The Story of German Radio’s Wartime Irish Service
by David O’Donoghue
Foreword by Professor J.J. Lee.

 It is nearly 75 years since Nazi Germany began targeting neutral Ireland with night-time radio propaganda programmes following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. In one of Dr. Josef Goebbels’ more unusual ploys, two German academics were chosen to bring Hitler’s message into Irish homesteads – as much for their party loyalty as for their command of spoken Irish.  Both men (Ludwig Mühlhausen and Hans Hartmann) had studied in Gaeltacht areas in the 1930s and were well known in pre-war Celtic studies circles. 

German Radio’s Irish service or Irland-Redaktion (one of 54 foreign language services put out from the Berlin Rundfunkhaus) was on air from December 1939 until May 1945, bringing a mixture of jigs, reels and Nazi propaganda to an Irish audience that was both small and largely indifferent to Berlin’s overtures. The Germans knew that Irish was not widely spoken but, nonetheless, they wanted to target extreme nationalists with a hard hitting anti-English slant which included lurid tales of British Army brutality in pre- independence Ireland. In addition, the regime in Berlin wanted Dublin to stay out of the war, hence Dr. Hartmann’s nightly exhortation “Coinnígí bhur neodracht” (keep your neutrality).  He also authorised the use of anti-Semitic broadcasts.  

In late 1941, Hartmann took overall charge of the Irland-Redaktion, under the direction of Dr. Adolf Mahr at the German Foreign Office (Mahr was, in fact, on leave of absence from his job as director of the National Museum in Dublin). Hartmann added English-language staff to augment his nocturnal talks in Irish. His team included the writer Francis Stuart.

But a more sinister aspect of the propaganda beamed to Irish radio listeners was the fact that it contained coded messages for German sympathisers, including the IRA, in Ireland.  The secret ciphers were hidden in extracts from Wolfe Tone’s diaries, read in Irish by Hartmann and in English by the Clare-born adventurer Jack O’Reilly.

Hitler’s Irish Voices is the first detailed study of the Nazis’ wartime propaganda message to neutral Ireland. It includes pen-pictures of the broadcasters, details of how the service began and how its message evolved as the war turned inexorably against the Third Reich. The book contains eye-witness accounts of what was going on behind the scenes in the Berlin radio centre as Hartmann’s team of broadcasters sought to persuade the Irish public that a German victory was in their best interests.   


David O’Donoghue is an author and historian specialising in Irish-German relations (both official and covert) in the 1933-1945 period of Nazi rule.  He has worked as a correspondent for RTE, the Irish national broadcasting service, and also as a journalist in Paris with the French international news agency Agence France-Presse. Dr. O’Donoghue is a PhD graduate of Dublin City University and is currently working on his first novel. Other books by the same author:

The Irish Army in the Congo 1960-1964: The Far Battalions (Dublin, 2005)

The Devil’s Deal: The IRA, Nazi Germany and the double life of Jim O’Donovan (Dublin, 2010)

 "Fascinating study" Irish Times

"Excellent" Books Ireland

"Outstanding " History Ireland

"Invaluable book" Irish Independent



ISBN: 978 0 9927364 08
27 February 2014