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Nelson McCausland

As we prepare to commemorate 75th anniversary of VE Day, Fianna Fail must admit its links to Nazis

Nelson McCausland


De Valera made much of Ireland's neutrality, but sided with Germany at every opportunity

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Eamon de Valera was criticised for offering condolences over Hitler’s death

Eamon de Valera was criticised for offering condolences over Hitler’s death

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Eamon de Valera was criticised for offering condolences over Hitler’s death

Britain is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the day when Nazi Germany's forces issued an unconditional surrender and the war in Europe came to an end. The celebrations will be heavily restricted as a result of coronavirus, but it would be wrong to let the day pass unmarked: it is too significant for that.

VE Day marked the official end of the war in Europe, but in the weeks leading up to it there were other significant events and Thursday is the 75th anniversary of the death of Adolf Hitler.

On this day in 1945, Adolf Hitler was holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin.

The Allied armies were closing in and his dream of a 1,000-year Reich was over.

The dictator, who had taken the lives of millions, ended up taking his own life by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head.

He is an example of the extremity of human evil and the horror he inflicted, aided by the other Nazi leaders, should serve as a warning to this generation and future generations.

His death was reported around the world and, in most countries, there was jubilation as well as speculation about who would succeed him and how the war would come to an end.

Adolf Hitler

The Ulster Premier, Sir Basil Brooke, said: "The world is a sweeter place for the disappearance of a man who has strewn Europe with corpses and made possible the horrors of Buchenwald and Belsen."

However, on May 3, the Irish Press reported that, in Dublin, the Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs, Eamon de Valera, accompanied by the Secretary of External Affairs, "called on Dr Hempel, the German minister, last evening to express his condolences".

The scandal was compounded when it was reported that Michael McDunphy, the secretary of President Douglas Hyde, had "called on the German minister to express condolence on behalf of the president".

Within 48 hours, Ireland, which had remained neutral in the war and had generally managed to remain below the radar, was the subject of unwanted international attention.

To his shame, De Valera even described reports of the Nazi concentration camps as "anti-national propaganda", primarily because the truth about horror of the death camps undermined his case for Irish neutrality

At Westminster, MPs from all parties demanded that a protest be made in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the New York Times commented: "Considering the character and record of the man for whose death he was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the protocol of neutrality, or with De Valera."

In Belfast, the Northern Whig described the visit by de Valera as "a gratuitous insult to the thousands of brave Irishmen who have fought and died in British ranks".

It was another stain on the record of the Irish government, but certainly not the first.

Earlier in the war, the Fianna Fail government had protested at the presence of American troops in Ulster as an "infringement of Irish sovereignty"!

Significantly, there was no such protest to Germany after the German Blitz on Belfast, which killed 1,000 people.

Indeed, de Valera had permitted the German representative in Dublin to send weather reports to the Luftwaffe and these helped in the planning of their bombing of both Great Britain and Ulster.

As late as 1944, the American State Department bluntly said: "Despite the declared desire of the Irish government that its neutrality should not operate in favour of either of the belligerents, it has, in fact, operated and continues to operate in favour of the Axis powers."

To his shame, De Valera even described reports of the Nazi concentration camps as "anti-national propaganda", primarily because the truth about horror of the death camps undermined his case for Irish neutrality.

Eamon de Valera was the founder of Fianna Fail. He led it into the Dail and then, in 1932, he led it into government.

He was at the forefront of Irish politics through into the 1960s and his term as president only ended in 1973.

So, on the 75th anniversary of the death of Hitler and as we approach the 75th anniversary of VE day, is it not time for Fianna Fail to face up to the truth about the Second World War?

Is it not time for the party to acknowledge that their founder and leader was wrong, both as regards neutrality in the face of Nazi terror and as regards his expression of sympathy on the death of Hitler, 75 years ago today?

Belfast Telegraph