Jersey / Story

Account of Vasily Marempolsky




Vasily Marempolsky was a Ukrainian slave worker brought by the Germans to the Island of Jersey during the Occupation. This is his account of the hazardous and relentless working environment to build the underground tunnel complex, Ho8 (Hohlgangsanlage 8).

Ho8 (Hohlgangsanlage 08) was opened to the public in 1946 as the German Underground Hospital, and is known today as Jersey War Tunnels. Exhibits are laid out within the tunnel complex to tell the story of the German Occupation.

Ukrainian slave worker Vasilly Marempolsky remembers the conditions in which they had to build the tunnels:

‘We had to march from the camp to the underground hospital every day. About a quarter of our brigade died, and they were replenished by men from another camp on Jersey.

It was barely light when we began the march to the underground hospital. We were very young boys, we were thin, exhausted, dressed in torn clothes and blue with cold. The work site was a huge labyrinth of tunnels. I was terrified. The roof was supported by wooden props in some places and we could hear running water and smell damp. It felt like a grave. The walls were rough-hewn and there was mud underfoot.

Everywhere there were people working like ants. It was hard to believe all these tunnels had been dug out by the weakening hands and legs of these slaves. People were so frail, they could barely lift a spade. The future for everyone was the same - death.

For 12 hours a day we were underground. Many people died, especially during the dynamite explosions when they were wounded by falling pieces of rock. Those who were seriously wounded were taken…and were never seen again.

One morning three prisoners had been killed in the next-door tunnel where there had been a rockfall. A week later eighteen were killed when wooden props collapsed and the roof fell in.’

Whilst the bodies of some of those crushed by rockfalls were irretrievably buried, accordingly to Col Donoghue, an Irish voluntary worker, not all slave workers were left in the rubble. He recalled: ‘I arrived on the site one morning when part of the tunnels had fallen in and three men had been killed. They dug into the rubble as fast as possible to get the bodies out, wrapped them in canvas and took them away by lorry to be buried. The same thing happened again in a later fall when 22 workers were killed and according to the lorry driver, they too were taken out in the same manner and buried… [the office in charge, Major] Teischmann was a very human man. He had tears streaming down his face…’