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Discourse and Defiance under Nazi Occupation

Guernsey, Channel Islands, 1940–1945

Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

...many years, I have many people and institutions to thank. I would like to start with Richard Heaume, founder and director of the German Occupation Museum in Forest, Guernsey. Richard has been invariably kind and helpful whenever I have descended upon him (often with very short notice). I will always be grateful that he introduced me to Alf Williams in...

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pp. 1-16

...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...

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Chapter 1. The Panoptical Occupation

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pp. 17-56

...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 off...

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Chapter 2. The Bedrock of Resistance

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pp. 57-96

...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...

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Chapter 3. Reaching for Control

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pp. 97-130

...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 at the expense of this British reverend gentleman whom they had now...

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Chapter 4. Understanding the Story

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pp. 131-166

...this one little tale we can find many of the narrative elements that helped Islanders understand their own experience of Occupation and construct the second element of rhetorical resistance. Ord’s story begins with the German propaganda that surrounded the civilian population, permeating their newspapers and serving as the required prelude to airings of popular films. Islanders were subjected both to German propaganda and British counterpropaganda to such...

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Chapter 5. A Subtle Resistance

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pp. 167-208

...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...

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pp. 209-240

...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 was no echo of...


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pp. 241-284


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pp. 285-290


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pp. 291-300

Image Plates

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pp. 301-308

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173692
E-ISBN-10: 1609173694
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860825
Print-ISBN-10: 1611860822

Page Count: 318
Illustrations: 24
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st Hardcover

OCLC Number: 865171693
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Discourse and Defiance under Nazi Occupation

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Guernsey -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Government, Resistance to -- Guernsey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Guernsey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Channel Islands -- History -- German occupation, 1940-1945.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Guernsey.
  • Guernsey -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
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