St Conleth’s College in Dublin has said there were “no restrictions” on a former Nazi SS officer taking up employment at the school after the second World War.
Former students of the fee-paying school in Ballsbridge have called on the board of management of St Conleth’s College to apologise for the presence of a Nazi collaborator teacher there for almost three decades.
Louis Feutren, a Breton nationalist and SS officer, was sentenced to death in France after the war. He had been a member of Bezen Perrot, a Breton nationalist group that rounded up Jews and French Resistance fighters for the Nazis. He fled to Ireland in 1945 and taught French in the school from 1957 to 1985.
In response to the call for an apology, the school’s chief executive Tony Kilcommons said in a letter sent to parents of students and staff at St Conleth’s on Tuesday: “To the best of our knowledge, there was no restrictions on the teacher living and taking up employment in Ireland post World War 2″.
The campaign has been organised by the son of the former Argentinian ambassador to Ireland, writer Uki Goñi, who first attended the school in 1971 when he was 14.
Mr Goñi said Feutren, who died in 2009, “unleashed his baser instincts upon defenceless children, and, far from being an example to emulate, he was a boastful, unrepentant and proud former officer in the most evil and tyrannical organisation of the 20th century, the Nazi SS.”
Other students have contacted both Mr Goñi and The Irish Times to support the call for an apology and to talk about a culture of violence in the school that existed when he was there.
In his letter to parents and staff, Mr Kilcommons did not name Feutren or the allegation that he was a Nazi collaborator.
The statement stopped short of offering an apology for having employed Feutren, but Mr Kilcommons added that the school had been in touch with Mr Goñi who made the original complaint.
Mr Kilcommons expressed a hope that the school will be able to “restore trust in time between himself, other past pupils affected and the school”.
Mr Goñi said he was “physically bashed by Feutren during my first days there. It was the start of many beatings I myself received and that I witnessed Feutren inflict upon others”.
Others said they had been physically assaulted by him or made to take off items of clothing if they did not know the French word for them.
In his note to parents and staff, Mr Kilcommon contrasted Feutren’s conduct, as set out in the complaints of past pupils, with the school’s mission statement to create a “happy, healthy and safe environment.”
“We believe that the our current students experience the reality of this in their day-to-day life in this school. Such conduct by a teacher, as expressed by former pupils, has no proper place in St Conleth’s, whether they be in the past, present or future.”
It has emerged that an obituary published in the St Conleth annual in 2014 mentioned that Feutren was a “Breton nationalist” but made no mention of his Nazi past though it was well known in the school.
The obituary, written by Anne Sheppard, the school’s former chief executive and daughter of the founder Bernard Sheppard, praised Feutren as a “strong disciplinarian” who introduced his students to “thought-provoking ideas, he was a keen ying yangist and regaled his students on the benefit of a macrobiotic diet”.
Several other members of Bezen Perrot ended up in Ireland after the war including its founder Celestin Lainé and Alan Heusaff.