During the German occupation of Rome from 1943-1944, Kerryman Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty ran an escape organisation for Allied POWs and civilians, including Jews. He built a network of contacts and safe locations and his helpers included communists, British soldiers, the singer Delia Murphy and many others. The work was dangerous. Safe within the Vatican State, he regularly ventured out in disguise to continue his mission, which earned him the nickname of “the Pimpernel of the Vatican”. Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome, ordered him captured or killed. When the Allies entered Rome in June 1944, O’Flaherty and his colleagues had saved over 4,000 lives. After the war Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment and his only visitor, monthly, was O’ Flaherty. O’Flaherty was awarded the highest honours including a CBE (UK), the Congressional Medal (US) and was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office. He retired to Cahersiveen, Co Kerry in 1960.
In 1963 Eight million viewers watched him on BBC’s This Is Your Life. Within months he had died. Newspapers all over the world reported his death. Yet the only monument to him in Ireland is a grove of Italian trees planted in Killarney National Park in 1994 by his family and friends. The name of this great and good man is largely forgotten in his native Ireland.
Pimpernel sa Vatican tells his remarkable story.
Nominations Pimpernel sa Vatican
- 2009 IFTA
TG4/BAI – 52 minutes