The German Occupation of Jersey - an illicit diary

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Leslie Sinel was a proofreader at Jersey's Evening Post during the Occupation. He defied German orders by keeping a detailed diary from June 1940 until the Liberation. And he did this right under the noses of the Germans, who were a constant presence in the Evening Post offices, censoring the newspaper and providing a check on other printing activities. Had he been dioscovered he would have been liable to a lengthy prison sentence and would probably have been deported to a French or German prison.

Because so much of what happened in the islands was known to the Evening Post editorial team but was not allowed past the censors' controls, Mr Sinel could not have been better placed to chronicle life in the island through the Occupation.

His diary was first published in November 1945, printed by the Evening Post on newsprint, because better quality paper had not yet become available. It is a largely factual account, containing blow-by-blow details of variations in food rations; movements in black market prices; otherwise unreported deaths of German military in air crashes, shooting incidents and traffic accidents; acts of defiance on the part of the resident population; successful and failed escape attempts; and the outcome of the almost daily Royal Court hearings of charges of black marketeering and contraventions by farmers of German orders.

Apart from expressing the occasional personal view on life under the Nazis, Mr Sinel comments little, just presenting the bare facts of life in an occupied island. His book remains the most comprehensive account of those years published to this day, and many other so-called first-hand accounts have drawn heavily on Mr Sinel's writings.

Its 298 tightly packed pages of small print provide a fascinating insight into what happened in Jersey from 1940 to 1945 and a small number of highlights which give a flavour of island life are reproduced below.

22 July 1940

On the orders of the German authorities, the Evening Post publishes a daily edition for distribution among the troops in occupation of the Channel Islands; this bears the title Deutsche Inselzeitung, the text of the front page being in German. The editor (Dr Kindt) said that this was the first German newspaper issued in the British Empire 'for the moment': when reminded that though the island was well stocked the winter was coming, he said that there was no need to worry as the war would be over in three weeks, the subjugation of England being 'just a manoeuvre'.

28 July 1940

Civilian stabbed by a German soldier at the Alexandra Hotel, St Peter, during a disturbance; this affair, like many others involving the German military forces, is dealt with and hushed up by them. Rowdyism at a local cinema during the showing of a German film provokes a warning by the occupying authorities.

20 September 1940

Books not approved of by the Germans are removed from the Public Library and other libraries, some of the books being burned. There are several Gestapo men here now, although the Germans would not admit that they are Gestapo.

25 December 1940

Christmas Day. In spite of all our fears, with a bit of saving, scheming or wangling, mostly the latter, the general provision of festive cheer was nothing short of wonderful. Although poultry was very scarce, the Germans consuming a good deal of it and supplies from France almost unworthy of mention, for some time now there had been a lot of secret pig-killing, which meant that pork which was not sold by the legitimate butcher found its way to consumers. If the Germans had seen some of the tables laden with good things still produced after six months of occupation, no doubt many new Orders would have been issued to 'adjust' the situation. During the morning some British planes flew over the Island.

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