Memorial for Irishman who saved 6,500 from Nazis

Hugh O'Flaherty. Photo copyright Moliere CC3

A memorial to an Irish priest who helped to rescue over 6,500 people from the Nazis has been unveiled in Killarney.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who is dubbed ‘Ireland’s Oskar Schindler’ was in Italy at the time of the collapse of the Italian government during the Second World War. The Germans occupied Rome and Italian Jews lived in fear of being captured.

Although Ireland had a neutral status during the war, O’Flaherty worked tirelessly to help those who were under threat from the Nazis. He believed that ‘God has no country’ and hid 6,500 Italian Jews and allied prisoners of war from the Germans using a network of houses and church buildings.

Ogham, the mysterious language of the trees The Origins of the Ogham alphabet are still a mystery for many historians, but it is primarily thought to be an early form of the Irish written Language. Bealtaine Fire

Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican

O’Flaherty was known as the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican’ due to his ability to evade the German authorities such as the Gestapo. Commander Herbert Kappler tried to assassinate him several times but incredibly the two men became friends after the war.

O’Flaherty was played by Oscar winning actor Gregory Peck when his life was turned into a film, The Scarlet and the Black.

His heroic actions are celebrated in many countries in the world and he has received honours and medals from the UK, the US, France and Italy. However, he is fairly unknown in Ireland.

Hugh O'Flaherty statue Image copyright Ireland Calling50th anniversary of his death

His profile in his home country is likely to rise thanks to the memorial which marks the 50th anniversary of his death.

Ambassadors and Embassy representatives from the UK, the US, Canada and Israel were in Killarney to witness the unveiling. The memorial cost £80,000, paid for by donations, and will be erected in the Killarney town centre.

It includes a six foot bronze statue designed by English artist Alan Ryan Hall. Hall became a fan of O’Flaherty after reading about his life and described him as “a real swashbuckling priest”.

Jerry O’Grady of the Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Committee said: “He realised he was breaching neutrality… but he saw the need of the people above everything else and that’s what he did.”

See more about Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty’s incredible achievement here

More popular articles and videos

The real life mystery of what Maureen O’Hara whispered to make John Wayne look so shocked

Meghan Markle can trace her family tree back to Ireland

Matt Damon winning hearts and minds with charm assault on Ireland

Cork trio showcase Irish dancing in all its glory

Action hero Tom Cruise was once attacked by an old man in a Kerry pub

Celebrate with the top 10 Irish recipes

Liam Neeson speaks about his late wife in emotional interview

Dating site explains why Irish men make wonderful husband material

How to become an Irish citizen

Billy Connolly says public should ignore politicians and listen to comedians

Take a look inside Hollywood star Saoirse Ronan’s stunning Irish home