Nazi background of prominent Irish publisher exposed

David McKittrick
Thursday 04 January 2007 01:00

The Nazi past of Ireland's foremost educational publisher is to be highlighted in a television programme to be broadcast on the state system, RTE, this month. The programme details the record of Albert Folens, a Belgian who after fleeing to Ireland following the war built up a highly successful business producing school textbooks.

Folens, who died in 2003 at 86, had not denied working for the Germans but minimised his part in the war. But his involvement with both the Gestapo and Waffen SS is to be revealed.

He was among a small number of Germans, Belgians and Dutch who arrived in the Irish Republic after 1945. Although some were suspected of having worked for Hitler, there was no determined official effort to weed them out.

Folens' general sympathies were no secret, though the particulars of his role were not generally known.

He was, the programme says, a volunteer in the Waffen SS Flemish legion, serving on the eastern front until he was wounded. After treatment in an SS hospital, he joined the Gestapo, working at their Brussels headquarters, he claimed, as a translator.

His name is said to have appeared on the US Army's Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects, known as Crowcass. But Folens always denied any involvement in torture or inhumane treatment.

Arrested by the British Army in Germany, he was sentenced to 10 years after a military trial. But he escaped after 30 months and fled to the Republic, on a false passport. In Dublin, he worked as a teacher then set up a publishing company, producing textbooks and copybooks for generations of Irish children. The concern flourished and he became a well-known figure.

At the time of his death, a dissident Irish republican organisation paid tribute to him as "a big-hearted benefactor of republican prisoners during the 1970s and 1980s", saying thousands of prisoners' children had benefited from his generosity.

A sympathetic obituary of him in a Dublin newspaper said he had joined Hitler's "Flemish Legion" - the 27th Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade Langemarck - for the specific task of fighting the Red Army. Another former Nazi lived in Belfast after the war. Werner Heubeck, a colourful businessman who had been a member of the Hitler Youth movement, and made no secret of his record, became managing director of the official transport company Ulsterbus.

His speciality during the Troubles, when many of his vehicles were set on fire and blown up, was to enter buses in which possible explosive devices had been placed. In many instances, he carried the devices off the vehicles.

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