10

Paul Bew's book Churchill and Ireland mentions the following in connection with the Irish Free State (forerunner of the present Republic of Ireland)'s Prime Minister De Valera's visit to the German ambassador in Dublin the last days of World War II to express condolences on the death of Hitler.

At the time this action, although criticised in Britain, was less controversial among the Irish public as the recent discovery by advancing Allied forces of Nazi Concentration Camps with starving inmates and evidence of gas chambers and mass extermination of Jews and others, although known to De Valera and senior politicians in the Irish Free State, had been kept from the public there by censorship. According to Wikipedia and other internet sources, censorship was undertaken under emergency legislation passed because although the Irish Free State was neutral in World War II the fact that much of the World was at War was considered to create problems and dangers for Ireland.

I can understand that when the outcome of the War was in serious doubt, the Irish government would not want their press to risk offending Nazi Germany in case the Germans won the war. However, by April-May 1945 the Allies were overruning Germany from East and West and it was obvious that Germany was going to lose.

Why then was the news of what we now call the Holocaust kept from the Irish public?

When it was eventually publicly admitted, or people heard about it from relatives in the UK, USA or elsewhere, where it had been reported, was there any public outcry that the news had been suppressed? Or did it all seem to most people too far away and not Ireland's concern, or were people inclined to overlook German atrocities on the grounds that at least the Germans were fighting the old enemy England?

8

This article on censorship in emergency Ireland describes the initial reaction as one of incredulity, in part because it had been censored so thoroughly during the war.

'The average Dubliner’, according to an anonymous letter-writer to the Irish Times, commenting on the revelations about the Nazi Holocaust at the end of the Second World War, ‘would not be persuaded even though all the hosts of Hitler’s victims were to rise from the dead; he would only pour himself another drink muttering “British Propaganda”’. Such scepticism in the face of the emerging evidence was common in Ireland, and also in other countries which had not experienced the Nazis at first hand. The sense of incredulity was heightened by the poor reputation which atrocity stories had gained after the First World War; the horror stories about bloodthirsty ‘Huns’ mutilating babies, using bodies to make soap, etc. which featured prominently in Allied propaganda had been exposed as fabrications in the interwar years. In Ireland the credibility gap was widened because of the government’s policy during the war, or the Emergency as it was known, of ruthlessly censoring all reports of cruel or inhuman treatment by the belligerents, and by the continuing insistence in many circles on viewing all oppression through the lens of the British record in Ireland.

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    +1 Irish did have some limited access to British press and to British radio, but centuries long animosity towards British endeared Germans to them . – rs.29 Jun 23 at 17:04
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    Thanks Brian Z. The linked article explains that Irish War time censors' did not allow reports of allegations of atrocities by either side as part of a general policy to appear neutral and avoid stirring up controversy among their own population. Hence evidence of the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviets was also played down. Irish newspapers lacked their own war correspondents to report on events on the Continent so they were cautious of repeating reports from belligerent countries that may include propaganda. It must have made the news in Ireland bland though. – Timothy Jun 24 at 7:10

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