Saturday, April 02, 2016


Roger Casement

There is no question but that Roger Casement collaborated with the Germans during WWI. In fact, he was attempting to assist the German war effort by supporting a rising in Ireland which would divert British troops from the Western Front to deal with it. The rising would be against the legitimate authority of his own state, the United Kingdom, when that state was officially at war with Germany.

Casement was not a member of the Nazi Party (which, of course had not yet been formed) and he was not a war criminal, though his prospective actions could not be guaranteed not to kill some of his fellow countrymen or a wider group of his state's armed forces, not to mention possible collateral civilian deaths.

Albert Folens

Albert Folens collaborated with the Germans during WWII. He was not a member of the Nazi Party and he even refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler. He enlisted as a soldier in the Flemish cause but was invalided out and then worked as a translator in SD HQ in Brussels during the rest of the war.

He was included in an RTÉ programmme "Ireland's Nazis" almost ten years ago now and is invariably included in references to Ireland's Nazis to this day, such was the influence of the programme.

The two Irish journalists involved in the programme were Cathal O'Shannon and Senan Molony. Cathal O'Shannon is now dead so we could say what we like about him, but we won't. RTÉ has just stated, for the record, that "Senan Molony is an informed journalist and author of the highest integrity".

So that's it then. Roger Casement was a Nazi, by virtue of his collaboration alone.

Presumably now that this has been established he will be exorcised from any future national commemorations or celebrations and his body returned to its natural home in Germany.

Casement's body on its way back to Germany

Folen's widow's statement at the time the programme was made (2007) can be read here


Póló said...

Albert Folens was a patriot.

Some people seem to have serious difficulty understanding this. Part of the problem is that post-WWII, with all we know now, we live and think in a bipolar world. This is further complicated by our upbringing where we have inherited some admiration for things British (both despite and because of our colonial past) and in particular where we (I'm now over 70) were seduced by the Battler Brittons and the Matt Braddocks with their Spitfires and Mosquitos on the one hand and repelled by the despicable Hun on the other who effectively put the Mau Mau in the ha'penny place.

This is not the environment in which Albert Folens was operating. To him, the British were foreigners who had run an empire every bit as cruel as any other. Nearer home his people were oppressed for a century by the nation state into which they had been sandwiched in 1830. The King of this same state had run a brutally extractive empire in the Congo whose brutalities had been exposed by the very same Roger Casement mentioned above.

The Germans were offering some sort of independence to Flanders, which, if it came about, would not fulfil some vainglorious dream, but allow them to unite with their natural hinterland, the Netherlands, and preserve their culture and dignity which had been targeted by the Belgian state for extinction.

So who were the good guys and who the bad guys in this scenario? Bit of a Hobson's choice really.

We in Ireland have spent the last few months re-evaluating the events of 1916. We have been busy putting flesh on the cardboard figures of our youth, and to great effect. We can now empathise with most of them even if we do not agree with many. This is progress in human terms.

Can we not now give Albert the same space and give over this one dimensional stereotyping with its simplistic appeal and only tenuous relationship with real history?

And why should I care. Well, Albert was my first “French” teacher in school. He was an excellent teacher. He ran a tight ship but did not resort to the prevailing corporal punishment of the day, nor did he have to. He cared that his pupils should actually learn something and at the time of the flu epidemic went far beyond the call of the curriculum.

And then there was my uncle who died on the Somme. A victim of British military incompetence and thinking he was fighting for poor little Catholic Belgium, when, in reality, he was just one of millions of pawns in a vast imperial struggle between corrupt powers. But once in, there was clearly no out. The choice would have been between a bullet in the back or one in the front.

So life is full of personal dilemmas and it would be nice to see a bit of respect for people and how they dealt with them.

Vivion said...

An excellent, thoughtful, and accurate addendum.

History is complicated, too complicated for some.

Póló said...

Today, in conversation with an intelligent professional, I mentioned Albert Folens in passing and in an educational context. “Oh, he was a Nazi, wasn't he” was the immediate reflex comment.

This is the perverse legacy of Senan Molony and Cathal O'Shannon.

Cathal is with his maker and will now know better.

Senan Molony is still with us and shows no sign of repentance.

No doubt, if challenged by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he will produce his evidence, him being, according to RTÉ, “an informed journalist and author of the highest integrity”.

Póló said...

Telling it like it was ...

Reflecting further on the incident referred to in the previous comment I was struck by this parallel between Albert Folens and Roger Casement.

After Casement's conviction for treason there was some possibility that sufficient support might have been mustered for a plea for clemency and for avoiding the carrying out of the death sentence. But the British Establishment were determined to have their pound of flesh and so they circulated Casement's diaries which showed that he was a homosexual. This took the wind out of the sails of any attempt at an appeal for clemency. His reputation was ruined even among those for whom his “treason” was no reflection on him in the circumstances.

Similarly, Albert Folens collaborated with the Germans in WW2, like Casement, for patriotic reasons. But his reputation was ruined by shifting the emphasis from his patriotism to his collaboration and right on to branding him a Nazi, as illustrated by my professional's immediate reaction to his name. RTÉ have much to be ashamed of in this regard and instead of gearing up for an act of repentance they have just recently endorsed the one remaining presenter of the two who dragged Folens posthumously through the mud.

The reputations of two patriots assassinated, one from WWI and the other from WWII.

It's a funny world.

Is it any wonder I am a revisionist when it comes to history?