Huyton Internment Camp, 1940

The Healing Eye

'Round them all up and collar the lot!' The words of Sir Winston Churchill boomed through the War Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street in the summer of 1940, the summer of the Nazi invasion scare. Churchill was ordering the arrest and internment of any Germans and Austrians living in Britain, and the great leader's words led to the internment of 27,000 men and women - mostly Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. The military powers in London declared that anyone with a German sounding name, or of Germanic descent should automatically be suspected of being a Fifth columnist for Hitler, which led one michievous MP to suggest the immediate arrest and internment of the Royal Family, who were of Teutonic ancestry. Meanwhile, the Allied position was detriorating, and xenophobic paranoia was at an all-time high. In 1940, a rumour reached Liverpool which claimed that a small contingent of Nazi commandos had landed on England's south coast on a mission to assassinate Churchill and key members of the War Cabinet. Many historians believe the rumour may have been based on an actual incident that was never made public.
In May 1940, one of the largest internment camps in the country was created by erecting 12-foot barbed wire fences around the recently built Woolfall Heath Estate at Huyton. Armed soldiers patrolled the prison camp, where most of the internees were intellectual left-wing anti-fascist refugees who had fled Nazi persecution. In fact, some internees in the Huyton camp had fought for Britain in the First World War, and some even had children serving in the British forces. The plan was to hold these potential Nazi sympathisers at the camp until they could be deported to the Isle of Man.
At the Woolfall Heath camp, there was said to be a strange old Jewish Latvian man named Wolf Green, who wore a black leather eye patch. A rumour circulated that Wolf wore the patch because he had an evil, deformed eye that could kill with a glance. This malevolent eye had a golden iris and gave off blinding rays, one refugee claimed, whereas Wolf's closest friend, a man named Jacob, said the old man's eye had miraculous healing powers. One of the guards overheard all of the superstitious whisperings, and he later asked Wolf if the stories of his eye were true. The old man denied his hidden eye was evil, but claimed it could heal. The guard showed Wolf an unsightly wart on his left hand and sincerely asked him if he could make it wither. Wolf took hold of the guard's hand, startling him, then removed the eye patch. The eye opened to reveal a glowing pupil with an iris of shining gold. The guard felt an intense pain in his hand as the wart smoked. He pulled his hand away and saw that the wart was now a black powdery lump. The soldier wiped the ash away to reveal nothing but a red spot of burnt skin. The guard offered the old man a cigarette, but he declined the offer. That night, the soldier carefully brought several relatives with serious medical conditions to the fence of the camp, and Wolf Green was said to have exerted his ocular healing rays through the wire fence to cure them all. When the guard's senior officers heard about the after dark rendezvous with the Latvian, they transferred him to another post and tightened up security. By 1942, most internees were released from the Huyton camp, and in 1945, Wolf Green returned to his homeland.

©Tom Slemen 2004. First published in the Merseymart & Star newspapers July 2004.