Offord: Dig up Channel Island graves to identify concentration camp victims
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Offord: Dig up Channel Island graves to identify concentration camp victims

Hendon MP calls for excavations on Alderney to establish how many perished at the hands of the Nazi occupation

Alderney camps memorial plaque
Alderney camps memorial plaque

Mass graves on the Channel Island of Alderney should be dug up to identify the number of those who perished in concentration camps.

During the Second World War Nazi Germany occupation of the Channel Islands, four concentration camps were built on Alderney, including SS Lager Sylt which housed Jewish slave labourers.

Tory MP Matthew Offord (Hendon) said the excavations are required in order to have a clearer idea of how many died in the camps and to properly remembered and respect the dead.

He pointed to research by Staffordshire University archaeologist Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls which suggests the current estimates of those who died in concentration camps on Alderney is “very conservative, given the difficulty of identifying prisoners in war records”.

However, Jewish law forbids the transfer of remains from one grave to another, even if it is to a more respected site.

During a Commons debate on Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Offord said: “The whole issue of post-Holocaust archaeology is a very contested area and indeed very painful for many people who had direct experience of the Holocaust.”

“She (Professor Sturdy Colls) has said that her research on the island has come up against great hostility including from the Alderney government itself which she said had refused a permit for her to evacuate some of the sites forcing the research that she undertook to rely on non-invasive methods of analysis such as drone filming.”

“I have to tread carefully as I say this, but there is also some reluctance on behalf of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom to give permission for the excavation work of Jewish burial sites.

“This is a very, very delicate area.

Matthew Offord .(Photo credit: Jacob King/PA Wire)

“And I know that great Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who is my constituent, has been involved in this issue.

“Rabbinical law dictates that the gravesites of Jewish people should not be disturbed.

“And I have a great deal of sympathy with that point of view.

“However, I do have a belief that unmarked graves, mass graves, and the cases of bodies hidden by the murderers are not proper graves within themselves.

“And I believe that it is appropriate for the identification of bodies to be undertaken because people do need a proper resting place and the places and locations I’ve described, I do not believe, are proper graves.

“As Elie Wiesel wrote, ‘to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time’.”

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