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Liverpool and Merseyside has earned an international reputation for quality popular music such as that of The Beatles, Billy Fury, Charlie Landsborough, The Merseybeats ~ and the legendary Liverpool FC football club. The maritime city, 17th in size to UK cities, provided Britain with most of its theatrical and literary talent.
Less well known was the city’s position as a major distribution point for surrendered or captured Axis troops during World War II. From its shipping berths hundreds of thousands of Axis prisoners of war and captured civilians were shipped out and were never to see their homelands again.
Quite a dubious achievement considering that scattered throughout the British Isles were a total of 1,050 concentration camps. There were further concentration camps located in the Dominions. Canada was a major holding centre for German and Italian prisoners.
Throughout the United Kingdom were scattered 1,050 concentration camps, officially known as internment camps. Many more were located throughout the dominions, primarily Canada and Australia.
Some detainees at Huyton’s prisoners-of-war camp had to deal with unexploded bombs for the army. Photographed here in West Kirby, 1947.
In Huyton, a Liverpool suburb, there was located one of Britain’s most deplorable concentration camps. The district was a fiendish hell for up to 5,000 foreign civilians as well as prisoners of war. Some German prisoners of war captives, in defiance of international law, were used to deal with unexploded bombs for the British Army. Britain has confronted many dark parts of its history, but the forbidding tale of foreign nationals being forced to live in squalid internment camps in Merseyside during WW2 remains relatively unknown.
Huyton’s internment camp also became home for up to 5,000 innocent German, Austrian and Italian civilians in 1940-1941, mainly for merely being citizens of Britain’s enemies. It is nearly 80 years since the British government decided it would keep the unfortunate interns in the camp long-term, rather than send them to the Isle of Man, Canada or Australia as first planned.
New research by the Archive Resource for Knowsley (ARK), part of the council’s library service, reveals just how dismal conditions were in the camp on the Woolfall Heath estate.
Vacant land between Shepton Road and Parbrook Road, site of part of the former internment camp. Image taken in the 1960s.
Huyton also hosted two different types of camp, one for German prisoners of war, and another off Bluebell Lane for British army training and temporary accommodation for American soldiers. But it is the concentration camp which will shock many today, with most prisoners being actually displaced persons including Jews who had found National Socialist Germany, not to their liking.
When the war began in 1939, the government became worried about possible National Socialist sympathisers’ intent on sabotaging the war effort. Tribunals assessed the loyalties of 80,000 Germans and Austrians living in Britain, and Italians too after Italy joined the war. Initially, only high-risk cases were kept captive, but even the low or medium risk were rounded up too, arriving in Huyton’s Woolfall estate from May 1940 onwards.
The south side of Shepton Road, Huyton, where part of Huyton Alien Internment Camp was sited. This image was taken in the 1960s.
The council housing estate was chosen as it lay empty but unfinished, after house building to meet Liverpool’s growing population was interrupted by war. The research highlights the scale of horrendous overcrowding, dismal healthcare, and sanitation, near starvation diets and a lack of shelter in the camps.
Louise Connell and Alan Evans of the ARK examined material from the National Archives, Imperial War Museum, Times newspaper and council archives. Woman and children even in winter barely survived in canvas tents in an area that quickly became waterlogged and filthy, with no washing facilities.
Men were packed 12 to a house intended for 4 / tenants, with only enough coal for a hot bath every two months and no furniture. Horrifyingly, men as old as 70 had no choice but to bed down like cattle on sacks of straw. A single British Army doctor saw to the whole camp, in a makeshift hospital without hot water, beds or specialist equipment.
But the isolation and boredom tormented many internees most, causing several attempted suicides. Prisoners of the British could ease their lack of isolation by viewing local families walking along nearby streets beyond the fences. Some prisoners found solace in painting, composing and self-teaching, earning the camp the nickname Huyton University.
All internees were released in mid-1941 as the threat of German invasion subsided, and the site eventually became a council estate as intended in the mid-1940s. Seventy years later, Lin Rice of ARK said her team hopes to do talks in schools and community groups, so Huyton’s hidden history is not forgotten.
A resident of Liverpool says, “The ex-German paratrooper, Manchester City Goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, was interred here, along with neighbours of my father, who had been born in Liverpool but was of Italian ancestry. They were considered ‘undesirable aliens’ even though they had been born, lived and worked their entire lives in Liverpool.
“An old friend of the family was a captured German soldier who was interned in a POW camp in Melling, off Waddicar Lane. He was a qualified doctor who was conscripted into the Wehrmacht. When the war ended he passed English medical exams and went into practice in Melling as a General Practitioner where he remained until his death, his name was Dr. Anton Wolff, a lovely man.
Huyton Concentration Camp in Liverpool. One of Britain’s 1,050 concentration camps
Related books: THE ALL LIES INVASION I and THE All LIES INVASION II, WITNESS TO HISTORY, Reich and Wrong, Heroes Hang When Traitors Triumph, The Holy Book of Adolf Hitler, Heroes of the Reich, MY LAST TESTAMENT LET GOD JUDGE ME, ODYSSEY ADOLF HITLER, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, MEGACAUST, Trotsky’s White Negroes, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, and DEATH OF A CITY.
Art-related books: Sculptures of the Third Reich: Arno Breker and Reich Sculptors, Volume I, Sculptures of the Third Reich: Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, Volume II, Sculptures of the Third Reich: Porcelain and Reich Sculptors Volume III, Art of Adolf Hitler: Ultimate Album of the Fuhrer’s Artworks, The Red Brigands, Ransacking the Reich by Michael Walsh.
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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of WITNESS TO HISTORY, RISE OF THE SUN WHEEL (Paperback / Ebook), TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, DEATH OF A CITY, MY LAST TESTAMENT LET GOD JUDGE ME, THE ALL LIES INVASION Volume I (Paperback / Ebook), and THE ALL LIES INVASION Volume II (Paperback / Ebook), Odyssey Adolf Hitler, SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY, REICH AND WRONG, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME II Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME III Porcelain and Reich Sculptors, Death of a City, and other book titles. These best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 70 books include best-selling historical books THE ALL LIES INVASION (Paperback / Ebook), THE All LIES INVASION II (Paperback / Ebook), Odyssey Adolf Hitler, MY LAST TESTAMENT LET GOD JUDGE ME, WITNESS TO HISTORY, TESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION), REICH AND WRONG, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH, HEROES OF THE REICH, THE HOLY BOOK of ADOLF HITLER, The Reich Declaration of War on the USSR, TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH Volume II Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME III Porcelain and Reich Sculptors and DEATH OF A CITY. Click REAL HISTORY.
MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 70 books include best-selling Africa-related books THE LAST GLADIATORS Fiancés of Death (Paperback / Ebook); AFRICA’S KILLING FIELDS: African Victims of the Liberal-Left (Paperback / Ebook); RHODESIA’S DEATH EUROPE’S FUNERAL European to Wall Street Colonialism (Paperback / Ebook); THE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and II, and many other book titles. These best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers. Click Africa.
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Art-related books: Sculptures of the Third Reich: Arno Breker and Reich Sculptors, Volume I, Sculptures of the Third Reich: Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, Volume II, Sculptures of the Third Reich Volume III: Porcelain and Reich Sculptors Volume III, Art of Adolf Hitler: Ultimate Album of the Fuhrer’s Artworks, The Red Brigands, Ransacking the Reich by Michael Walsh.
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