Just fifteen kilometres off the french coast, in the midst of the English Channel, lies the little island of Alderney.On eight square kilometres, two thousand people are living here. And blonde hedgehogs.
Due its strategically interesting location in the channel and the closeness to the french coast, Alderney was always exposed to the desires of European potentates. The island suffered centuries of occupation by changing powers, whose traces are carved highly visible into the land.
In the third century, the Romans were the first to fortify the island, carried on later by the French and the British, building forts all over Alderney. In 1940, the Germans occupied an abandoned island, it was evacuated just days before the invasion.
The Nazis set up two concentration camps and two labour camps utilising jewish slave labourers and prisoners of war to further fortify the island, more than 700 inmates lost their lives.
Today Alderney is an independent British Crown dependency and neither a part of the UK nor the EU. It has its own parliament and its own president.
On its hollowed out structure of the past, people now live in a kind of miniature world. A tax haven with its own radio station, airport, a railway, even a beauty competition, and with inhabitants dealing with the dark chambers of history blithely by repurposing the concrete remains as party locations, storage rooms and holiday homes.
Proud of their political independence but at the same time shutting their eyes to their dependence of a Europe in flux, Alderney remains an unnoticed island in the grey sea between France and Britain - a microcosm, struggling in its search for a contemporary European identity.
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