Broadcaster and former RAF fighter Cathal O’Shannon has put together a 2 hour documentary to air this week on RTE, looking at Ireland’s sheltering of Nazi war criminals. “Notorious Nazi war criminals were given safety in Ireland after the war and lived here under assumed names sanctioned by Eamon de Valera’s government. The killers, responsible for some of the worst ethnic cleansing atrocities of the Second World War, were told that Ireland would welcome them as they fled from the allies.” (See also: The founder of Folens was a member of the Gestapo)From the article by Nicola Tallant:
Prof Brian Girvan says that de Valera was well aware of the extermination of Jews by Nazis during the war but still identified with Hitler’s army. “He saw the Nazi regime as a nationalist regime that represented the German people to a certain extent. His stance doesn’t make him pro-Nazi but he was very narrow in his focus on them. There was also, in Ireland, a scepticism about the right of the Allies to accuse anyone of being a war criminal. And so it was that if someone did arrive in Ireland the Irish government wouldn’t arrest and expel them from the country.”
This sounds very like Ireland’s ambivalent attitude towards “the war on terror” (for lack of a better catchphrase) today. For example, many people see Islamic fundamentalist groups as representing ‘downtrodden Muslims’ – they wouldn’t nessecarily agree with Islamic fundamentalism in any way, nor endorse their end goal, but like the idea of their resistance of the West (i.e., America and the UK). When Saddam Hussein was executed, a common refrain was similar to the scepticism described above. So, who is Ireland sheltering today, and will history look on it kindly? Any Rwandan war criminals out there, or Sundanese, Congolese, Colombian? How about any Balkan war criminals? Are they too finding an “Ireland of the Welcomes”? What do you think?
‘Hidden History: Ireland’s Nazis’ will be shown next Tuesday on RTE One at 10.15pm (webpage will likely be updated later)