Journal Volume 4 2004
Major Hermann Goertz and German World War 2 Intelligence Gathering in Ireland (continued/5)
Attempts to Leave Ireland
In February and September 1941, attempts were made to return Goertz to France by boat but these attempts failed due to bad weather on one occasion and the arrest of an individual in Kerry trying to arrange this on the other. In late Autumn 1941, the Garda working with the Irish intelligence services as part of a general security clamp down, rounded up nearly all of those who were assisting Goertz including James O'Donovan, having obtained information on the location of most of the safe houses used by the IRA due to poor document security observed by the latter. Goertz now felt that the Irish authorities were closing on him and that it was vital for him to reach France to report his belief that the Irish Defence Forces would support Germany if the British attempted to seize Irish ports, which were of great strategic benefit to Britain as the “Battle of the Atlantic” was at its height with Britain relying on the cargos of eastbound convoys from the United States of America and Canada for survival.
One eminent historian has argued that following the Fall of France in June 1940, the Luftwaffe began operating from bases in France and that Allied ships using these Irish ports would have been subjected to air attacks and therefore were of little strategic value. He further argues that the British policy of routing Allied convoys around Northern Ireland and down the Irish Sea to various British west coast ports was the correct one as convoys sailing around the south of Ireland would have been exposed to sustained air attacks from Luftwaffe units operating from their French bases.
Capture and Internment
Time had run out for Goertz. On November 27th 1941, Goertz was arrested during a Garda raid on the house of P J Claffey, 1 Blackheath Park, Clontarf, the home of a girl whom he had developed a relationship with, where he had been staying for some time. How the Garda knew that he was at this address is uncertain. Some suggest that some dissident members of the IRA betrayed his presence to the authorities while others maintain that he had been under observation by the Garda for some time and that they finally decided to arrest him. Others claim that he was caught by accident while the Garda were searching the area for Pearse Kelly, the new IRA Chief of Staff.
Following his arrest by the authorities, Goertz was brought to Arbour Hill Military Prison in Dublin where he was subjected to intensive questioning but refused to divulge anything. An escape attempt to break out from his cell was foiled when the authorities discovered what he was at and he was moved to a new cell. In the autumn of 1942, he was transferred to the Athlone Internment Camp where he was well treated and enjoyed good conditions including being able to listen to Irish radio and read Irish newspapers. While Goertz had endured a period of imprisonment in a British Gaol (1936 -1939), he found it hard to adjust to the conditions and regime in Athlone which were far more relaxed and less restrictive than his British experience Goertz resolved to escape and made detailed and elaborate plans to achieve this while at the same time conveying messages for assistance to Hempel, who was unable to assist him with the result that these plans fell apart.
As an international lawyer, Goertz could not understand the concept of interment without charge and wanted to be put on trial. To achieve this, he went on a hunger strike but abandoned this after three weeks when his fellow internees convinced him that the Irish government would let him die and thus save it of deciding what to do with him.
Goertz settled down to the Athlone routine, devoting his time to writing two plays in German and making vast entries in his diary. Gunther Schutz was the only one of the other internees held in Athlone that he did not get on with as Goertz considered Schutz to be too talkative. But this may have been a ploy by Schutz to gather information for another escape attempt (he already had escaped from Mountjoy Gaol and was recaptured after two weeks). Goertz took a dislike to Schutz and Carolle J Carter, who has written one of the standard reference works on this aspect of Irish military history, “The Shamrock and the Swastika”, states that both men had a fight on one occasion but were separated by the other internees. The same author claims that Goertz was behind the sabotaging of an escape attempt by Schutz by arranging the destruction of the clothing that Schutz had gathered for use as a disguise in this attempt.
Goertz tried to escape from Athlone but this attempt was foiled by the authorities who then engaged in a message interception and control operation, which detailed in Carolle J Carter's “The Shamrock and the Swastika”, in which Colonel Eamon de Buitlear played a key part. Hempel indicated to Goertz that he was not prepared to assist him in any escape attempts with the result that Goertz was left to pass the time in Athlone engaging in some of the activities mentioned previously.