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November 5, 2012 8:11 pm

British Actor Loses Friends in Attempt to Uncover Truth of Nazi Occupied Channel Islands

avatar by Zach Pontz

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John Nettles in undated Jersey tourism ad. Photo: Wiki Commons.

In Britain John Nettles is well known as a television actor. He is especially well known on the island of Jersey where he has made his home for many years. In return he has been embraced by the locals as a native son. A few years ago he decided to step behind the camera, turning the lens on his home turf and the other surroundings islands, known as the Channel Islands, in an attempt to explore their role in WW 2. What he got was the documentary “Channel Islands at War.” The locals weren’t pleased with him about this, and the love affair between the two came to an end.

“The islanders didn’t like the way we talked about the resistance, didn’t like the way we talked about the collaboration or allegations of it and they didn’t like the way we talked about the treatment of the Jews by the administration of the islands,” Nettles said in an interview with The Daily Express.

The hostility doesn’t seem to bother Nettles, however. He is hard at work on a book which delves deeper into the subject. “There came a point when I thought, ‘Either I don’t tell this story and keep my friends or I tell it and lose them all,'” he told The Daily Express.

The Channel Islands – comprising Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm – were the only part of Britain ever to fall under Nazi rule. The common belief is that the relationship between the residents of the islands and the Nazis was reasonable and not nearly as morally corrupt as French collaboration, for instance.

But Nettles found a different story. “It is more morally complex, ambiguous and difficult. It is the story of a sustained and wholesale attack on human values, of great suffering, venality and violence.”

“The Jewish question in the Channel Islands is one of the most difficult to address,” Nettles told The Daily Express. “People are deeply, deeply hurt by accusations that they are anti-Semitic, or that they were too much inclined to load the Jews on to the transporters.

“Their defense is, ‘We didn’t know what was going to happen to them’ but there seems to be a lack of awareness that the Jews were a special case in the Nazi ideology.”

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