In 1958 I went to Ireland, ostensibly to study at Trinity College Dublin. I was in and out of that institution very quickly, but stayed on in that great city for four years. There I first heard that Prime Minister DeValera had signed the condolence book at the German Legation on the death of Hitler. Neutral Ireland had a German legation in Dublin throughout the war, and Ireland had a legation in Berlin. I may have been a little naïve about some Germans I met in Dublin. I later learned Ireland had been one of the key staging posts on Germany’s collapse for getting various Nazis out of their country and on to resettle in other parts of the world. Invited to the flat of one guy, I saw on his mantle piece a card written in German. I asked for a translation, he obliged – ‘I wonder what made God choose the Jews’. The Catholic Church and certain government immigration people had conspired together bringing in the Nazis because like many in the German High Command they shared Roman Catholicism. And also because the Irish Catholic Church had always been deeply anti-Semitic.
I could not understand Ireland’s neutrality. By 1942 it was known that the Holocaust was up and running. So why were Ireland and other neutral countries turning a resolute blind eye to this genocide? Of course Germany was in many ways more a friend to Ireland than Britain whose repulsive wrecking behaviour over Eirenn had gone on for two hundred years. Also the Brits had only been foiled at one point from executing DeValera because he was an American. At any event I came to a conclusion about the generality of the idea of a country’s neutrality in a time of war – if you are neutral you are on the side of an enemy. Any neutral country that stands between two warring factions, one with right on its side, the other not, is tactically supporting the aggressor. This is the theme examined in the play Berlin Hanover Express in its setting of the Irish Legation in Berlin in 1942.
The Berlin Hanover Express opened at the Hampstead Theatre, March 5th 2009. Director Michael Rudman. The play has also been published by Oberon Books Ltd, London. ISBN: 978-1-84002-901-7.
The following review by Michael Coveney was published in the Independent newspaper on the 12th March 2009:
"The express train ran from Berlin to Hanover past the death camps. Do you stay on? Or jump off and bear witness? That's the question at the root of TV writer Ian Kennedy Martin's debut stage play, a powerful slice of period drama set in the Irish consulate of Berlin in 1942.
Two Irish officials, Mallin and O'Kane, are supposed to be maintaining political neutrality while sleuthing the files of a former colleague who might have passed on sensitive information – like the truth of what's happening – to the British. The nearly intertwined flags of the Irish Republic and the Third Reich over the door convey the official political line. But turning a blind eye becomes increasingly impossible as a German security officer, formerly maître d' at the Kempinski Hotel, stalks the legation's Polish cook with questions about her dissident brother and family origins. Mallin sticks to his guns, but O'Kane is wavering.
The chill statement that "a beautiful body is wasted on a Jewess" sums up the horror of the play's central scene, as the cook, played with ferocious dignity by Isla Carter, responds to the disgusting commands of the officer by striking defiant pornographic poses. Like Isabella in Measure for Measure, she believes she is saving her soul, and her brother's, by yielding her body. And like Isabella, she is deceiving herself.
It is a hard scene to watch, and the actors, and director Michael Rudman, spare us nothing. It is a fact that the new Irish Republic allowed the Germans to park U-boats on their shores, and that Pope Pius XII knew about the death camps. Hindsight makes it worse, but Sean Campion's finical, bespectacled Mallin, shuffling papers in docile compliance, at least runs up a flag for the idea of solidarity between two new European national enterprises.
His sidekick O'Kane, brilliantly and ebulliently played by Owen McDonnell, boasting of family connections to Eamon de Valera while doing a soft- shoe shuffle to "Deutschland über alles", is wising up like his predecessor, leaving Mallin to share common ground with Peter Moreton's bull-like officer.
An intriguing and entertaining play, meticulously directed, it might benefit from 10 minutes lopped off, specifically the extraneous speech about Romans. Otherwise, a palpable hit."
"Ian Kennedy-Martin has written a stimulating, at times chilling play."
"This is a remarkable stage debut."
What's On Stage
"Teasing moral thriller."