Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty was an Irish Oskar Schindler who saved over 6,500 lives during the German occupation of Rome in the Second World War. His escape organisation for Allied POWs, civilians and Jews was dangerous work for someone who was safe only within the Vatican. His network of contacts and helpers included religious, communists, British soldiers and singer Delia Murphy. Thwarting the efforts of Kappler, the Gestapo chief who ordered him captured or killed, O'Flaherty regularly ventured out in disguise. After Kappler was sentenced to life, his only visitor, monthly, was O'Flaherty. O'Flaherty was immortalised in the film The Scarlet and the Black with Gregory Peck as O'Flaherty and was awarded high honours, including a CBE (UK), the Congressional Medal (US), and was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office. He retired to Kerry in 1960 and his death three years later was reported worldwide. He is now commemorated in Ireland by a grove of Italian trees planted in Killarney National Park in 1994 and a statue in Killarney unveiled in 2013 on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
The Collins Press
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