Friday, January 16, 2009

Ireland Expresses Condolences - May 1945

[Click on the image to read the letter]

The above image purports to be a primary source document in the form of a letter written by the United States Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. David Gray, expressing his concern regarding a breach of diplomatic protocol.

Ambassador Gray served in this capacity from 15 April 1940 to 24 June 1947. He was an Uncle through marriage to Elanore Roosevelt and may have been more sensitive to this slight than others in his position.

This document image, as well as several others from different sources that corroborate this event, are availible through the Nation Archives, Ireland (www.nationalarchives.ie). It should be noted that much of Mr. Walshe's personal correspondence has yet to be released to the public and it is difficult to build a ballanced picture from only a few sources; however, given Conor Cruise O'Brian's observations, one can not help but wonder.

In recent biographies of Mr. Joseph P. Walshe, Irish authors report Ambassador Gray's strong bias against Mr. Walshe. Ambassador Gray asserted in official correspondence that Mr. Walshe favored the Axis powers over the Allies during WWII. Against this portrait, Irish historians present the argument that Mr. Walshe presented a nuetral face for Ireland's policy during the war but was secretly pro-Allies in his beliefs.

More research of course needs to be conducted on this subject.

It is difficult, however, to not give weight to the behavior of Ireland's senior diplomat and other state representatives in this symbolic visit to Nazi Germany's ambassador in Dublin.

While it is noted that this visit occurred in May of 1945, and that Ireland has more than a half-century of diplomatic evolution since these events, one wonders what kinds of seeds were sown and what kind of harvest was reaped by politicians and diplomats evidencing this kind of approach.

Was this a simple breach of protocol, or was it a sign of other ideas then current in Irish politics and culture?

19 comments:

  1. Christy6:06 AM

    You've touched on one of our most controversial moments in Irish history since independence - De Valera visiting the Nazi ambassador and wishing him condolences.

    This issue is very clouded and mysterious to the outsider - no offence. Needless to say, it is not an example of Nazi sympathies or anything like that.

    De Valera had redeemed himself in 1932 and from then on at least, he has been and always will be the finest political mind Ireland will ever have. He balanced the two hungry aspects of the Irish brain together - faith and reason. Few races of people have really seemed to be so caught up between the two - abstract interpretations of an independent Republic caused a Civil War - religious faith argubaly caused another in the North.

    De Valera had a few simple goals when coming to power: Economic self-determination, regaining the treaty ports - and with the outbreak of WWII, keeping and maintaining Irish neutrality.

    Its easy to forget that on paper, Ireland was a member of the British Empire, the most powerful Empire the world has ever seen. For De Valera, the hardline Republican and exemplar of Irish neutrality, remaining outside the war and independent of Britain and Nazi Germany would be the greatest demonstration of Irish sovreignty the nation could ever hope to display. Entering the war was not even argued on realistic terms - such as whether we would survive or not. For us, the aim was to assert our national sovreignty as an independent nation.

    By offering condolences to the dead Nazi Fuhrer, De Valera was demonstrating once again the eternal right of all nations to demonstrate their sovreignty.

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  2. Christy6:12 AM

    Throughout the war we offered covert assistance to the Allies. British pilots who broke down in Ireland were hurried over the border - German pilots were detained for the duration of the war. During the great Belfast blitz in the early stages of the war we sent fire brigades to help put out the Belfast fires. We also had a secret agreement with Britain that if the Germans were to invade, that our army would take to the hills and that the British would occupy the main military posts in the country.

    In effect if we were to enter the war in some way, there was never any question of joining on the Nazi side.

    People sometimes forget that Ireland is among Europe's most senior uninterrupted democracies. Despite having all the active ingredients of a fascist uprising, the Irish people had a great disdain for far right beliefs, and possessed a level of civic virtue unbecoming most European peoples of the time. Despite our poverty we upheld democracy as a right - the small inter war quasi fascist movement led by O Duffy were a laughing stock, not held in regard by the vast majority of the population.

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  3. Hello Christy,

    Thank you again for the spirited and detailed overview, as well as the viewpoints on Mr. O’Brien (whose name I misspelled throughout my last remarks – I never find enough new ways to embarrass myself).

    I found much of what you wrote informative and, in many respects, corrective of some of my views (I have never had the pleasure of visiting Ireland). That being said, I would like to examine some points that were stated in earlier posts before we take the topic back to the present Gaza War. You wrote:

    ‘The wedding of Devotionalism and Nationalism which occured following the revolutionary period was motivated by a desire to heal old Civil War wounds and a genuine zeal by most participants to replace all remnants of 'Anglican' culture with a purile Gaelic, Catholic culture. The Catholicism of Fenianism was not a new idea but only now was it so blatant.”

    And further on remarked:

    “When De Valera came to power in 1932 he represented a full swing in Irish politics. For De Valera had a decade earlier defied the popular will and joined the irregulars in the Civil War. He more than anyone else deeply embedded Catholicism in Irish public life.”

    In one of your earlier posts you also admitted the following possibility to Jack:


    ”You may be right that there is a strong subconscious element of Jew hatred in Ireland. I simply don't believe this. There is no evidence for this.”

    What about the hypothesis that deeply embedded political Catholicism, an expression of the wedding of Devotionalism and Nationalism, as you framed it, imbued many aspects of Irish public and private life with “a strong subconscious element of Jew hatred?”

    I am struck, for example, by the early career of Mr. Oliver J. Flanagan. Here is a brief synopsis of his bio drawn from Wikipedia:

    Mr. Oliver J. Flanagan (22 May 1920 –26 April 1987) was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served in the Dail Eireann for forty-three years and was Minister of Defense for six months. He was elected to the Dáil fourteen times between 1943 and 1982, topping the poll on almost every occasion. He was Father of Dáil from 1981 until his retirement in 1987, and he remains one of the longest serving members in the history of the Dáil. (Wiki)

    During Mr. Flanagan’s debut speech before the Dáil in 1943, in which an Emergency Measures Bill was being debated, he made the following remarks which are excerpted below:

    “Mr. Flanagan: I should like to co-operate with the Government or with any Party that I believed was going to introduce legislation in the best interests of the Irish nation. I should like very much to be in a position to support any measure brought forward in this House with that object, but I am very sorry that I cannot associate myself with this Bill or with anything relating to the public safety measures introduced by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government or by the present Fianna Fáil Government because I have seen that most of these Emergency Acts were always directed against Republicanism. How is it that we do not see any of these Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the I.R.A. is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? You do not hear one word in these Acts against the banks who are robbing the people, right, left and centre. I told the electors in Leix-Offaly that the banks were robbers. The police were listening to me. Does the Minister for Justice think that, if the banks were not robbers, the police would have allowed me to make that statement in public without attempting to make me prove it? This Government is introducing an Emergency Powers Bill now to prevent the suffering masses of the Irish people from ridding themselves or the poverty, emigration, debt, seizures and a thousand and one other national ills which I could continue to enumerate in this House until this day-week, but I do not propose to waste your precious time doing so.”

    And further on during the same address (outburst?):

    “I want to ask that the Emergency Powers Order which prevents the division of land from taking place, be immediately lifted. The Minister for Lands wrote me some time ago to say that there was not sufficient staff in the Land Commission to deal with the division of land. How is it that there are thousands of well educated young men being forced to take the emigrant ship, not from Galway Bay or Cobh this time to take them to the greater Ireland beyond the Atlantic, but to take them from Dun Laoghaire and Rosslare to the land beyond the Irish Sea, the land of our traditional enemy, to help England in her war effort against Germany? There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money. I do not propose to detain the House further. I propose to vote against such Orders and actions, and I am doing so on Christian principles. The Minister for Justice could not give me a straight answer a few moments ago. I am sorry that I interrupted him in the heat of the discussion. Of course, one needs great patience to listen to what is going on. I know very well that even the clergy in the Minister's constituency are up against him.”

    Source: Dáil Éireann - Volume 91 - 09 July, 1943
    Emergency Powers (Continuance) Bill, 1943—Second Stage (Resumed).

    Link: http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0091/D.0091.194307090010.html

    Mr. Flanagan stood for election in 1943 running on a Monetary Reform ticket associated in a broader sense with the Social Credit party. Mr. Flanagan’s version of this party, small and said to be confined to his own constituency of Laois-Offaly, adhered to a an ideology that working-class Ireland was dominated by a Jew-Masonic system.

    As your survey of Irish history demonstrates, Mr. Flanagan’s remarks made in 1943 are rather singular, even for Ireland at that time. Nevertheless, are historians to simply dismiss such episodes out of hand? One can not help but observe that during the course of this debate in 1943 no other Irish politician rose to rebuke Mr. Flanagan. Was this episode an example of “subconscious [cultural] Jew hatred?” Was such public discourse made acceptable within the context of a Catholic educational system that, for all its merits, bore the strong imprint of centuries of anti-Jewish dogma? Is one justified in viewing Mr. Flanagan’s remarks as a public expression of a significant segment of Irish society privately believed at that time?

    If one admits this possibility, one must confront the fact that Mr. Flanagan continued to hold political office for forty-three years. Thus, the Flanagan speech, taken with the Hitler Condolence episode, in conjunction with Mr. Walshe’s tenure in the Office of External Affairs, juxtaposed against Ireland’s diplomatic policy toward Israel, indicate that there is evidence of a subconscious expression of Jew hatred within the institutions of Irish public life, particularly within the generation in which Ireland’s independent national public institutions were born and formed.

    One may further note that these traces of anti-Jewish bias, perhaps the result of deeply embedded Catholicism in Irish public and private life, only begins to fade as the principal actors in this aspect of Ireland’s history begin to exist from the stage.

    Only with the passing of that generation, let us say, since the early 1990s, has it been possible for Ireland to move beyond this cultural legacy toward a distancing from political Catholicism and its embedded biases. Nevertheless, this is a slow and uneven process and the question remains – how much of these deeply ingrained attitudes remain?

    Kind Regards.

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  4. Christy2:14 PM

    Hello,

    "Mr. O’Brien (whose name I misspelled throughout my last remarks – I never find enough new ways to embarrass myself)."

    Honestly, don't worry about it. I commit enough grammar and spelling travesties every post to make you look like Yeats in comparison :-)

    "What about the hypothesis that deeply embedded political Catholicism, an expression of the wedding of Devotionalism and Nationalism, as you framed it, imbued many aspects of Irish public and private life with “a strong subconscious element of Jew hatred?”

    I do believe I said that in reaction to Jack calling Ireland one of Europe's most notorious nation of Jew-haters, or something to that ludicrous effect (Which he seemed to pick up from reading Joyce) I'm not denying that we, like any nation of people at any age in history, have had a certain amount of anti-semitism in our culture. I don't believe it has ever been an active anti-semitism however, mainly down to the very small size of our Jewish community (Which doesn't ever hit the 10,000 mark I think)

    "I am struck, for example, by the early career of Mr. Oliver J. Flanagan"

    I am unfamiliar with the man. Needless to say a mad outburst from an insane and evil country lout doesn't criminalise us into Jewish haters. The silence of the other Dáil members is somewhat sickening though, I'll grant you that. But silence is no admission of guilt either in fairness.

    "evertheless, are historians to simply dismiss such episodes out of hand?"

    I wouldn't say we should ever dismiss them, but one apple doesn't make a pie. In other words, isolated incidences like these occur, but is one outburst really an admission of mass Jew hatred in Ireland? I really don't think so, and its a very big leap to make.

    "Was such public discourse made acceptable within the context of a Catholic educational system that, for all its merits, bore the strong imprint of centuries of anti-Jewish dogma? Is one justified in viewing Mr. Flanagan’s remarks as a public expression of a significant segment of Irish society privately believed at that time?"

    Does any European society at this time not have a certain element of anti-semitism running through its politics? Are there not at least a handful of anti-semites in every political culture? Is France an anti-semitic country? Britain? Is the world?

    At that time certainly there were traces of anti-semitism - some worse than others (The example of Léon Blum being beaten up by fascist Parisian mobs in pre-war France comes to mind) Can these countries pre-war anti-semitism (To use a quickly assembled definition) really be indicative of a cultural anti-semitism to this day? I'm afraid trying to answer that question will involve investigative tools that human beings haven't come up with. Judging by the evidence though, I'd say no.

    "Only with the passing of that generation, let us say, since the early 1990s, has it been possible for Ireland to move beyond this cultural legacy toward a distancing from political Catholicism and its embedded biases. Nevertheless, this is a slow and uneven process and the question remains – how much of these deeply ingrained attitudes remain?"

    I haven't been convinced that these hatreds have been ingrained at all - never mind deeply. A few isolated bad apples in minor Dáil and government positions - a small and widely detested Blueshit movement under O'Duffy - hardly the breeding of ground of a popular anti-semitism in the country. I've explained before, while we are primarily naturally conservative we have always held the far right in deep hatred. Even O'Duffy had to play at being a watered down fascist to get even a modicum of respect.

    Regards.

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  5. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Jeez guys, come on...Irish history is like Irish music. Unless you're really drunk you can only take so much of it before you puke.

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  6. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Jeez guys, come on...Irish history is like Irish music. Unless you're really drunk you can only take so much of it before you puke.

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  7. Anonymous, are you suggesting that Irish history may only be presented to the public watered down, distinctly acidic, and half-digested?

    In response to Christy’s last, I can only say that while Mr. Flanagan my be a minor politician in the sense that he was a TD, the fact that he was a minor politician for forty-three years is of major importance: his views were deemed acceptable to his constituency for two generations.
    That this kind of language could occur in the Dail and not ruin any chance of a post-war political career is surprising. But there they are in the public record where the Jewish population of Ireland could not fail to miss the message:

    “How is it that we do not see any of these Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week?” and “There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money.”

    These were words uttered in the summer of 1943 when Jewish lives and culture in Europe were being extinguished in the Holocaust, somewhat less than five years prior to the advent of the establishment of the state of Israel. The need for such a state was as pressing as it was immediate, particularly in Israel where the historic and legal framework was already long and firmly established.

    Of course one frequently reads the argument, more of a statement really, that the Zionist Jews should go back to Europe where they came from, particularly Eastern Europe. However, yet another troubling aspect of apparent institutionalized anti-Semitism in Irish government policy can be found articulated by the Department of justice and immigration policy.

    “It is the policy of the [Irish Republic] Department of Justice to restrict the immigration of Jews. The wealth and influence of the Jewish community in this country, and the murmurs against Jewish wealth and influence are frequently heard. As Jews do not become assimilated with the native population, like other immigrants, there is a danger that any big increase in their numbers might create a social problem.” [National Archives Ireland, DT, 69/8027, 24 September 1945, as sited in: Bryan Fanning. Racism and Social Change in the Republic of Ireland (Manchester University Press, 2002) pp. 80-81]

    This is but one example of government documents on record articulating policy for Ireland in the immediate post-war period regarding Jewish people. This particular language was hardly modified until approximately 1953 in response to pressures to qualify for Marshall Plan aid and EU membership.

    I am, of course not intending to single out Ireland, I grew up in a country that has had a history of institutionalizing the ownership of other human beings; however, there is something to be said for a healthy examination of one’s national history and coming to terms with it.

    In the case of Ireland in the post-war period; if official policy was averse to Jewish immigration into the country, in light of the Holocaust what kind of program for an independent Jewish homeland would Ireland have supported? Secondly, if post-war Ireland, of all places, would not allow significant immigration Jews, a position that numerous other countries also espoused, it seems justified that the Jewish people look to their own resources and achieve the kind of protection that only a homeland might offer.
    Kind Regards

    Link to preview of source:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=Q8us1So7oaQC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=pre+1951+Irish+immigration+policy&source=web&ots=RB-WbVJ1yr&sig=3fzWflIT69vRr3Bfar3C6bkvwyM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA81,M1

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  8. By the way, I started a blog on historiographic issues and posted some of the Irish discussion there.

    While I know that many might not agree with my views, I do welcome reasoned comments of opposing views and find the exchange beneficial.

    Kind Regards

    Link to Blog:

    http://fogbankperspectives.blogspot.com/2009/01/joseph-p-walsh-expresses-irelands.html

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  9. Christy6:14 AM

    "In response to Christy’s last, I can only say that while Mr. Flanagan my be a minor politician in the sense that he was a TD, the fact that he was a minor politician for forty-three years is of major importance: his views were deemed acceptable to his constituency for two generations."

    Jean Marie Le Pen? Does this mean France is anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic etc. etc.?

    "The need for such a state was as pressing as it was immediate, particularly in Israel where the historic and legal framework was already long and firmly established."

    This is a difference of opinion, on which I'm willing to agree to disagree for the sake of sanity.

    "I am, of course not intending to single out Ireland, I grew up in a country that has had a history of institutionalizing the ownership of other human beings; however, there is something to be said for a healthy examination of one’s national history and coming to terms with it."

    I have examined my history and do accept that like any country on earth, there is an element of anti-semitism in our culture. But to paraphrase the ridiculous Jack Kessler, "This is how anti-semitism is in Ireland - Universal, Various, and Universally denied" is patently absurd.

    "In the case of Ireland in the post-war period; if official policy was averse to Jewish immigration into the country, in light of the Holocaust what kind of program for an independent Jewish homeland would Ireland have supported?"

    If I remember correctly, you've left out the most important element of that document - which was that an influx of Jews into Ireland without any real history of Judaism in the country could lead to social problems and to persecution of the Jews themselves. This of course was dismissed by most members of the government and if I recall right, hundreds of Jewish children spent time in Irish households following the war.

    "it seems justified that the Jewish people look to their own resources and achieve the kind of protection that only a homeland might offer.
    Kind Regards"

    Again, we come to the eternal sticking point where enlightenment political values are completely ignored. Unless you adress how the host population is supposed to deal with a new state built on its front lawn, or how they can possibly consent to this, I'm not going to respond to emotionalism. There must a clear and just definition for a legitimate modern political entity. A state found in a modern world with advanced concepts of political legitimacy must adhere to these values - of which consent is the most important. Unless you grapple with the concept of conset we'll simply be talking in circles.

    I have no problem with the Jewish people having a homeland, but their 'title deeds' should not be adherent to a ludicrous ancient text (Not that I'm singling out the Jewish holy texts, I have an equal disregard for all religions) - and it should never displace a people who already reside there.

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  10. Christy2:21 PM

    Just as an aside David, where does your interest in irish history come from? Not exactly uncommon among Americans or anything but is still rather strange...

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  11. Hello Christy,

    Well, like many Americans, I am very pleased to count several Irish ancestors in my family line.

    Most of the history of Ireland one studies in the U.S., however, concentrates on periods associated with our waves of Irish immigration.

    We do not have a keen grasp of the unusually absorbing history (from my perspective) of the Irish Republic. Much historical study concentrates on periods of conflict and warfare, not with periods of peace and efforts at neutrality. Modern Irish history is instructive on these latter points.

    However, I am finishing up reading two works on censorship in Ireland during WWII (what the Irish euphemistically term "The Emergency").

    In Ireland's effort to maintain this neutrality, it very much appears that much of the true aspect of Nazi atrocities in Europe were filtered and kept from the general population during "The Emergency." The leaders of Ireland, though, were fully apprised of these events.

    I am wondering if this censorship of the Holocaust at the time it was occuring created in Ireland's population, heavily Catholic as it was, a sense, at the very least, of indifference to the plight of the Jewish people.

    My family is not only Irish, in a very real sense my family and extended family encompass Asia, South America, Africa, the Near East, and Euro-America. My interest in history is rather wideranging as a result.

    Kind Regards,

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  12. Christy2:30 AM

    I very much doubt that it is the case. Censorship did exist during the Emergency but Catholic priests did condemn nazism in churches around the country, particularly their practise of 'Euthanasia'.

    I have a feeling that you've ignored most of my last post...

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  13. Hello Christy,

    Thank you for the response. I have not ignored your last post. I through out an hypothesis I am taking a look at.

    There were several individual stands taken against Nazi Germany within the church hierarchy in Ireland, just as there were thousands of individual Irish that elected to fight Hitler under British arms. Belfast suffered the second deadliest air strike against a British target during the war.

    I have not ignored your posts; however, because I have to write my responses around my work schedule.

    Kind Regards,

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  14. Christy1:12 PM

    It seems to me your determined to 'prove' that Ireland is anti-semitic rather than take the historical evidence for what it is.

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  15. Hello Christy,

    I do not know if I can collect enough evidence to prove that Ireland is anti-Semitic; however, I do think that one is able to demonstrate that official Irish government policy during the De Valera years was effectively anti-Semitic. At issue between us, I suppose, is the degree to which these institutional tendencies carried over beyond the De Valera years.

    Most of the discussion here occurs against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accordingly, the views expressed track along this narrow topic of anti-Semitisim and Ireland.

    In recent years, some remarkable work has been done by Irish scholars to remove anti-Semitism, or at least separate anti-Semitic, redactive elements from the New Testament.

    At the head of this list of scholar-archaeologists is John Dominic Crossen, whose work I very much admire.

    Kind Regards,

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  16. Returning to De Valera, if one accepts the argument that the Catholic church nurtured anti-Jewish sentiment, and there is much recent scholarship to support the finding that the Catholic education system that produced priests and lay leaders in the post-Pius IX (1846-1878) years taught views that were anti-Semitic, it is logical to look for these same intellectual impressions on other products of Catholic education at this time, particularly those who were studying for the novitiate, i.e., Walshe and De Valera.

    Kind Regards,

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  17. Christy writes --
    "By offering condolences to the dead Nazi Fuhrer, De Valera was demonstrating once again the eternal right of all nations to demonstrate their sovreignty."

    Really? And omitting to send similar condolences on the death of President Roosevelt? In violation of protocol?

    Condoling the Third Reich for the death of Hitler, while omitting to condole the United States for the death of Roosevelt has nothing whatever to do with sovereignty. It has everything to do with pro-Nazi sympathies.

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  18. Christy2:02 AM

    I'm not responding to any posts involving that supremacist above me.

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  19. Christy7:50 AM

    Actually, scrap that. Jack, go read a book about Irish history before you dare to make such a childishly ignorant comment.

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