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The Gentle Journalist Who Helped Nazi Victims

Discussion in 'Concentration, Death Camps and Crimes Against Huma' started by GRW, Feb 1, 2018.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    An incredible story.
    "Locked in a Nazi prison and suffering from pneumonia, in February 1945 journalist Frank Falla made a promise to himself: he would muster all his remaining strength to try to survive the sickness, beatings and starvation, hoping the advancing Allies would come to his rescue before it was too late.
    Only his survival, he believed, would guarantee that the families of six of his fellow Channel Islanders would know how their husbands, fathers, and sons had died.
    The "gentle" journalist, whose life story is told as part of a new exhibition at London's Wiener Library, found himself in the brutal Naumburg prison for covertly sharing BBC news in his native Channel Island of Guernsey - British soil, occupied by Nazi Germany for five years.
    Witnessing prisoners dying at a rate of 10 a week, Falla would cling on, surviving the bout of pneumonia to be liberated two months later by US forces, when a doctor told him he was just days from death.
    He was lucky.
    Thirty islanders deported to Nazi prisons and concentration camps died along with millions of others during World War Two.
    But surviving the war was only the beginning of Falla's struggle for their suffering to be recognised.
    After the war, it was Falla who helped the widow of fellow Naumburg prisoner Joseph Gillingham.
    Like Falla, Gillingham had been imprisoned for his role in covertly spreading BBC news to the people of Guernsey, whose radios had been confiscated by the Germans.
    He was seen by Falla and another prisoner leaving Naumburg on completion of his sentence, but how he died remained a mystery until 2016.
    As a single mother Henrietta Gillingham struggled financially after the war, taking odd jobs to cover her "inadequate" widow's pension. That changed after Falla knocked on her door in 1964.
    "I can recall him coming to our house," her daughter Jean, then 21, recalls.
    Falla helped her mother and uncle, also imprisoned at Naumburg, to put together a compensation claim that would eventually yield £2,293, equating to £42,642 today, which Jean says made their lives far more comfortable.
    "They were living in rented premises, and a year or so later, after the compensation had come through, the house went up for auction and between the two of them they bought the house with their compensation money.
    "It's something they never could have done in previous years," Jean says.
    Falla would become a spokesman for families like the Gillinghams, lobbying on their behalf and using his skills as a journalist to help them write testimonies of wartime imprisonment to be submitted to the British government.
    During the war he had used the same skills in a battle of wits against German censorship of Guernsey newspapers. In the end, it was the sharing of BBC News, transcribed from radio broadcasts listened to on banned radios, that would lead to Falla's prison sentence of one year and four months in April 1944.
    Twenty years later, it was confirmed Channel Islanders would be eligible to claim from a £1m West German fund for British victims of Nazi persecution and ill-treatment, although the idea of compensation for British people had first been mooted in 1957.
    Falla's early hopes of islanders' inclusion quickly turned to disillusionment when, as he later reflected, he found a lack of desire among both Guernsey's politicians and imprisoned people to claim, saying islanders were "too proud" to accept German "charity"."
    lwd likes this.

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