazi concentration camp on British soil? A fuller history of Alderney comes to light
Matthew DiebelJune 18, 2021
A piece of barbed wire that Matthew Diebel found as a boy still sits on the windowsill of his family house on the British island of Alderney. by the Forward

It was the barbed wire that made me sense that something evil had happened. Thick, coiled and with fierce barbs every inch or so, I found it in some undergrowth on Alderney, a British island that lies just seven miles from the coast of France. You won’t find examples of it anymore, for in the 60 years or so since I found it, other remnants have rusted. I gave it to my father, who placed it on our window sill, where it still sits.

I was about six or seven, and our family had been going to the three-by-one mile island for three or four years.

Eventually, they bought a house there, which my brother, sister and I now own. My American family, like me, love Alderney and we visit every year. It is an idyllic place. Beautiful white-sand beaches. Dramatic cliffs. About a dozen Victorian-era forts, beautifully built with the local stone to guard against attacks from the French. A cute, French-looking town with cobbled streets and colorful houses.

And then there was the concrete. I didn’t realize its significance then, but our favorite beach was backed by a huge anti-tank wall, which was ugly but at least blocked the western breezes. A tall and hulking lookout tower that resembled a British cinema from the 1930s – hence its nickname, The Odeon – loomed over a quarry. And, along with hundreds of bunkers, anti-aircraft gun positions and tunnels, four huge gun emplacements sat near the highest cliffs.