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Story of Nazi spy in Donegal Gaeltacht revealed

People living in Teileann in south west Donegal suspected Professor Ludwig Mühlhausen was a Second World War Nazi spy
Seamus McKinney

THE extraordinary story of an Irish-speaking Nazi spy in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht is to be told in a TV documentary this weekend.

“Nazi sa Gaeltacht” (A Nazi in the Gaeltacht) reveals German academic Ludwig Mühlhausen's clandestine efforts for the Third Reich and ultimately his work as a propagandist, broadcasting in Irish from Germany during the Second World War.

A member of the SS, he was presented with a medal for his service to the Nazi regime by Heinrich Himmler, architect of the Holocaust.

His story culminates with a letter in Irish to Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, seeking help to win his freedom from a prisoner of war camp in Italy.

A linguist and Celtic scholar, Prof Mühlhausen travelled to the south-west Donegal Gaeltacht of Teileann in 1937, ostensibly to collect folklore.

The German academic perfected his Irish but BBC journalist Kevin Magee, who followed his journey, discovered how local people always suspected that he had ulterior motives.

Magee’s own links with Teileann go back 40 years when he first travelled there to learn Irish and he said he was always aware of local suspicions about the German.

“I wanted to find out if the story of the Nazi in the Gaeltacht was true, so I began investigating, talking to locals, asking questions and examining a whole variety of sources," he said.

“Piece by piece I was able to pull this remarkable story together.

"When I began my journey, I had no idea I would discover just how committed Mühlhausen was to the entire Nazi project. The plot reads like a World War Two thriller, except this story is for real."

People in Teileann recall Mühlhausen as a true zealot for Nazism.

He made no secret of his despair that they lacked “German efficiency” and failed to exploit the land and sea around them as he felt they should.

Throughout his time in Donegal, the academic busied himself gathering information for, locals believed, a German invasion of Ireland.

“One of the first things he did in Teileann after he’d found somewhere to stay was hang a large picture of Hitler on his bedroom wall," Magee said.

"He took photographs everywhere he went and measured the depth of Teileann by dropping lead weights into the tide. Locals later speculated he was scouting the place out as a potential landing site for Nazi U-boats."

After returning to Germany, local people were then astonished when Mühlhausen started broadcasting Nazi propaganda in the Irish language.

The German urged the Irish to keep their neutrality, reminding them of atrocities carried out by England.

Magee’s investigation took him from the majestic cliffs of Slieve League to the Military Archives in Dublin where he uncovered a secret file on the German by Irish military intelligence.

From there he travelled to Berlin where he was given access to previously unseen documents outlining Nazi plans for Ireland.

Nazi sa Gaeltacht was produced with support from Northern Ireland Screen.

It goes out on BBC Two on Sunday at 10pm.

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