Hermann Görtz- from Berlin to Ballivor
Rónán-Gearóid Ó Domhnaill
While Hitler’s plans on Ireland are still regarded as at a matter of speculation he did send a number of spies into the country. It was of great concern to the allies that the Free State would be used to transmit weather reports, useful for U-Boats to Germany, or indeed that neutral Ireland become a safe haven for spies to infiltrate Britain. The most famous of these spies was Dr. Hermann Görtz (1890-1947).
Görtz had fought in the First World War and had interrogated allied prisoners, a skill that would later have its use. After the war he trained to be a lawyer and went to England on his own bat in the 1930s to write a book on the expansion of the RAF or so he would claim at his trial for spying at the Old Bailey in 1935. He was accompanied by a secretary, nineteen year old Marianne Emig, who posed as his niece. They lived in Broadstairs, Kent and the pair befriended a local RAF man, one Kenneth Lewis, whom they duped into giving information. He was amazed at how much they knew about the RAF and when he became concerned about telling them military secrets Görtz assured him that England and Germany would be on the same side in the next war. His ‘nice’ maintained regular correspondence with Lewis and was happy to get photos of RAF planes which the unwitting Lewis sent her.
When the landlord of the house Görtz had been renting called by he found a note his tenant had left out, which he believed referred to Göertz’s motorbike. Believing that someone had stolen the motorbike while Görtz was away, the landlord rang the police. They searched the property but did not find the motorbike. What they did find was maps and drawings of the local RAF bases. Emig was in Germany when Görtz was arrested and under the circumstances was reluctant to return to England. His trial attracted considerable media attention at the time and he was sentenced to four years. Following his release in 1939 he was deported back to Germany.
In 1940 Britain faced a serious threat of invasion and in May of that year Görtz parachuted into Ireland as part of a fact finding mission which had been given the codename Operation Mainau. He landed at Ballivor, Co. Meath, although he was supposed to have landed in Tyrone. He was wearing his Luftwaffe parade uniform and First World War medals. Still dressed in his uniform he went to the local Garda station to find out where he was and look for directions. The Guards seemingly found nothing unusual about the apparition that appeared before them and gave him the necessary directions. He then walked the eighty odd miles to Laragh County Wicklow, the home of Iseult Stuart wife of Francis Stuart daughter to Maud Gonne. In Berlin Francis Stuart had told him that if he ran into difficulty he was to go to her and he now availed of the offer.
From Wicklow he went to Dublin to meet IRA activist Stephen Carroll Held at number 245 Tempelogue Road. Held, having first made contact with Oscar Pfaus from the Abwehr, the German secret service, had travelled to Germany a few weeks previously to deliver to the Abwehr, Plan Kathleen.
Plan Kathleen was a grandiose plan conceived by IRA man Stephen Gaynor, which outlined a proposed invasion of the north, similar to the invasion of Norway and was approved of by Stephen Hayes acting chief of staff of the IRA.
As part of the plan an amphibious assault was to be made at Lough Swilly and German paratroopers would land in the Divis Mountains and Lisburn, while the IRA would attack from the south at Leitrim. The plan called for 50,000 German troops, but contained no details of coastal defences in the North or other vital information. The Abwehr had been told that the IRA in Ireland was 5,000 strong and all that they needed was guns, which they wanted to be brought ashore along the west coast.
Görtz, who had looked at the plan a fortnight before dropping into Ireland, thought it somewhat far fetched. He wanted the IRA to cease hostilities in the Free State, where they were more active than in the North, and concentrate their energy on fighting the British. He was shocked to find that the IRA was not the guerilla movement he had been told it was. He found it to be unreliable and completely disorganized. In terms of numbers it seemed nowhere near the amount he had been told in Berlin. It proved to be more of a liability to the Germans and other German spies were told to avoid contact with the IRA.
While Görtz was staying with Held, the house was raided on 22 May. While Görtz escaped through the back garden Held was not so fortunate and was given a given a five year prison sentence for his involvement in the affair. The guards found $20,000 in the house as well of details on Irish harbours, bridges and the distribution of the Defence Forces. The plans for Plan Kathleen were also uncovered and handed over to the British.
Görtz managed to stay at large until November 1941. When a known IRA man, Pearse Paul Kelly visited Stuart’s house, the guards raided and arrested both Kelly and a German who called himself Heinrich Brandy. Brandy soon revealed his true identity to be Hermann Görtz. Stuart was also taken into custody. She was imprisoned for a month, but was acquitted when brought before a court.
Görtz was not the only spy to arrive in Ireland. Others such as Günther Schütz were sent to collect weather reports and assess the affect of German bombing in the north. He was supposed to be dropped off at Newbridge in September 1940 but landed in Wexford and was arrested almost immediately. It is possible that this was the intention. The news of German spies arriving in Ireland would unsettle the Allies. Although the agents were informed in depth about Ireland by the professor of Celtic Studies, Ludwig Mühlhausen, they had very poor English and were bound to stand out. None of the spies were allowed to associate with German prisoners of war in the Curragh. Schütz tunneled his way out of Mountjoy in 1942 and found refuge in an IRA safe house. He was later recaptured and survived the war. Following this escape attempt Görtz and the other spies were transferred to Costume barracks in Athlone, where they spent the rest of the war.
In 1946, Görtz applied for asylum, but his application was turned down. He was released the following year and went to live with
Bridie and Mary Farrell. His days however in Ireland were numbered. On May 23, 1947 he was requested to report to the Aliens’ Office in Dublin, where he was told a plane was ready to return him to Germany. Knowing that he would probably face a prison sentence or worse in occupied Germany, he swallowed his poison capsule and died within a few seconds. He was buried in Dublin and later re-interned in the German cemetery at Glencree in 1974, where tucked away in a corner, his grave marked by a sword and wrapped in ivy he found his final resting place.