May 24th, 1947

Thu, May 24, 2012, 01:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:The dramatic suicide of Hermann Goertz, the most important German spy in Ireland during the second World War, was described in this lead story. – JOE JOYCE

HERMANN GOERTZ, 56-year-old Nazi master spy, who poisoned himself in front of detectives in Dublin Castle yesterday, came to Eire to promote a Quisling Government. This was the instruction given to him by the German High Command before he was dropped by parachute in Co. Meath on May 5th, 1940.

His plan failed because of the loyalty to Ireland of the influential persons whom he approached.

The death of Goertz closes a remarkable story of international espionage and political intrigue which sought to involve Eire in a plan to isolate Britain and cut her Atlantic life-line. The plan contemplated the invasion of Eire by German forces, and the instigation of a rebellion here.

The plan was thwarted not only because of widespread loyalty to the Government and its policy of neutrality, but because of distrust and suspicion in the ranks of “collaborators.” It can now be disclosed that while detectives were searching for Goertz after he landed in Co. Meath, persons in public life reported his political activities to the Defence Council.

Goertz, a native of Lübeck, who was known abroad as the “flying spy”, was arrested on November 12th, 1941, 18 months after he landed in Ireland, and interned. He was released last August and became secretary of the “Save the German Children” Fund. He received a salary of £2 10s a week from the fund which was set up to bring German children to homes in this country.

Aliens’ Branch detectives rearrested him on April 12th, with six other Germans, and held him in Mountjoy Prison under a deportation order until May 14th, when he was given parole by the Minister for Justice for two days. He reported to the police on May 16th and was told that his parole had been extended for another week.

When he went to the Aliens’ Office in Dublin Castle yesterday morning at 9.50 – he was due at ten o’clock – he expected to be granted a further extension of his parole. To his dismay, he was told that he was being deported by plane to Germany to-day.

The tall Luftwaffe officer [who] served with Goering in the First World War stared disbelievingly at the detective officers. Then suddenly, he took his hand from his trouser pocket, swiftly removed his pipe from between his lips, and slipped a small glass phial into his mouth.

One of the police officers sprang at Goertz as he crushed the glass with his teeth. The officer got his hands around Goertz’s neck but failed to prevent most of the poison – believed to be prussic acid – from passing down his throat.

Within a few seconds, Goertz collapsed. His body was carried by detective officers down the stairs between lines of people waiting to transact passport business in the building to a motor-car in the street. He died in Mercer’s Hospital a few minutes later.