Irish trad group performed jigs for Rudolf Hess

Delegates paraded through swastika-festooned streets along with German dancers

Traditional Irish musicians and dancers performed in Nazi Germany in 1936 and signed a thank you note to Rudolf Hess, according to a souvenir album that has come to light in Munich.

The group of musicians and dancers performed jigs and reels during a week-long conference in Hamburg hosted by 'Kraft durch Freude' (Strength through Joy), the Nazi organisation established to boost workers' morale by promoting popular culture and arranging cheap holidays for "the masses".

A photograph of the Irish group is included in an album owned by the family of Rudolf Hess, who was deputy führer to Adolf Hitler.

The album, which has remained in the ownership of the Hess family for eight decades, will go under the hammer at an auction in Munich next month organised by the Hermann Historica auction house which specialises in military memorabilia.


Hess was patron of the conference, 'Weltkongress für Freizeit und Erholung' and attended along with other senior Third Reich figures including minister for propaganda Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and head of the Luftwaffe.

Ireland was one of 20 countries that sent delegations to the event. It is not known who paid for the Irish delegation.

Swastika-festooned streets

The conference was held at the end of July 1936, a week before the summer Olympic Games in Berlin.

Delegates paraded through the swastika-festooned streets of Hamburg along with traditional German dance groups and during the week the Irish group gave performances of what they described to their German hosts as “ceoil agus rinnce na h’Éireann”.

The overall event, which cost the enormous sum of 2 million Reichsmarks, was hailed by the Nazi regime as a huge success and Goebbels, in his closing address to the conference, claimed that the whole world was“intoxicated by Germany”.

At the end of the festival, the national delegations were invited to contribute to a souvenir album which was presented to Hess.

Souvenir album

The album contains a double page devoted to “Irland” with a hand-painted depiction of the Irish Tricolour; a hand-written message in the Irish language thanking the Germans accompanied by a typed German translation; and signatures of each of the Irish group, who all signed their names in Irish.

They were : Liam Ó Flainn [Flynn], Seán Ó Diómsaigh [Dempsey], Ruaidhrí Ó Conchubair [O’Connor], Piaras Bhínseanlí [Winstanley], Lil Ní Chomarcúin [Comerton], Shighle Ní Meachair [Maher], M Ní Choinnigh [Kenny], Lil de Paor, [Power], Síle Ní Chinse [Clinchy] and Eibhlín Nic Canna [McCann].

Seven of the group appear in a photograph in the album: two male musicians – one playing the uilleann pipes, the other a fiddle – and five dancers, four women and one man, wearing kilts.

The others in the delegation may have been administrators, translators or chaperones.

Hess was Hitler’s deputy from 1933 until 1941, when he flew to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with Churchill. He was arrested and sent to prison for life.

In August 1987, at the age of 93, he hanged himself in the British-controlled Spandau Prison in West Berlin where he was the only prisoner.

The auction house said the “starting price” for bidding on the album would be €1,300.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques