Eichendorffschule Wolfsburg

Dr. Hermann Görtz

Hermann Görtz was born on 15th November 1890 in Lübeck, Germany, and committed suicide in Dublin on 23rd May 1947 at the age of 56 two years after the end of the war. Why was he buried in Glencree and given a different gravestone from the fallen?

Herrmann Görtz fought on the Eastern Front in the First World War, was wounded Christmas 1914 and received the Iron Cross for bravery. He then underwent pilot training and served as a reconnaissance officer. Because of his talent for interrogating prisoners of war, he was promoted to interrogation officer. This talent was to help his later career as a spy.

After the war, he married Ellen Aschenborn, earned a doctorate in international law and often travelled abroad for this purpose. In 1927, for example, he went to Ireland, and his interest in this country and Irish politics was born.

In 1935, Hermann Görtz moved to Broadstairs, Suffolk in England, befriended a British aviator and gathered information about the Royal Air Force at Manston airbase through him. When Hermann Görtz went to Germany for a short visit, the English police came across sketches and documents about the airfield in his house in Broadstairs through a misunderstanding. On his return to Britain he was promptly arrested. Görtz pleaded not guilty, saying he had been doing independent research for a book on the structure of the RAF. He was probably trying to impress German intelligence, as he had previously applied unsuccessfully to the German Air Ministry.

Görtz was sentenced to four years in prison in 1936, released in 1939 and deported to Germany. During his imprisonment he had contact with IRA prisoners. The German Abwehr employed him and he reached the rank of major.

In May 1940, Görtz parachuted into Ballivor, County Meath, Ireland, and moved in with former IRA leader Jim O‘Donovan. Görtz had met O’Donovan in Berlin when he presented the Kathleen plan to the Nazis. According to this plan, the IRA wanted to launch an invasion of Northern Ireland with the support of the Germans. The Germans’ plan was for Görtz to act as liaison officer to the IRA and to coordinate their support in a possible occupation of Britain. However, due to several failures, he realised that he had no reliable partner in the IRA, broke off contact and went into hiding. With the help of the German ambassador, he tried to leave Ireland by sea for France, but bad weather stopped his plan. In the meantime, Irish Intelligence had decoded many of his sent messages to Germany and in November 1941 Görtz was arrested at Blackheath Park in Clontarf.

Being imprisoned without trial, he went on hunger strike, but gave it up after three weeks. The reason was that fellow prisoners conveyed to him that his death would be convenient for the government. Until the end of the war, Görtz was interned with other German spies in a camp in Athlone. This camp was very comfortably furnished with carpets, a common room and garden. Görtz surrendered to his fate and wrote two plays during his imprisonment and translated W. B. Yeats into German.

While most prisoners were transferred to Germany at the end of the war, Görtz wanted to stay in Ireland, fearing he would fall into the hands of the Soviets. He made a deal by revealing information about his espionage activities.

In 1946, the Irish Minister of Justice issued an amnesty for all German spies and Görtz became secretary at the “Save the German Children Society”, which took in 500 German orphans in the old military barracks at Glencree. Under outside pressure, Ireland withdrew Amnesty and on 12th April 1947 Görtz and six other Germans were arrested. While the others were immediately deported to Germany, Görtz was still allowed to settle his affairs. He was also offered the chance to remain in Ireland if he would work for the Americans.

At the same time, however, he was taken to Dublin Castle on 23rd May 1947, where he took his own life with a cyanide capsule for fear of being extradited to Germany and possibly the Soviet Union. Initially buried in Dublin, Hermann Görtz was moved to Glencree in 1974.

He lies buried in the soil of the country he wanted to help destroy, but in the end, fearing prosecution, he preferred to die there rather than return home.

The text was researched and compiled by Timo Kutsche, student at Eichendorffschule Wolfsburg, Germany, during a school project 2023. The Eichendorffschule is responsible for it and takes care that the information does not violate the basic democratic idea.