Imprisoned on the Isle of Man

Some of my readers were disturbed, as was I, to learn that England imprisoned Jewish refugees in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War II; one of those imprisoned was my cousin Ilse Gross, daughter of Karl Gross, as I wrote about here.

By one of those strange incidences of serendipity, someone on the JewishGen listserv and on one of my Facebook groups today posted a link to a recent story on the B’nai Brith International website about these camps.  It gives a much fuller picture of the history of the camps, what conditions were like, and why England did this.  It demonstrates how fear can lead us to do things that are fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, judging people by their race, religion, or national origin.

Here is one excerpt from the article.  You can find the rest here:

On May 27, 1940, Isle of Man residents gathered behind barricades at the docks, witnessing the arrival of the first 823 prisoners. Leaving the boat under armed guard, they included German Nazi sympathizers, mixed in with Jewish men in their 20s and 30s, as well as a few school boys, conspicuous in short pants. They would set the pattern for those coming in the next weeks and months, assigned to camps located in Ramsey, Douglas, Onchan and other seaside spots. Cleared of tourists, ordered to leave behind their sports equipment for the inmates, quaint Victorian rooming houses and private hotels were grouped together and ringed with barbed wire to form compounds. In some, Jews and Nazis shared the same spaces.

Additional information can be found at the following links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutchinson_Internment_Camp

http://www.manxnationalheritage.im/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CG4-Internment_Web.pdf

http://timewitnesses.org/english/IsleOfMan.html

13 thoughts on “Imprisoned on the Isle of Man

  1. We’re sharing similar discomforts. I recently learned Italian immigrants who were not yet naturalized were sent to internment camps. Some had lived here for many years and were here legally. From this vantage we know much more but when it happened and if we had lived at that time, would we have felt that overriding fear, too? I hate to say this Amy, but given everything that had happened and the stories my Mom told me about the WWII years I think I would’ve succumbed. We can learn from the past and do our best to make today and tomorrow better, not to repeat mistakes. But we have to look at the past for what it was and not from our vantage today. This is a real challenge for a family historian.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I first learned about these internments watching the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? The maternal grandfather of British comedian and writer David Baddeil was interned on the Isle of Man, and the programme had a lot of information. David Baddeil subsequently wrote a novel loosely based on his grandfather’s experiences, called The True Purposes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, many thanks for the B’nai Brith International link which my bird-brain has read with much interest. You have spurred me on to read a little more into the history of the Isle of Man during the WW11 period.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy,
    I was familiar with these facts about the “enemy aliens”, for a number of reasons.
    As far as I know, women were not interned.
    Men could volunteer for work “in the North”, as did the father of a Jewish friend who thus was born in a village near Carlisle1943.
    I have a old friend, 93, now in New Jersey, from a small town in my part of Germany, who told me ca.20 years ago about his experiences, also on the Isle of Man. Recently we did a documentary about him (in German).
    Another story is about a Jewish young man from Wiesbaden who volunteered for the British Air Force in order to leave the camp. He had to change his name so it would not sound German. He was killed on the Balkans and only decades later his daughter was able to trace his fate.

    And a link to the WWI history:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/world-history/history-of-the-first-world-war-in-100-moments/a-history-of-the-first-world-war-in-100-moments-britain-s-enemy-aliens-get-their-own-railway-9334403.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dorothee. It always amazes me that whenever I learn something new, there are so many people who knew about and had connections to these events and places. Apparently some women were sent there, as that is where Ilse Gross ended up.

      Like

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