Nazi sa Ghaeltacht tells the astonishing story of Dr Ludwig Mühlhausen, a folklore scholar from Germany who visited Teileann, a small village in the Donegal Ghaeltact, to learn Irish in 1937. Long been considered a figure of suspicion and intrigue in the region, TG4’s Irish language documentary sets out to discover the truth behind the rumours: was Mühlhausen a Nazi? Was he really in Ireland to improve his language skills or was there an ulterior motive? In this compelling investigation, journalist Kevin Magee turns to historians, archivists, and local Gaeilgeoirí to find out Mühlhausen’s links to the Third Reich.
Determined to find out more about the suspicious figure who befriended the locals – including Séamus Ó Caiside, renowned bibliographer and a pivotal member of the Irish cultural revival with whom he recorded many Irish songs and folk tales – Magee discovers an inquisitive man who was open about his Nazi membership and lamented the lack of industry in Ireland. He also enthusiastically participated in local customs while carefully documenting everything he encountered: alongside photographing everywhere he went, he went as far as measuring the depth of Teileann Bay by dropping lead weights into the tide.
While much of the hour-long documentary focuses on his time in the picturesque farming village, Magee traces Mühlhausen’s journey throughout Ireland where he travelled from Irish-speaking region to Irish-speaking region eventually making his way to Dublin and back to Berlin, all the while scrupulously avoiding any travel that would require crossing the border into Northern Ireland. Magee’s journey similarly takes him to the Military Archives in Dublin where the extent of Mühlhausen’s connections with the Nazi party are revealed in a secret file compiled by the Irish intelligence service. Finally, Magee travels to Berlin where he discovers how Mühlhausen’s own intelligence on Irish culture and landscape was forming part of a Nazi plan for Ireland.
Equal parts compelling and sobering, Nazi sa Ghaeltacht highlights how Nazi intelligence was operating throughout even the most remote regions of Europe before the war, and acts as a necessary reminder of Ireland’s role, whether intended or not, in wider world affairs.
Nazi sa Ghaeltacht is currently available on TG4 Player until the end of July.