Irish doors 'closed' to Jewish families
Sir, – Regarding the doors of the Irish State being “firmly closed” to Jewish families from Nazi persecution (Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Home News, January 24th): As a 21- year old German/Polish Jewish refugee in 1938, my late mother, Sabina Wyzsniak, was one of the lucky ones, in that prior to the start of the second World War she managed to reach these shores.
However, it was not any benign Irish State policy that eventually saved her. Rather, what undoubtedly saved her life were the simple compassionate actions of two Irish State-employed people: one, an official who simply refused in the end to “obey his orders” to deport her out of the State by putting her on a train from Dublin to Belfast, from where she would have been dispatched back to Germany or Poland; and the other, a garda who subsequently sheltered and protected her within the safety of his family as one of his own.
But had Irish government policy been implemented as planned my mother would have had her life taken away from her, a fate that befell her own mother, her 15-year-old sister, and most of her large extended family in Germany, Poland and France – for whom doors of every country were “firmly closed”. The only doors that did open for most of them in the end were those of the gas chambers.
Pointedly, Éamon de Valera’s closed door policy contrasts markedly with neutral Catholic Spain, where even a fascist leader such as Gen Franco directed his Spanish diplomats and consuls abroad to offer identity documents to persecuted Jews. This sympathetic Spanish policy, coupled with offering Spain as a temporary safe haven (for fleeing Jews who eventually obtained permanent refuge in other counties), resulted in an estimated 30,000 Jewish lives being saved.
This, of course, does not mean that de Valera lacked compassion. After all, he did manage to offer his sincere condolences to the German ambassador in Dublin on the death of Adolf Hitler – the dictator who invaded most of our European neighbours, and in the process deliberately targeted and systematically murdered many millions of innocent civilians they regarded as “Untermenschen” or “sub-humans”. – Yours, etc,