Lager Sylt was one of four principal German forced labour camps on Alderney during WWII. Constructed in early 1942, it was originally occupied by the Organisation Todt (OT), but in March 1943 the SS (Schutzstaffel) Construction Brigade I arrived in Alderney in two ships with around 940 prisoners from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. They took over Lager Sylt from the OT after enlarging it.
Sylt camp looking from the SS compound towards the gates. Source: Alderney Museum archive
At this date, it is estimated that there were over 3,000 foreign workers in Alderney, not including those brought by the SS. The extra prisoners at Lager Sylt provided additional labour for the construction of the permanent defences as the building programme on the island reached its peak in April 1943, but many died as a result of the brutal SS regime of starvation, beatings and murder.
The camp was occupied by the SS for 15 months, until just after the Normandy landings in June 1944 when some 650 prisoners were withdrawn to France in two ships via Guernsey, Jersey and St Malo.
The site was then dismantled by the Germans and progressively demolished before Brigadier Snow and units of Task Force 135 arrived in May 1945 to take the final German surrender.
The remains of Sylt camp photographed in May 1945. © Charles Brown Collection, Royal Air Force Museum
The original gateposts to the inner camp compound still stand today and now display a plaque commemorating the slave labourers from all over Europe who lost their lives in Lager Sylt.
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