De Valera and the fate of Irish Jews


Sir, – Anthony O’Connor’s article (“De Valera’s darkest hour: How Ireland dealt with the Nazi threat”, March 16th) is misleading.

There is little evidence in the archives that the Irish government during the second World War showed concern for the fate of Jews in Europe or, indeed, the fate of Irish Jews should Ireland be invaded.

Its response to Jewish refugees was abysmal.

Any official policy in relation to refugees after Kristallnacht [Hitler’s violent pogrom against the Jewish community] in November 1938 focused on non-Aryan Christians of Jewish descent.

Appeals by the Jewish community to increase visa numbers for Jews (many being family members) were denied.

O’Connor’s assumption that an Irish presence at Evian, a conference held as part of a global effort to resolve the Jewish refugee emergency, was indicative of a concern for the plight of European Jewry is misleading.

Rather, the government was more concerned about its visibility as a sovereign nation.

In fact, its Irish representative was explicitly told to adhere to an official policy regarding the refusal of visas to applicants of Jewish or partly Jewish origin with no non-Aryan affiliations.

While O’Connor is right to point out the significance of Article 44 in the Constitution and its recognition of Jewish congregations in Ireland, particularly in the context of rising antisemitism in the 1930s, we must be careful in drawing unfounded conclusions during a period in which antisemitism was deeply embedded in State practice. – Yours, etc,



Woolf Institute,