Monday, June 30, 2014

Gearmánaigh sna 1930í – Germans in the Thirties



Seachtó bliain ó cuireadh tús ar thránna Normandy leis an bhfeachtas míleata a chuirfeadh deireadh leis an Dara Cogadh Domhanda ar ball, déanaim machnamh an mhí seo ar na Gearmánaigh éagsúla (agus Ostarach amháin) a chuir suim in Árainn sna blianta roimh an chogaidh úd. Dar ndóigh, bhí Gearmánaigh léannta in Árainn i bhfad roimhe sin: má tharraing Franz Nicolaus Finck (1867-1910) ar thobar na Gaeilge, ghlac Heinrich Zimmer (1851-1910) ról níos gníomhaí i saol an oileáin nuair a thug sé óráid ag gríosú na nÁrannach chun ceannairce le linn Chogadh na Talún. Faoi na 1930í, ba í seandacht Árann fré chéile, chomh maith leis an nGaeilge agus an béaloideas, a spreag na Gearmánaigh thíosluaite chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar imeallbhord síochánta na hEorpa.

I 1930, thug Roinn Oideachais an tSaor-Stáit cuireadh don teangeolaí Wilhelm Doegen (1877-1967) ón Königlich Preußische Phonographische Kommission i mBeirlín – oide a raibh cáil air mar gheall ar thaifeadaí a rinne sé i gcampaí géibhinn an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda ar chimí a raibh Éireannaigh ina measc – teacht go hÉireann ar mhaithe le hurlabhra na Gaeltachta a thaifeadadh. Ba é Acadamh Ríoga nahÉireann a tharraing ar ghréasán saineolaithe ó cheann ceann na tíre chun cuidiú le Doegen. I measc na noileánach a moladh do na bailitheoirí béaloidis agus amhrán Seán Mac Giollarnáth agus Tomás Ó Máille chun na hoibre seo bhí in Árainn Darach Ó Direáin (Eoghanacht), Seáinín Tom Ó Direáin (Sruthán), Seán Ó Flaithbheartaigh (Bun Gabhla), Seán de Bhailís (Sruthán) agus, in Inis Meáin, Beairtle Ó Flaithbheartaigh, Máirtín Rua, Máirtín Mhaidhcil Ó Cadhain, agus Máirtín Roger Ó Concheanainn. Theip ar iarrachtaí na hÁrannaigh seo a thabhairt go Gaillimh lena dtaifead, áfach, agus taifeadadh ina n-ionad beirt oileánach eile a raibh cónaí orthu sa chathair: an t-údar Peadar Ó Concheanainn as Inis Meáin agus an file Máirtín Ó Direáin as an Sruthán, Árainn.

Heinrich Becker Collection; by permission of James Hardiman Library.
(As the collection is currently being catalogued,
this upload is taken from Becker's book 'I mBéal na Farraige')
In Earrach na bliana 1933, thug an seandálaí Adolf Mahr (a rugadh san Ostair) cuairt ar Árainn agus d’fhan sé féin agus a mhac Gustav (1922-2012) le Robert Flaherty agus a chlann i gCill Mhuirbhigh. B’é Mahr (1887-1951) Coimeadaí na nÁrsaíochtaí in Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann agus is ansiúd a casadh é féin agus an Flaitheartach ar a chéile an bhliain roimhe sin tráth dá raibh taighde dá scannán Man of Aran (1934) idir lámha ag an scannánóir mór-le-rá. Níorbh í seo an chéad chuairt ag Mahr ar Árainn. Bhí suim aige i gcurachaí ach go háirithe agus, faoi 1931, bhí sé ag iarraidh deantúsán thraidisiúnta chun cur le bailiúcháin an Mhúsaeim. Tarlaíonn freisin go raibh lámh aige sa dara scannán de chuid Árann dár stiúraigh an Flaitheartach, is é sin Oidhche Sheanchais (1934), ar fritheadh cóip de anuraidh in Ollscoil Harvard (beidh a thuilleadh faoin scannán spéisiúil sin uaim amach anseo).

Ní hiad na gníomhachtaí ghairmiúla seo is mó a tharraing aird na staire ar Adolf Mahr, áfach, ach an ról a ghlac sé mar cheannaire an Pháirtí Naitsíoch in Éirinn agus, ina dhiaidh sin, sa Ghearmáin mar cheannaire ar Irland-Redaktion, stáisiún raidió a chraol trí Ghaeilge i rith an chogaidh. Naitsí eile a tháinig go hÁrainn i 1937 ba ea Ludwig Mühlhausen (1888-1956), léachtóir sa Léann Ceilteach in Hamburg a d’oibrigh freisin ar Irland-Redaktion agus a bhí ina oifigeach san S.S. Creidtear go raibh sé ag déanamh spiaireachta in Éirinn ar mhaithe le fomhuireáin na Gearmáine san Atlantach. Is cinnte gur bhailigh sé béaloideas Gaeilge agus gur ghlac sé cnuasach toirtiúil grianghrafanna ar fud na tíre a mhaireann anois in Ollscoil Tübingen. Gabhadh Mahr agus Mühlhausen i ndiaidh an chogaidh agus bhíodar beirt ina gcimí cogaidh i gcampaí géibhinn. B’í an drochshláinte a d’fhulaing siad ina dhiaidh sin ar fad a scuab iad ar deireadh.

Is é an ceathrú scoláire, an béaloideasóir Heinrich Becker (1907-2001), is mó díobh seo a chur le stór staire Árann. Tháinig Becker go hÉireann chun Gaeilge a fhoghlaim ar mhaithe le béaloideas a bhailiú. Mhúin sé Gearmáinis in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe agus chaith seal sna Doireadha gar do Ros an Mhíl. Nuair a fógraíodh an cogadh, is go hÁrainn a chuaigh Becker, ach i ndiaidh do bheirt shaighdiúir Sasanach é a ionsaí i gCill Éinne, d’aistrigh sé go hInis Oírr áit dár chaith sé an chuid eile den chogadh. Eisean a ghlac íomhá álainn na míosa seo – damhsa ar An Leic in Inis Oírr agus Ruairí Sheáin Ó Conghaile, creidim, ag ceol. Tá lear mór d’íomhánna Bhecker crochta i dtithe ósta an oileáin agus maireann an bailiúchán iomlán – idir grianghrafanna, taifeadtaí, agus cáipéisí – i Leabharlann Shéamuis Uí Argadáin i nGaillimh.

Franz Nicolaus Finck, Die Araner Mundart (Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1899); Breandán & Ruairí Ó hEithir, An Aran Reader (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991); Brendan Mullins, Dublin Nazi No.1: The Life of Adolf Mahr (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2007); David O’Donoghue, Hitler's Irish Voices: the story of German radio's wartime Irish service (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998); Heinrich Becker, I mBéal na Farraige (Indreabhán: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 1997); Seaweed Memories: In the Jaws of the Sea (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 2000).

*

The seventieth-anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy earlier this month reminds me of the various Germans (and one Austrian) who showed an interest in Aran in the decade before WWII. Of course, German scholars had visited Aran much earlier: Franz Nicolaus Finck (1867-1910) came to document the Irish language and Heinrich Zimmer (1851-1910) to study it, though he also gave a speech encouraging islanders to take action in the Land War. By the 1930s, it was Aran’s antiquity as well as its language and folklore that prompted the Germans discussed below to head for the edge of Europe.

In 1930, the Department of Education invited the language scholar Wilhelm Doegen (1877-1967) from the Königlich Preußische Phonographische Kommission in Berlin –who was known for recording various nationalities including Irish in prisoner-of-war camps in the aftermath of WWI – to come to Ireland in order to record Gaeltacht speech. The Royal Irish Academy was responsible for recruiting Doegen’s assistants countrywide. Among the islanders recommended for the work to the folksong and folklore collectors Seán Mac Giollarnáth and Tomás Ó Máille were, in Árainn, Darach Ó Direáin (Eoghanacht), Seáinín Tom Ó Direáin (Sruthán), Seán Ó Flaithbheartaigh (Bun Gabhla), Seán de Bhailís (Sruthán) and, in Inis Meáin, Beairtle Ó Flaithbheartaigh, Máirtín Rua, Máirtín Mhaidhcil Ó Cadhain, and Máirtín Roger Ó Concheanainn. Efforts to bring these islanders to Galway failed, however, so two other islanders who lived in the city were recorded instead: the author Peadar Ó Concheanainn of Inis Meáin and the poet Máirtín Ó Direáin from Sruthán, Árainn.

In Spring 1933, the archaeologist Adolf Mahr (who was Austrian-born) visited Aran where he and his son Gustav (1922-2012) stayed with Robert Flaherty and his family in Cill Mhuirbhigh; Mahr (1887-1951) was then Keeper of Antiquities in the National Museum of Ireland, which is where he and Flaherty first met while the latter was researching his film Man of Aran (1934). This was not Mahr’s first time in Aran. He had a special interest in curraghs and, by 1931, he had sought local traditional craft artefacts for the Museum’s collections. Mahr also had a hand in Flaherty’s second Aran film Oidhche Sheanchais (1934), a copy of which turned up recently in Harvard University (more on that interesting film at some future date).

The professional life of Adolf Mahr has been overshadowed, however, by his political life – as leader of the Nazi Party in Ireland and, later, in Germany where he directed Irland-Redaktion, a radio station that broadcast in Irish throughout the war. Another Nazi who came to Aran in 1937 was Ludwig Mühlhausen (1888-1956), a Celtic Studies lecturer in Hamburg, who also worked at Irland-Redaktion and who was an S.S.officer too. He was suspected of spying in Ireland, in particular for photographing particular bays on the west coast that had the potential to accommodate German submarines. He certainly collected Irish folktales and took many photographs across the country, which survive now in the University of Tübingen. Both Mahr and Mühlhausen were captured after the war and spent time in prisoner-of-war camps. Neither regained their health after their experiences and both died in the 1950s.

The fourth scholar, Heinrich Becker (1907-2001), made the biggest contribution to the history of Aran. Becker came to Ireland to learn Irish in order to collect its folklore. He taught German at University College Galway and spent time in Na Doireadha near Ros an Mhíl in Conamara. When WWII broke out, Becker went to Árainn but, after being attacked by two British soldiers in Cill Éinne, he relocated to Inis Oírr where he spent much of his time until the end of the war. He is responsible for the beautiful image accompanying this month’s blogpost: dancing at An Leic (The Flag) in Inis Oírr with music played – if I’m not mistaken – by Ruairí Sheáin Ó Conghaile. Many of Becker’s images line the walls of the islands’ pubs and his entire collection – including photographs, recordings, and documents – now survives in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway.

Franz Nicolaus Finck, Die Araner Mundart (Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1899); Breandán & Ruairí Ó hEithir, An Aran Reader (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991); Brendan Mullins, Dublin Nazi No.1: The Life of Adolf Mahr (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2007); David O’Donoghue, Hitler's Irish Voices: the story of German radio's wartime Irish service (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998); Heinrich Becker, I mBéal na Farraige (Indreabhán: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 1997); Seaweed Memories: In the Jaws of the Sea (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 2000).

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