Locals believed this art deco house had a swastika on the roof – it doesn’t but a Nazi plot was hatched here
ONE OF THE most unusual homes built in 20th century Ireland – a detached house at 245 Templeogue Road, Dublin, with an amazing history – is for sale for €1.25 million, through DNG Terenure.
In May 1940, gardaí raided the house and found, in a bedroom, a used parachute, German military clothing and medals, a wireless transmitter, $20,000 in cash and documents relating to espionage. You never quite know what lies behind the facade of outwardly respectable Irish suburbia.
The house, then called Konstanz – after the southern German town on the shores of Lake Constance – was owned by Stephen Carroll Held. The businessman, who was born to an Irish woman and adopted by a German man, acted as a go-between, helping the IRA to liaise with the Nazi regime in Berlin. He told gardaí that the stash in the guest bedroom belonged to a lodger but he was promptly nicked and sentenced to five years “penal servitude”.
But there had been a lodger – who’d fled. Hermann Goertz, a German SS officer, had been staying in what he’d hoped was a “safe house”. He had arrived in Ireland a few weeks earlier, by parachuting into Ballivor, Co Meath (as one does). His mission impossible? To progress wacky plans for an IRA-backed Nazi invasion of Ireland with the aim of attacking Britain through Northern Ireland.
Goertz, attired in a Luftwaffe uniform, walked to Dublin and was not apprehended despite popping into a Garda barracks in Co Wicklow to ask for directions. Perhaps the sergeant on duty had a drop taken or thought it was fancy dress night at the Blessington GAA club?
Goertz made it to Dublin and, after his “safe-house” hiding place in Templeogue was rumbled, went on the run for 18 months. He was eventually found, in Clontarf, and interned for the rest of the war. The hare-brained plot for a Nazi invasion of Ireland was foiled.
Almost immediately rumours began to circulate that the house in Templeogue had a Swastika symbol painted on the flat roof to “guide” Nazi spies dropping in by parachute – and even that the shape of the house itself, when seen from the air above, resembled the infamous symbol. These urban myths have persisted for 70 years.
But the owner says there was no evidence of any symbol ever having been painted on the roof and the design of the house, while certainly unconventional, is not Swastika-shaped.
Built in 1939, in the art deco style, the six-bedroom house has 300sq m (3,225sq ft) of accommodation and a wealth of original features including a curved sittingroom and master bedroom, a mix of marble and parquet floors, corner windows and tiled mantelpieces.
The dazzlingly white house, a protected structure, wouldn’t look out of place in Miami’s South Beach – one of the world’s most important enclaves of art deco buildings.
The sale offers an exceptionally rare opportunity to acquire one of just a handful of such houses built in Ireland in the 1930s. But the buyer would need to budget for a significant make-over, including re-wiring, a new kitchen and bathrooms.
Outside there’s a marvellous half-acre of walled, secluded gardens with a variety of mature trees, hedging and oodles of space for off-street parking. Terenure College and Templeogue village are both just a stroll away.
The vendor, formerly an eminent pathologist at a Dublin hospital, bought the house 41 years ago and raised a family there. He has now retired and is downsizing.
And whatever happened to the original cast of second World War characters associated with the house?
Stephen Carroll Held emigrated after being released from jail and settled in Australia and has since died. The house was subsequently bought and sold a number of times – including, ironically, by a Dublin Jewish family – before being acquired by the present owner.
Templeogue’s Nazi spy, Hermann Goertz, was released from jail in Athlone in August 1946, went to live in Glenageary and became secretary of a charity called Save The German Children Fund. He was rearrested the following year and served with a deportation order by the Minister for Justice.
On Friday May 23rd 1947 he arrived at the Aliens’ Office in Dublin Castle at 9.50am and was told he was being deported to Germany the next day.
The Irish Timesreported that he: "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 crunched 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." He was driven to Mercer's Hospital and died there shortly after arrival.
At his funeral in Deansgrange cemetery, some 200 people surrounded the coffin which was draped in a Swastika flag. Women wept bitterly and many of the mourners wore Nazi badges. A young man gave the Nazi salute and whispered “Heil Hitler” as the coffin was lowered into the ground.