Ellenís Story

Imprisoned with her family as enemy aliens

My parents and I had moved to Britain in 1936 to get away from the problems jewish families were having, but after the outbreak of the war, my father had no papers to say that he was a Ďfriendlyí alien. We were taken to the Isle of Man to be interned there in a camp for enemy aliens.

I was only seven years old at the time, and it was all very hard to understand. I remember my father being taken away to the menís internment centre Onchan in Douglas. I didnít know where or why he had gone or why my mother was crying. A week later we were also taken to a reception centre in Liverpool before being taken to Port Erin as it now is, where the women were kept. I vividly remember hundreds of us being made to walk in a long crocodile down to the docks. The roads were closed to let us through, and the streets were lined with soldiers armed with open bayonets Ė being seven years old, they were right at my eye level. I didnít know why they were pointed at us.. Behind the soldiers Liverpudlians crowded the pavements and actually jeered us, hurling insults. It was very confusing.

We took a ferry overnight to get to the island. I remember having to sleep on the steps of the ship, it was so crowded.

At Port Erin the women were boarded with local guesthouses, who were glad of the opportunity to make some extra money. I became friends with Eileen, the daughter of the woman who ran our boarding house. We didnít receive any schooling, so I used to accompany her to school as far as the tall, barbed wire fences where she was allowed to continue and I was met with open bayonets again. They are the strongest image I retain, simply because I couldnít understand why they were pointed at me.

Every day the women were bussed to a local football pitch where they did agricultural work, turning the pitch into a place to grow turnips. The only food I remember from this time, although we must have received more, was toast done over an open fire and raw turnips.

Although we were not kept with my father, once a month the women and children at Port Erin were bussed over to Onchan to visit their menfolk, which I remember as being a journey full of tears.

I was there for 16 months, during which time I developed a very severe inferiority complex from so obviously being viewed as a second class citizen Ė by the jeering Liverpudlians as we marched to the ferry, by the tyrannical female Commandant, and by the soldiers with their open bayonets who wouldnít let me through the gates where my friend could go


10th March, 2001

Ellen now lives in Warwick in England

You can read more about the Camps for Enemy Aliens on the Isle of Man here.

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