Wednesday, May 09, 2007

IRELAND'S NAZIS: Ireland's Nazis (Part 1 of 2)

This documentary addresses a controversial and frequently overlooked aspect of Irish history. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the country provided safe haven to a number of Nazi collaborators and war criminals. Protected by church and state, many made their homes in Ireland, or used it as a staging point for escape to America.

Veteran broadcaster Cathal O’Shannon conducts a unique and comprehensive exploration of these uncomfortable issues. O’Shannon has a personal interest in this story. During the Second World War, he was a member of the Royal Air Force. When he returned to Ireland following the defeat of the Axis powers, he became increasingly uneasy regarding the attitude of Irish political decision makers towards former Nazis.

In the first instalment of his two part series, O’Shannon examines the horrendous deeds of Andrija Artukovic, the Nazi Minister of the Interior in Croatia. Responsible for the deaths of over 1,000,000 men, women and children in concentration camps, Artukovic’s time in Ireland is still shrouded in mystery. The Department of Foreign Affairs refuses to release his file, while the Irish public remain unaware that such a man once resided in their country.

O’Shannon also delves into the activities of Celestine Laine, the former leader of Bezen Perrot, a Waffen SS unit responsible for the torture and murder of civilians in occupied Brittany. He also looks at the gruesome actions of Pieter Menten, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Jews in Poland.

O’Shannon asks why the Irish government was prepared to harbour men such as Artukovic and Laine, while simultaneously refusing asylum to many Jewish refugees. He talks to historians and other experts, uncovers government documents and investigates the thorny issue of anti-Semitism in twentieth century Ireland.


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