With the help of Cambridge academic Dr Gilly Carr, one of the world’s leading Occupation historians, Senator Philip Ozouf and his family have learnt the harrowing fate which befell Pierre Salomon, his great-uncle, who had enlisted in the French army.
The discovery might have brought to an end decades of not knowing, but Mr Ozouf said that for him and his two sisters, the only surviving relatives, finding their great uncle was tinged with sadness as his mother and grandmother passed away before having answers to many painful questions about their uncle and brother.
Dr Carr has found conclusive proof that Mr Salomon was interned in a camp on the outskirts of Berlin and put to work as a forced labourer in the Siemens-Schuckert armaments factory, where he endured terrible conditions. Medical records show that he had been worked to death. His body is thought to have been buried in a mass grave.
It is not clear why he was singled out for such harsh and inhumane treatment, but it might have been because he had a Jewish-sounding surname.
Mr Ozouf said: ‘Pierre Salomon was the uncle of my late mother, Olga Ozouf, the wife of the late Constable of St Saviour, who died in 2002. My mother and her grandparents were evacuated out on one of the last boats before the Germans arrived because my grandfather was in the Jersey Militia. Her uncle had a French passport like his parents. His parents came to Jersey in the late 1880s, when the majority of French Catholics moved to Jersey. They were aliens.
‘My mother remembered Pierre, her godfather. Her last memory was of seeing him in 1939 prior to their leaving to live on the Isle of Wight. He would bring her presents, often toffees. She said that he was suave, well dressed and worked as an interpreter as he spoke English, French and German.
‘His parents received one message from Mr Salomon during the Occupation and then there was radio silence. I have a file of about 40 letters which my grandparents and then my mother wrote to the War Office in the search for information.’
He added: ‘They carried on trying to find him. My mother spent her whole life trying to find him. He just went missing.
‘We believed he might have perished in Auschwitz because Salomon could have been a Jewish name.’
Mr Ozouf and his later father, Phil Ozouf, travelled to Auschwitz some years ago and found a Pierre Salomon on a list of those who had died in the camp, but they could not prove it was their relative. He asked Dr Carr to help.
‘She managed to find his medical records. He must have had a terrible time. He died alone in a hospital in Berlin. You can see how ill he was from the records of his temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. It is challenging to look at his hospital records. I have friends looking in Berlin today for the place where his body appears to have been originally buried before being exhumed, we think from a mass grave, after the war. He died on 18 June 1944.
‘We have been looking for him for 73 years and we have now found him. I am just sorry that my mother and grandmother are not here to receive this news because they lost an uncle and a brother. He would have been 90 in 1994.
‘My mother searched for him her whole life. The family had masses said for him. I am planning to travel to Berlin to do more research and we hope to bring soil back to put on my mother’s grave.’