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January 29, 2010 | History



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"'Independent Ireland may not have been in the cockpit of European power politics but it could not escape its repercussions"."

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About the Book

A mythology has grown up about Irish-German relations. It arises from de Valera’s visit to the German Minister, Dr Eduard Hempel, on the death of Hitler in 1945. Dr Mervyn O'Driscoll of UCC shows in his probing new book de Valera’s ill-advised call to Hempel arose not just from his strict adherence to diplomatic protocol on the death of a head of state, but also to express personal gratitude to Hempel for his help in keeping Ireland out of the war.
De Valera was extremely lucky in the 1937 Dublin appointment of this old style German diplomat, who resisted all pressure to join the Nazi party until 1938. He served as an invaluable counterweight to Charles Bewley - Ireland's representative to Germany.

Ironically, O’Driscoll’s book first encounters Bewley in Berlin in 1922 as part of a tiny Irish delegation attempting to receive recognition from the Weimar Republic. Having been due to meet the IRA's Robert Briscoe, who was sent by Michael Collins to buy guns, he is portrayed being evicted from a Jewish-owned music hall in Berlin for making drunken anti-Semitic remarks. In the first few years after Hitler’s takeover of Germany (Jan. 1933), Bewley was not the only Irish official to be seduced by the apparent solution Nazism offered. For instance in mid-1933, Joseph P. Walshe, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, wrote to de Valera about the “great experiment” of the Nazis, “the essentials of which we may well have to imitate in Ireland”. He went so far as to recommend that de Valera might follow Hitler’s example and give the Dáil “a holiday for an indefinite period.” During the height of the Economic War in 1933 and 1934, Ireland also desperately tried to boost its trade with Nazi Germany. Although she imported large quantities of plant machinery and electrics for the ESB, sugar factors, and Bórd na Móna she was greatly disappointed that Nazi Germany did not offer open up its markets to Irish cattle.

The Nazis were confused as to whether Fianna Fáil or the Blueshirts were the Irish fascist party. Nazi confusion was most apparent in early 1939 when German intelligence sent an operative straight to the self-styled leader of Irish fascism, Eoin O'Duffy, when trying to establish contact with the IRA in 1939. This comedy of errors prevented a successful Nazi-IRA linkup before the outbreak of war! Meanwhile Bewley was more engrossed in acting as Hitler's hectoring advocate to the Irish government, than in relaying the Irish government’s official position in relation to the unfolding European crisis. An enthusiastic attendee of Nuremberg rallies, Bewley was insisting as late as February 1939 to the Irish government that Germany had no expansionist aspirations. By this time, any initial illusions de Valera’s government might have had about Nazism were truly shattered. De Valera and Irish public opinion had long been concerned about the treatment of Catholicism under Nazism. However, Irish revulsion towards Nazism did not extend to helping persecuted Jews (innumerable roadblocks were put in the way of any refugees reaching Ireland).

During 1938 and 1939, de Valera was aware of the disastrous turn in European events and shrewdly calculated his options. De Valera actively backed Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler until after the Munich crisis in September 1938 believing that Nazi Germany’s nationalist grievances were legitimate. Only when Hitler grew insatiable in early 1939 did de Valera realise that Hitler was not a ‘normal’ statesman.
This crucial miscalculation meant that Irish defence preparations began too late and the country was to all intents and purposes defenceless in a conventional military sense when the Second World War broke out. For a whole variety of reasons de Valera reasoned that a ‘benevolent neutrality’ towards Britain was the only credible solution ‘in time of war’ and it was Hempel not Bewley who convinced Berlin that it was in Nazi Germany’s interests too. Inevitably, perhaps too late, de Valera removed the embittered Bewley from Berlin.

First Sentence

'Independent Ireland may not have been in the cockpit of European power politics but it could not escape its repercussions".

Table of Contents

Introduction 13
1 False starts, 1919-23 20
2 Resurrection, 1923-32 52
3 Towards the Third Reich, April 1932-August 1933 81
4 Consolidating the Hitler state, September 1933-July 1934 108
5 Transition, August 1934-August 1935 140
6 International power politics, September 1935 - August 1937 171
7 The appeasement triangle, September 1937-September 1938 210
8 Perception, reality and neutrality, October 1938-September 1939 234
Conclusion: Secret histories 277

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January 29, 2010 Edited by WorkBot add more information to works
December 11, 2009 Created by WorkBot add works page