Hermann Görtz

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Grave of Görtz in Glencree, Wicklow

Hermann Görtz (1890 – May 23, 1947) was a German spy in Britain and Ireland before and during World War II.

First trip to Broadstairs[edit]

Hermann Görtz (also Goertz in English) arrived in Britain on the 29 August 1935 with a secretary, Marianne Emig. They spent a few weeks in Suffolk and eventually moved to Broadstairs and rented a house. There they befriended British airman Kenneth Lewis and through him began to collect information about the RAF Manston air base. Emig asked for letters of Royal Air Force stationery and photographs of the planes and aerial views. When Lewis became concerned that he might be passing military information, she assured him that Britain and Germany would be on the same side in the next war. Lewis later testified that he was surprised at how much the couple already knew about the RAF.

Near the end of their six-week tenancy, Görtz visited Germany and telegraphed his landlady Mrs Johnson that he would be gone for two days and asked her to take care of his belongings in the outhouse, including his "bicycle combination". Görtz had meant his overalls, but Mrs Johnson thought he was referring to his Zündapp motorcycle. Mrs Johnson checked the outhouse, did not find the motorbike and reported to police that it had disappeared. When police investigated the apparent theft, they found sketches and documents about Manston airfield.

When Görtz returned to Britain three weeks later, police arrested him at Harwich. Emig had stayed behind in Germany.

Görtz was detained in Brixton prison. Police accused him of offences against the Official Secrets Act (effectively for espionage). The trial at the Old Bailey began in March 1936 and attracted much publicity. Görtz pleaded not guilty and claimed the documents were part of his research for an intended book about the enlargement of the British Air Force. He intended to write the book to pay off his creditors. Marianne Emig refused to come to Britain to testify for Görtz' defence, fearing that she would be tried as well.

According to evidence, including letters Görtz had sent his wife, it appeared that Görtz had been acting independently, possibly to impress the German intelligence service. He had already unsuccessfully applied for a position in the German Air Ministry. Further evidence also showed that he had been involved in the interrogation of Allied prisoners at the end of World War I.

Görtz was convicted and sentenced to four years of prison for espionage and sent to Maidstone Prison. In February 1939, he was released and deported to Germany. German military intelligence eventually did employ him and he reached the rank of major.

Plan Kathleen[edit]

In the summer of 1940, Görtz parachuted into Ballivor, County Meath, Ireland in an effort to gather information. He moved in with former IRA leader Jim O'Donovan.[1] His mission was to act as a liaison officer with the IRA and enlist their assistance during a potential German invasion of Britain. However, he soon decided that the IRA was too unreliable. On landing, he lost the 'Ufa' transmitter he had parachuted with. Goertz, attired in a Luftwaffe uniform, then walked to Dublin. He was not apprehended despite calling into a Garda barracks in Co Wicklow, asking for directions to Dublin. Goertz made it to Dublin and a “safe-house” at 245 Templeogue Road, Templeogue. He also stayed in a number of other properties during his 19 months at liberty. These include houses in Spencer Villas, Glenageary; Charlemont Avenue, Dún Laoghaire; Nerano Road, Dalkey; Winton Avenue, Rathmines; and a period house in Shankill, Co. Dublin. He stayed for a month at Brittas Bay, and more briefly at Laragh Castle, Glendalough, Co Wicklow, Fenit, Co Kerry and Mount Nugent, Co Cavan.[2]

In May 1940 the Irish police raided the home of an IRA member of German descent, Stephen Carroll Held, who had been working with Görtz, at his house at Blackheath Park, Clontarf. They confiscated a parachute, papers, Görtz's World War I medals, and a number of documents about the defence infrastructure of Ireland. The confiscated papers included files on possible military targets in Ireland, such as airfields and harbours, as well as detailed plans of the so-called "Plan Kathleen". This was an IRA plan for the invasion of Northern Ireland with the support of the German military. Held had brought this plan to Germany prior to Görtz's departure but his superiors had dismissed it as unfeasible.

Görtz went into hiding, staying with sympathizers in the Wicklow area and purposefully avoided contact with IRA safehouses. He remained at large for a total of eighteen months. When another IRA member, Pearse Paul Kelly, visited Goertz's hiding place in Dublin in November 1941, police arrested them both.

Görtz was interned until the end of the war. He was first detained in Mountjoy Prison but later moved to Custume Barracks, Athlone with nine others.

Hermann Goertz was released from jail in Athlone in August 1946. He went to live in Glenageary and became secretary of a charity called Save The German Children Fund. He was rearrested the following year and served with a deportation order by the Minister for Justice. He claimed to have been in the SS rather than a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe in an attempt to prevent his deportation but this claim was disproved by Irish Military Intelligence (G2) which also “promoted” him to Major when sending him messages allegedly from Germany. On Friday May 23, 1947 he arrived at the Aliens’ Office in Dublin Castle at 9.50am and was told he was being deported to Germany the next day. Although it had been stated to him that the Irish government had specifically requested that he not be handed over to the Soviets, he committed suicide.

The Irish Times reported that he: “Stared disbelievingly at the detective officers. Then suddenly, he took his hand from his trouser pocket, swiftly removed his pipe from between his lips, and slipped a small glass phial into his mouth. One of the police officers sprang at Goertz as he crunched the glass with his teeth. The officer got his hands around Goertz’s neck but failed to prevent most of the poison – believed to be prussic acid – from passing down his throat. Within a few seconds, Goertz collapsed.”[3] He was driven to Mercer’s Hospital and died there shortly after arrival.

Görtz was buried three days later in a Dublin cemetery. In 1974 his remains were transferred to the German Military Cemetery at Glencree, Co. Wicklow.

In 1983, RTÉ made a dramatised television series ("Caught in a Free State") about German spies in Ireland written by the poet, playwright and screenwriter Brian Lynch; Görtz was played by the actor Peter Jankowsky. One of Lynch's advisers was Colonel Dan Bryan, head of Military Intelligence.

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