SWASTIKA FLAGS AND NAZI SONGS IN THE ISLAND'S INTERNMENT CAMPS
Connery Chappell, in his book Island of Barbed Wire (p.153),
makes clear that Nazi and Fascist songs were sung in the
Mooragh Internment Camp in 1943, apparently in celebration of
Hitler's birthday (20 April).
In a recent conversation with Ramsey man Terry Tregellis, who
has vivid memories of the camp as a child, he confirmed to me that he
personally had seen a Swastika flag hanging out of a window on
a number of occasions at the rear of a hotel in the
area of the former Bay Hotel (Mooragh Promenade). He said the flag
was quite huge, and as it is unlikely to have been issued by the camp
authorities, was probably "home made" on the premises. He recalls
also, particularly towards the end of the war when the camp was used
for POWs, that German/Nazi songs were sung by the inmates on the same
or similar occasions on which the flag was hung out. One such song he
remembers being frequently sung - he recalls this from hearing the
same song again years after the war - was Erika, the first
line running Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein ('on the heath
blooms a small flower').
This song, we know, was composed in 1939 by
the renowned Herms Niel, bandmaster of the Reichsarbeitsdienst ('State
Labour Service'), and formed part of that body of songs written or geared
up for the war effort and became very popular among the soldiery. The
song survived the war and is sung today by members of the Bundeswehr on
a variety of recordings. It is often played on RTÉ radio in Dublin, and
in the 1960s a version in Irish appeared for students of that language
in Belfast where it is still sung.
Another Herms Niel song that also achieved popularity at that time was
Es ist so schön, Soldat zu sein ('it's so nice to be a soldier').
This, though regularly parodied by the soldiery, did not survive the
war. If songs were sung in honour of Hitler's birthday, then almost
certainly one of them would have been the Nazi Party anthem
Die Fahne hoch!, or the Horst-Wessel-Lied (1929).
Other possibilities could have included Und heute gehört uns Deutschland und morgen die ganze Welt
('today Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the world') originally written
by Hans Baumann 1931 for the Catholic League of German Youth), or Volk ans
Gewehr ('people to arms', by Berlin Stormtrooper Arno Pardun 1931), etc.
If other members of the Manx community can also bring to mind the flying of Swastika
flags or the singing of German or Nazi songs of the sort mentioned above in either the
Mooragh or any other internment camp, I would be interested to hear your story. If you
have any photographs of such flags being flown, etc, that would also be of interest.
This appeal is made in the context of ongoing research into Manx-German contacts in the 1930s/40s.
Dr GEORGE BRODERICK