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Discourse and Defiance under Nazi Occupation: Guernsey, Channel Islands, 1940–1945

Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Discourse and Defiance under Nazi Occupation
    Book Description:

    Captured by German forces shortly after Dunkirk, and not relinquished until May of 1945, nearly a year after the Normandy invasion, the British Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, and Herm) were characterized during their occupation by severe deprivation and powerlessness. The Islanders, with few resources to stage an armed resistance, constructed a rhetorical resistance based upon the manipulation of discourse, construction of new symbols, and defiance of German restrictions on information. Though much of modern history has focused on the possibility that Islanders may have collaborated with the Germans, this eye-opening history turns to secret war diaries kept in Guernsey. A close reading of these private accounts, written at great risk to the diarists, allows those who actually experienced the Occupation to reclaim their voice and reveals new understandings of Island resistance. What emerges is a stirring account of the unquenchable spirit and deft improvisation of otherwise ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Under the most dangerous of conditions, Guernsey civilians used imaginative methods in reacting to their position as a subjugated population, devising a covert resistance of nuance and sustainability. Violence, this book and the people of Guernsey demonstrate, is not at all the only means with which to confront evil.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-369-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The attack came, quite literally, from the clear blue sky. On June 28, 1940, as German bombs poured down on the Guernsey Harbor, those at some distance were torn between seeking shelter and the need to watch with horrified fascination. The Reverend Robert Douglas Ord, having finished tea with guests in his garden beneath a “perfect blue sky,” stood with the others at the French window overlooking the garden “that we might take together whatever might be our fate.” His spaniel Judy, of a less philosophical and more practical bent, huddled in fear under the stairs.¹

    Many in Guernsey just...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Panoptical Occupation
    (pp. 17-56)

    Everyone seems to be in a dreadful hurry. If you wander today through the narrow, winding streets of St. Peter Port, you may hear rapid footsteps behind you as young and not so young Islanders walk briskly past. I once felt the light, sharp rap of a woman’s cane on my leg (eighty, if she was a day) to urge me out of the way as I lollygagged through the Pollet, the extension of High Street that curves gently down toward the harbor. It almost seems that these busy people will run out of room and continue walking purposefully right...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Bedrock of Resistance
    (pp. 57-96)

    It was a Monday bank holiday in August 1941, but Jack Sauvary was hardly in a holiday mood. Midday fog had turned to windy rain, and Jack felt for those he watched set off with their ill-supplied picnic baskets and bathing suits in the morning. This attempt to carve out an illusion of past holiday-making ended with a slog home through the wild gales of early afternoon. All in all, it was a “dull day” for Jack as well, with “only the fowls and rabbits for company.” When he had met that morning with Uncle Ned (in actuality, his brother-in-law)...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Reaching for Control
    (pp. 97-130)

    It was Easter Sunday in 1941, and as Reverend Ord left church on his way home after services, he found himself with an uncomfortable escort. A German submarine was currently in the St. Peter Port harbor, and some of the men from its crew happened to be heading in the same direction as Rev. Ord for part of his journey. Ord could guess where the “filthy wretches” came from simply by their unwashed faces and the state of their uniforms. As they all reached the steep road leading up Monument Hill, the men apparently decided to have a little fun...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Understanding the Story
    (pp. 131-166)

    It was the kind of funny story that made the rounds practically every week during the heart of the Occupation. In this case, we will allow Reverend Ord to do the honors:

    A German propaganda film was being shown in Jersey, featuring British and American soldiers dying by the hundreds in battle. Not so much as a single casualty was sustained by the Germans! It was a stirring narrative. It was finally rounded off by a special “shot” of a German Military funeral, for—one supposes—not even Germans live forever. A hero’s honours were accorded. The coffin was borne...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE A Subtle Resistance
    (pp. 167-208)

    It may have been a poor choice of bookshop for one of the many plainclothes Germans to frequent. Run by Miss Gaudin, a woman noted locally for her uncompromising spirit cloaked beneath a façade of cheeriness, the bookshop on Smith Street was also known by customers as a place to obtain forbidden war news on the QT. On this particular day, the unfortunate German entered and requested a guidebook to Guernsey. Miss Gaudin sailed up to him with the book, chirping gaily, “Here you are! But you’re the first tourist we’ve had this season. It’s rather a pity because you...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-240)

    Reverend Ord and Grae were in the habit of being in bed no later than 9 p.m. on these June evenings. They found that their restricted diet made them tired enough, and despite the summer date, they were both feeling the cold more than in the past. On this night, they settled in to rest and read by the single small light at the head of the bed, turning if off at 11:00 to call it a night. But there would be precious little sleep on this June 5th/6th. Almost immediately, they heard planes flying over, unusual only because there...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 241-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-300)