Refugees in Ireland, 1939-1945

Announcement Date: December 2, 2015


The history of Ireland’s acceptance of refugees during World War 2 is controversial. It is also greatly misunderstood as Dr. Gisela Holfter from the University of Limerick told an audience at the Irish Jewish Museum.

In an unscripted tour-de-force Dr. Holfter kept everyone engaged as she shared some of the outcomes of her research. She outlined the circumstances which compelling refugees to seek asylum in Ireland, together with the obstacles elements of the Free State government placed in their paths. She offers a diverse list of identities for consideration that ranged from obscure entrepreneurs to luminaries in the fields of academe, arts and science. The most notable of those who availed of asylum in Ireland was Noble Laureate but there were others equally esteemed in the field.

Dr. Holfter detailed the wide range of locations asylum seekers were assigned to, particularly those in the areas of manufacturing. This condition of entry explains why ribbon and hat manufacturing enterprises were established by Jewish businessmen in obscure Irish rural locations.

Dr. Holfter brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to a subject and a period that is largely overlooked in modern history.