The Vatican Pimpernel: The Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty

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9781848890114: The Vatican Pimpernel: The Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty
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Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty is an unsung hero in his native Ireland. From Kerry, he was a Vatican monsignor and diplomat. During the German occupation of Rome from 1942 to 1944, he devoted his time and energy to running an escape organisation for Allied POWs and civilians, including Jews. Building a network of contacts and safe locations around Rome, his helpers included the religious, communists, a Swiss count, British soldiers, the singer Delia Murphy and many others. He placed thousands in safety and was known as the Pimpernel of the Vatican. The work was dangerous. Safe within the Vatican state due to diplomatic immunity, he regularly ventured out using disguises to continue his mission. Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome, ordered him captured or killed if seen outside the Vatican. None of those recaptured and tortured betrayed him. When the Allies entered Rome he had saved over 6,000 lives. Kappler was sentenced to life. His only visitor, monthly, for many years, was O'Flaherty. They became friends and in 1959, O'Flaherty baptised Kappler. O'Flaherty was awarded the highest honours by many Allied countries, including a CBE (UK), the Congressional Medal (US), and was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office. He retired to Cahirciveen in 1960. Eight million watched him in 1963 on BBC's This Is Your Life, in which he was to be the subject but was too ill, about his ally Colonel Sam Derry. Within months he was dead. His death was reported in the New York Times and by papers all over the world. The Oskar Schindler of Ireland was immortalised in a 1983 film starring Gregory Peck as O Flaherty, The Scarlet and the Black, there is a road named after him in Killarney, Co Kerry and a grove of Italian trees was planted in Killarney National Park in 1994 with a poem to mark the occasion by Brendan Kennelly.

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Review:

'Enthralling and inspiring' The Catholic Times 'Story of personal bravery well worth retelling' The Irish Times 'A true thriller' Scottish Catholic Observer 'An affectionate book that at times reads as well as a spy novel' Books Ireland 'The story it tells is extraordinary' Irish Independent

About the Author:

Brian Fleming, a former member of the Oireachtas, has been a teacher for many years and is currently Principal of Collinstown Park Community College in Dublin.

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