Jersey Occupation: 'Emotional' plea saved woman from WW2 execution

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image copyrightJersey Heritage
image captionAlice Thaureux was just 20 years old when she was sentenced to death

A woman who fell in love with a German soldier during World War Two escaped death as the result of an "emotional" appeal.

Alice Thaureux was sentenced to death in Jersey for harbouring 23-year-old Nikolaus Schmitz who had deserted the occupying German army.

The plea for mercy from the island's bailiff said she was "passionately in love" with the soldier.

The 20-year-old's sentence was reduced to 10 years imprisonment instead.

Ms Thaureux's story has been revealed as part of the digitisation of thousands of documents from the Bailiff's Office during the occupation years between 1940 and 1945.

The Bailiff, Sir Alexander Coutanche, was the head of the Superior Council, which was established on 24 June 1940 and acted as a buffer between the occupying German army and the island's population.

image copyrightJersey Heritage
image captionNikolaus Schmitz was arrested by German forces for the crime of desertion

Mr Schmitz and Ms Thaureux met when the soldier was sent to serve in the island and began a relationship with one another.

They were later captured and put in a military prison, before the bailiff was alerted to Ms Thaureux's fate.

In his letter to the German platzkommandant, who was in charge of the civil administration of the island, on 25 April 1945, Mr Coutanche wrote: "Alice Thaureux was, it would appear, passionately in love with this soldier.

"A young woman in love does not always weigh the consequences of her acts, when they are dictated by what she believes, however wrongly, to be for the welfare of her lover."

He added: "I do not believe that Alice Thaureux is connected with any political party or that she is inspired by any political motives in the acts which she has done. I appeal for mercy."

image copyrightJersey Heritage
image captionThe bailiff appealed on behalf of islanders in "urgent cases", according to Jersey Heritage

Jersey Heritage said the "emotional" plea was accepted by German authorities and saved Ms Thaureux's life.

Despite her narrow escape, Mr Schmitz was court-martialled and executed by a firing squad at the Parade Ground at Fort Regent on 27 April 1945.

Diary records from Leslie Sinel, a former Jersey Evening Post employee and occupation historian, suggest Ms Thaureux and her mother were allowed to attend his funeral at the Strangers' Cemetery at Westmount in St Helier.

Digitisation officer at Jersey Heritage, Debbie Reynolds, said it had been an "absolute privilege" to share such accounts.

"I was struck by the vast array of subjects, but mostly the personal stories of people writing to the bailiff asking for help when other avenues had been in vain," she said.

The Bailiff's Occupation and Liberation files are available online free of charge until 28 February.

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