Thursday 16th August 2018, 2.30pm (day 2,548)
Unlike the other Channel Islands, Alderney was completely evacuated in June 1940, eight days before the Germans arrived to occupy it for the next five years. Because of the lack of a civilian population, they pretty much did what they liked here, fortifying the island to an immense degree (to the extent that the Alderney garrison did not surrender until 16th May 1945, a whole week after VE Day). The labour that this required was undertaken mostly by Russian POWs, who were housed in four camps, or lager, each named after German North Sea islands. Lager Sylt was the camp for Jews, run by the SS, and along with nearby Lager Nordeney was thus the only concentration camp — so far — to have been built on British soil. 400 graves of prisoners have been identified on Alderney but many more are estimated to have died here. The only remaining sign of any of the camps are these old concrete gate posts, on the edge of the airport, and the small plaque affixed thereon, fading text declaring that this was the entrance to Lager Sylt.
World War 2 too often gets treated as some big nostalgia kick. But it’s worth remembering that all those years, all that effort and suffering and hardship, was fought for poor bastards like those prisoners, to stop this kind of thing ever happening again. As time passes and the ruins moulder away, there’s a risk that some people are forgetting this.