Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future (2016) - full transcript
Hubert Butler was a leading voice in post World War 2 human rights, using insights he had gathered working and writing in Eastern Europe before and after the war. He exposed the scale of the Nazi inspired Croatian genocide and his work focused on the role played by the Christian Churches, in particular the Catholic Church. For this work he was labelled a communist in his home country of Ireland which was exorcised by the imprisonment of the Archbishop of Zagreb Aloysius Stepinac in 1946. As Butler was being silenced at home, Ireland was playing host (perhaps unwittingly) to former Croatian war-time Minister of the Interior Andrija Artukovic. Butler subsequently exposed this. Artukovic was finally put on trial in Zagreb in 1985. Above all, Hubert Butler recognised in the impunity of these war-time atrocities the seeds of future discord in Yugoslavia. Hubert Butler became an overnight publishing success at the age of 85 with publications emerging in Dublin, New York, London and Paris.
[Julia] My father,
when asked to describe himself,
he would always describe himself
as a market gardener.
Perhaps the most apt description
of Islamic State
is to be found in Hubert Butler's
The Invader Wore Slippers,
in which Butler defined
Ante Pavelić's fascist Croatia as,
quote, "The extraordinary alliance
of religion and crime."
[Roy] Hubert believed in a slap
being a necessary thing to administer.
He writes in a way
that is utterly distinctive.
You know, the maker's name
is on the blade.
This is one of the great essayists,
you know, and not just one
of the great Irish essayists.
He really is one of the great figures
in the history of this form.
[Olivia] To pick up a book of essays,
which was just so fresh,
it could have been written in our own day.
This man was 50 years ahead of his time.
[Christopher] Butler became international,
and his time had come.
It's always dangerous
to speak for the dead,
but I have a hunch
that Hubert Butler might agree when I say
that nationalism and religion,
so often the scourges of humanity
in the past,
are in danger of blighting
our young century.
[Robert] If Butler were around today,
the bumper sticker
he might have on his car would be,
"Act locally, think globally."
You know, that's very much, I think,
the way he tried to frame his own life.
Hubert Butler was born
into very much what you might call
County Unionist Anglo-Irish society.
His parents are unquestioning,
really, of the political status quo.
It's-- it is about King and Empire,
but they are also
very much responsible citizens,
they look after their local community
and feel a strong commitment
the village where Maiden Hall was located.
And so I think he grows up,
in what he remembered later,
as a blissful, kind of pastoral childhood.
And then very rudely is,
in his estimation, sent off
to school in England at the age of nine.
And this is a great trauma to him
as he recalled it later.
So, he's sent off to prep school
at a place called Bigshotte Rayles
and then gets a scholarship
to go to public school, to Charterhouse.
But this, of course,
meant travelling back and forth,
taking the mail boat home.
And it was during one of these trips
that he actually passed through Dublin
in the days right after the Easter Rising.
And for him, this was a sort of epiphany,
because he-he says the buildings
were still smoking
as he passed through Dublin.
Of course, the Great War was going on
and he was being trained
to get ready to go off to Flanders.
But he said in a way it felt like
what had happened in Dublin
was much more his war.
And so, his academic career
is really stellar,
and-and that leads him eventually
to St. John's College in Oxford.
And at Oxford, he happens to meet
some young people from the new states,
from Czechoslovakia, from Yugoslavia.
He says, at Oxford in-in-in 1918,
"There was springtime in the air."
It was about the breakup of empire
and the emergence of new states,
by a kind of Republican ideal.
[Joe] His mother, particularly, Rita,
she supported the union with Britain.
And she was extremely upset
by Hubert's wanting to be a nationalist,
that he shouldn't want to live in Ireland
and work in Ireland.
And so she had the bright idea of writing
to her cousin who, of course,
was Lord Grey of Fallodon,
the British foreign secretary
at that time,
who was a cousin of Hubert's mother,
hoping that she could
persuade Lord Fallodon
to get Hubert into the diplomatic service.
The same man who, of course,
a few years earlier had said--
and we're celebrating
a hundred years of that now--
"The lights are going out all over Europe.
I-I think we shall not see them lit again
in our lifetime."
Hubert was wise, missed out
being a diplomat and became, finally,
what he would want to be remembered as,
as an Irishman,
in the mode of Wolfe Tone and Henry Flood.
"There's no barriers north and south,
against the border, I am an Irishman."
That's how he wanted to be remembered,
and I think he is and will be…
[Robert] So there's a famous essay
by Butler called The Auction,
in which he describes
how his mother is very worried about him
as this adolescent who has somehow caught
the infection of nationalism,
which there's this sort
of extended metaphor in the essay
about it being akin
to catching tuberculosis,
and his mother wants somehow
to inoculate him against this.
So, he clearly becomes
more and more enamoured
of possibility of being
an Irish nationalist
and participating in all the change.
Tony Guthrie, who Butler meets
originally as an undergraduate
at St. John's Oxford.
Tony and Hubert really become
fast friends here in Oxford,
because they identify
as Irishmen in Oxford.
He meets Peggy through Tony,
and there's clearly
something going on there.
Tony organises a walking holiday--
for himself and for Peggy
and for Tony's to-be wife Judy.
And the four of them spend
the Easter Holiday walking together,
and that's really the beginning
of the romance.
Peggy Butler was a trained painter.
She had been to our school in London.
And I was aware that she was interested
in painting when I was a child,
but I was not aware at how good she was.
Later, when I saw her work
hung at Maiden Hall,
I thought, "Wow, she could have been
as famous a painter
as her brother, Tyrone Guthrie, was
an internationally famous
He is clearly not interested
in becoming a gentleman farmer
like his father has been.
And so he actually comes back to Ireland
to go to work
for the Carnegie Library Network
under the influence of Horace Plunkett,
and he's very much clear
that he wants to participate
in the building up the new--
the new nation.
But at the same time,
there's this tremendous sense
that it's going to be hard to make
a life as a young Irish Protestant,
given all of the challenges that
that community would be facing.
So, I think it's fair to say
that there is both a certain
pragmatic reason for Butler going abroad,
but there is also clearly a sense
that he wants to explore the world,
and he's deeply invested in the idea
that Irish people should be cosmopolitan.
Butler, always alluded to,
was that Ireland was one
of the 15 or so secession states
that emerged out of the first world war,
out of Versailles.
And that it, he felt,
was in a unique position
to lead the kind of understanding
of what it meant to be a secession state,
to be a new state in the interwar period.
And he stayed loyal to that idea.
Yugoslavia was. Ireland was.
Other states in the east.
So that eastern focus preoccupied him
because he always saw himself
as an inheritor
of the consciousness of a secession state.
Russia was the successor
of the collapsed Czarist empire,
so it was allied.
So, what does he do?
[narrator] "The great Russian writers,
Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov,
were almost always more conscious
of diversity of temperament
than of uniformity of needs.
Then Karl Marx and the revolution created
the Economic Man,
and while this wonderfully lifelike dummy
is in the shopwindow,
what hope is there for the genius
that is kindled by human diversity?
I once tried to talk
about these things at Goskurs
during the dangerous half-hour
of free conversation,
when my pupils and I,
under cover of grammar,
tried to find out what we were like.
One of them helped me out
with the cliché, 'ghosts of the past,'
which quenched what I had to say,
and instead I said that Petersburg,
like Alexandria and Constantinople,
had the tremendous toughness of cities
that were built around an idea,
not a market.
Peter's 'window upon Europe' had been made
for autocrats and bureaucrats,
but once opened it could not be shut.
Marx came through,
as well as Dickens and Byron
and George Sand and Henry George
and all the strange assortment
of foreign influences.
Tolstoy, no less than Dostoevsky
the Slavophile, had hated Petersburg
and its Western culture,
as the oyster hates the foreign body
it turns into a pearl,
but they could not ignore it.
And what they had accepted and adorned,
their successors could still less ignore."
[Roy] He knew the language.
He translated Russian.
He translated The Cherry Orchard
for his brother-in-law, Tyrone Guthrie.
He loved Russian writers
like Gogol and Lermontov
and those unpredictable,
slightly wacky insights
that-that they had.
Sean O'Faolain once told him
he could become an Irish Gogol
if he was dotty enough
to be-to be an Irish Gogol,
which he-- [laughs] Hubert wasn't dotty,
and-and he didn't quite become that.
He became something else.
He told me about Ukrainian nationalism
years and years and years
before I dreamt such a thing existed.
You know, this is way, way back in--
probably in the-in the late '80s.
I hadn't realised how important
those nationalisms had continued
to be in the Soviet world.
And, of course,
we've all caught up with them since.
[Robert] But then he comes back to London
and starts learning
what was then referred to as Serbo-Croat
at the-the School of Slavonic Studies.
And so, this really prepares him
to go out to Yugoslavia
and to really explore
that multiple cultures
that comprise Yugoslavia.
[classical music playing]
[Chris] "Here we are in Dalmatia,
on the island of Korčula,
late April in afternoon light.
Not very many hours later
and in bright sunlight,
we saw Dalmatian women
washing their clothes in the Adriatic.
Plum trees and blossom, hills covered
with narcissus and wild hyacinths,
mimosa and almond flowers, already faded,
and families sitting under magnolia trees,
and complaining of the weather.
In the meantime, I had crossed
the great barrier of Karst
that separates central Yugoslavia
from the Adriatic, and which accounts
for the extraordinary divergence
in the climate.
Yugoslavs say the Venetians cut down
the original forests
for the piles on which Venice was built
and later rains and storms
washed away the soil."
That observation about the cutting down
of the forest of Dalmatia in Herzegovina
by the Venetians
is a rather characteristic reflection
by Butler because, of course, implicitly,
he is thinking back to Ireland
where the British navy cut down,
and so the story goes,
most of the forests of Ireland.
It's a very good example of how
his Irish and his Yugoslav experience
cross-fertilised each other
to great effect.
The cypress which appeared
on all those Renaissance portraits
in the background,
the proto-green Hubert Butler
would have truly loved everything
about the cultural landscape,
the flora and fauna,
the Mediterranean aura
that is implicit in this landscape.
In short, not at all hard to see why,
for a fairly young Hubert Butler,
Croatia, at first, was an idyll.
The country parallels with Ireland,
the classical Italianates,
imprint and influence,
the whole new atmosphere
of the secession states,
the melding of the Slav and the Latin.
But, also because he was really,
or would become Ireland's Orwell.
He was always attuned.
He always had a fine antenna
for the political.
What began as an idyll
also had a dark side.
And the two things, I think,
in many respects, Ireland itself.
Ireland is a beautiful, green country
with many charming infuriating traits.
But it had-- has had a troubled,
[Chris] So this whole territory
of the former Yugoslavia
was, in fact, a territory of fault lines
between the two rites of Christianity,
between Islam and Christianity,
and between East and West.
It was to Split that the body
of the murdered King Alexander
was returned on October 1934.
He was assassinated
in Marseilles at the behest
of the Croat separatist movement
led by Pavelić.
Hubert Butler had just arrived in Croatia
and witnessed the mourning of the king.
More than any other event,
the assassination of King Alexander
suggested to Butler and others,
the fundamental precariousness
of interwar Yugoslavia.
As Butler would write…
[narrator] "During our time in Yugoslavia
the shadow of the assassination
hung over the whole country.
Hitler had come to power in Germany
and Jewish refugees were flocking
to the Dalmatian coast.
In Italy and Hungary,
Pavelić and his helper, Artukovitch,
were training the army of the Croat rebels
who were, in 1941,
to sweep into Yugoslavia with the Nazis
the Independent State of Croatia.
And yet my recollections
are of peace and beauty.
There was almost no traffic
in Jelačić Square.
Fat amethyst pigeons strutted
through the market stalls
looking for pickings
and panicking when the church bells rang.
The scent of mimosa and wood smoke,
holy candles and freshly tanned leather
drowned the faint whiff of petrol.
On Sunday, we walked up Slijeme Mountain,
while wild cyclamen and hellebore
grew through the beechwoods.
Zagreb, in the '30s,
was a very cultivated little town.
It had an opera house and theatres,
and there were still remnants
of an Austrianised aristocracy
in the leafy suburbs.
Dalmatia was Italianate and Belgrade
was still largely Turkish in character.
When one went south
and penetrated to Montenegro,
one seemed to pass from our cruel,
complicated century to an earlier one,
just as cruel,
where each man was responsible
to his neighbours for his crime
and where organised 20th-century barbarity
had not yet emerged."
And the contrast
I often think of when reading Hubert
on central and eastern Europe
in-in this era
is with the much touted
Patrick Leigh Fermor,
whose flowery purple prose books
about travelling as a young man
through the castles of, you know, Hungary
and Transylvania and these places
as a-- as a young man with a backpack
but always staying in very grand houses.
And I feel that there's far less
of the reality of what's happening
between people on the ground
in these incredibly complex,
and important areas, um,
than, I guess, in-- in Europe.
[Chris] This is Orašac,
a small, beautiful Dalmatian village
not far from Dubrovnik,
where Hubert Butler met in a cafe,
sometime during his first stay
the famous English novelist, Rebecca West.
In a letter to his mother,
he describes the afternoon
as pouring down with rain
and Rebecca West as being chauffeured
around the country
by her rich husband in a Roadster.
Butler asks West what she is doing here.
"I'm working on a novel on Yugoslavia,
or more precisely, Yugoslavia and me."
[narrator] "As the evening grows colder,
the Strand empties
and a group of boys come out
of the pinewoods,
where they had been collecting sticks,
and build a bonfire on the shore.
The rest of the sand sinks back
into the night
-and they are islanded in the firelight."
"As the flames burn higher, it is easier
to see their keen Jewish faces.
They have not yet lost the colours
of the Mediterranean,
though it may be many generations
since their ancestors
travelled up from Palestine
to the shores of the Baltic.
Persecution has hardened them
and given them strength
to survive war and revolution
and even to profit by them
and direct them.
Perhaps it is they, in the end,
who will decide the future
of Riga Strand."
[Chris] Many of the Jews
who got to Dalmatia,
particularly, escaped the holocaust.
What Butler saw
of the looming Jewish predicament
in eastern and central Europe
on Riga Strand, 1930,
what he saw
of the actual Jewish persecution
at a distance in Dalmatia
between 1934 and 1937,
what he gleaned from the darkening
international situation in the late '30s
and, of course, from the global media
led him inevitably
to one of the epicentres
of what might be called
the Interwar Jewish Crisis namely Vienna,
the old imperial capital
of Austria, Hungary,
from which the Yugoslav lands
had only recently been detached.
-[marching band playing]
[narrator] …all the way here
to visit a friend of his.
The name is Lime. Harry Lime.
Now Martins was broke
and Lime had offered him some sort of--
I don't know, some sort of a job.
Anyway, there he was, poor chap,
happy as a lark and without a cent.
[upbeat music playing]
[Fintan] It must've been a time
of incredible stress.
He went to Vienna, really, as…
just an agent of conscience.
He wasn't there on behalf of anybody.
He wasn't, initially,
with any organisation.
He just went because he had a sense
that something really, really terrible
was about to happen to the Jews of Europe,
and he just had a-a moral sense
that he had to do
as much as he possibly could
to rescue as many people as possible.
There's this image of the essay writer,
you know, as someone who--
who's a bit abstracted,
who's just an observer.
But he clearly got enormous pleasure
out of the fact that he could--
he could really--
he could hustle, he could hassle,
he could manoeuvre, he could manipulate,
he could get things done.
And in doing that, he-he managed
to just get a lot of people
out of-- out of Vienna
who-who otherwise would've died.
I mean, there's no question.
[Robert] He volunteers
to work for the Quakers in Vienna
and works closely with Emma Cadbury,
a famous Quaker activist,
to try to get as many Jewish people
out of Vienna as possible.
[Fintan] Butler's position
was a little bit anomalous,
because he was working with the Quakers,
but he wasn't one of them.
He didn't really have any kind
of official position.
And I suppose
he-he kind of had some of the glow
of-of-of the-- you know,
the Quaker history in Vienna
where they were very highly regarded,
and they had all
particularly with Austrian--
Nazis who were Austrians.
And he was able to, you know,
use his suave Anglo-Irish manners
to get himself into embassies
to try to talk to people.
In the end, Butler had to break the law.
He really did have to take-take the law
in his own hands to a very large extent
by simply shipping people
out of Austria, getting them to England,
having his wife Peggy meet people
at the station in London and take them,
pretty much illegally, to Bennettsbridge
and then try to-to get them onwards
But, in fact, Butler himself
draws upon various favours
from people he knows in Ireland
to house various adults
and children from the group.
So, the Quaker community
really steps forward.
Now whether people were turning
a blind eye
or whether there was
just an assumption that, you know,
if this nice man was coming across
on the boat
with these respectably-dressed people,
it was probably okay, is really not clear.
You know, but-but-but it's--
What is clear is that he was operating
very much on his own initiative,
and-and-and himself and Peggy
were really doing this
according to their own likes.
Ireland's official community
for those who are trying to get out
of Nazi-occupied Europe was
the committee to aid Christian refugees.
The word "Christian" was specifically put
into the institutional support
that was there.
And so you have this interesting
distinction the government makes.
And of course,
Butler is pretty antagonised and angry
by the Irish government's refusal
to recognise the gravity of the problem.
And the thinking here was--
and this was said--
Hubert Butler reported it--
this having been said
very directly to him was that,
"Well, sure, the American Jews
will look after the Jews
and our job, therefore,
is to look-look out for Christians.
Perhaps, Jews who have converted
to Christianity would be okay,
they were none of our concern."
[Robert] In 1938, he attends
the famous Evian Conference
where the issue of Jewish refugees
is being discussed.
And he tells this story
with evident frustration and anger
about the two Irish delegates
at the conference
who say something to the effect of,
"Sure, nobody came to our aid
when we were in trouble."
And to him, this sort of summarizes
the Irish blinkered understanding
of what's at stake and just how dangerous
the condition of Jewish people is.
But there was also a deep reservoir
There was a sense
that you couldn't really be bringing
large numbers of Jews into Ireland,
because they would be an irritant
in the body politic.
"They wouldn't fit in,
they wouldn't be like us."
And Ireland was this
sort of beautifully
homogeneous Catholic society
and we didn't need these aliens.
It's very striking that Butler described
his-his time in Vienna
as the happiest time in his life,
because he could do something practical.
[Robert] It's again a dilemma for Irish--
Southern Irish Protestants
or Anglo-Irish Protestants,
is once the war begins,
there is this sense of loyalty.
And obviously, the British Crown
and the UK being under threat,
the question is, do they go and join
the war effort and of course fight?
Fighting fascism is a value
that they have, anyway, many of them.
So people like-- Louis MacNeice
goes to fight fires in London.
Samuel Beckett, already in France
but joins the French Resistance.
Elizabeth Bowen, her own strange tale
of making war reports
to the British government.
Butler flirts briefly with joining
British military intelligence,
and they're interested in him because
he's a linguist, he's well-travelled,
he knows a huge amount
about the European situation.
But at the end of the day,
he says to himself,
"No, I have to put my efforts
[calming music playing]
[Christopher] I was about six
when I first met Peggy and Hubert Butler
And then seven, eight, nine and ten
when we stayed from time to time
at Maiden Hall.
I was very much aware of the war,
because my mother kept telling us
that my father was engaged in the war,
and he would soon come home.
But I really had no interest in him.
[Robert] So, life at Maiden Hall
was-was a complicated situation,
I think, financially.
Obviously, Butler had inherited
this 18th century mansion,
a house of the middling size.
but nonetheless, you know,
not an easy property to keep going.
But because of his literary inclinations,
because of the travel he had done,
Butler had never really settled
into a professional life.
So the question was, how to keep going
and how to live the kind of cultured life
that he and Peggy valued?
Neither of-- of them had jobs
in the normal way of describing jobs,
and so they took these paying guests.
We paid three pounds, five shillings
a week each, I think, to stay there,
and I do not know if that actually covered
the cost of our stay,
the food, the laundry and so on,
but it must have
or they wouldn't have gone on doing it.
[Robert] And that's where Peggy, again,
I think deserves so much credit
for making this life possible.
Because she was so creative,
she turned that creativity
into making a life for the family,
making it financially viable.
She raised lots of children
who came to live at Maiden Hall
when their parents were off
either in the colonial service
or working abroad
in tea plantations in Ceylon
or wherever it was
these Anglo-Irish people had gone.
Often, it was the Butlers
who they would turn to and say,
"Please look after our children
during the school holidays," and so forth.
So that, obviously, was one way
that they had an income,
but it's clear that the Butlers
did have to struggle to-to make ends meet
even as they led
this very cultivated life.
Well, I hope I'm about
to turn up something really exciting.
"How much of the draft did you pay?"
House and land contents.
Yeah, I know that my parents
had absolutely no money,
and my father as a market gardener
didn't make very much.
And he didn't have enough land
to really do more farming
than have a market garden.
And they had a large house
and a single child. That was me.
So they took in children
whose families were not able to have them
for one reason or another
during the war or after the war.
And Joe was, of course, here.
He came when he was the youngest of all,
and he was here for the longest.
I suggest that this carving suggests
on my part as a child and, no doubt, now.
Oh, because no other
carving was allowed. I remember.
The other children wanted
to carve their names,
and I said, "No, no, no.
This tree is for me.
You can go and carve your names
on some other tree but not this one.
This is my tree."
[Julia] I had no problem with it,
that I remember.
We just all got on very well,
and it was a big group of children
who mostly got on well.
Some less well than others,
I think, got on pretty well.
[Robert] And then of course,
Butler, like not a few Anglo-Irish,
became interested in country markets
and how he could make something
of a living by market gardening.
And so the orchards and gardens
at Maiden Hall at their height
were quite a big operation.
[Julia] Here are the beehives.
My father was very keen on bees.
These are the gardens
with the rows of fruit and vegetables,
all neatly lined,
and the fruit against the wall
in the Espalier apple trees.
My father, when asked,
to describe himself either on a form
or to somebody or in any sense,
he would always describe himself
as a market gardener.
He never considered himself
that he was a writer.
And this the orchard
that my grandfather planted in--
I believe it was the 1940's
when he inherited--
when his father died
and he inherited Maiden Hall
and the small acreage around it.
That one were--
is may be the Blenheim orange.
Or is it this tree here?
five different kinds of apple trees onto,
and it was his pride and joy
because all the grafts took.
He was very proud
of the King of the Tompkins.
-Which was one of the grafts…
-Which was one
-one of the grafts, yes.
-…of these five.
And I don't know if this
is what we're eating now.
-Which is delicious!
-It's absolutely delicious.
-[Suzanna] It's really delicious.
-[Lynn] I know. Yeah.
[Julia] He hated driving.
He was a really, really bad driver.
His driving habits were very erratic.
And if he was driving slowly
and quietly and peacefully,
he was thinking about the garden
and the orchard,
but if he was driving fast,
and furiously and not well,
he was thinking of something like Croatia,
which disturbed him and infuriated him.
[narrator] "When an incendiary
sets a match to respectability,
it smoulders malodorously,
but piety, like patriotism,
goes off like a rocket.
The jackboot was worn
by the Croats themselves
and used so vigorously
against the schismatic Serbs
that the Germans and the Italians,
who had established
their little state, were amazed.
Pavelić, the regicide ruler of Croatia,
was himself the epitome,
of the extraordinary alliance
of religion and crime,
which for four years
made Croatia the model
for all satellite states in German Europe.
He was extremely devout,
attending mass every morning
with his family
in a private chapel built onto his house.
He received expressions of devoted loyalty
from the leaders of the Churches,
including the Orthodox, whose murdered
metropolitan had been replaced
by a subservient nominee."
[Chris] There is, in human affairs,
a kind of iron full spectrum
of how any society handles
Societies can move very quickly
from what we would call multiculturalism,
that is to say celebration
and incorporation of diversity,
to integration, to segregation,
to apartheid, to massacre, to genocide.
That, at least,
the 20th century has taught us
and the 21st century is reteaching us.
The NDH, based on cultural
and religious conflicts,
dispatched with the first six
of those options
and moved directly within one month
to full-scale genocide.
[Chris] "At the peak of the transports,
the surplus prisoners were killed
in the camp itself.
Summarizing the memories
of the surviving camp prisoners,
Lav vividly describes how this worked.
Ritz would separate groups
of eight to ten people from the camp
based on a list of names
jotted down on a small sheet of paper.
He did this two or three times
for a total of about 30 to 40 prisoners.
They were taken, unbound,
along the path that led to the camp.
Whether they were tied together
once they were away from the camp
was not known,
but an hour or an hour and a half
after their departure,
gunshots could be heard.
It is understood
that the executions were carried out
at a cave below Grga's Hill,
as indicated by the statements
of the camp survivors.
The cave has not been investigated
by speleologists to this day.'
I imagine my father in the Jadovno Camp,
in the evening shade,
as he listens to the shooting
from Grga's Hill.
He had arrived in Jadovno
from Danica via Gospić
on July 17 or 18,
when the camp was already overcrowded
and the executions
of the 'surplus' prisoners
had already begun.
did Ritz call out my father's name
and send him off to Grga's Hill,
or did my father lose his life
in the final extermination of the camp?
I know I will never find out,
but I cannot help but think
of my father's last days, last moments."
In English, two bodies of work
stand out pre-eminently
for their treatment of the atrocities
of the independent state of Croatia.
The first is Slavko Goldstein's
magisterial work of history and memoir,
translated from the Croatian entitled,
1941: The Year That Keeps Returning.
The second is Hubert Butler's
collected Balkan essays.
[narrator] "'Why not let bygones
be bygones?' they say.
'If we rake these things up,
we'll merely start trouble at home
and play into the hands of the Communists.
And anyway, they are always
killing each other in the Balkans.'
I once heard an ambassador in Belgrade
argue like that,
and indeed I have never heard
a British or American official abroad
argue in any other way.
When in 1946 I went to Zagreb
and looked up the files
of the wartime newspapers of Croatia
in which the whole story was to be read,
it was obvious that no foreign inquirer
had handled them before,
and the library clerks regarded me
with wonder and suspicion."
[whispers] Here we are
in the very reading room
of the old library
of the University of Zagreb
where Hubert Butler read many
of the Church newspapers published
during the independence date of Croatia.
He was researching, as he put it,
what resistance, if any was made,
by organised Christianity
to the ruthless militarism of Pavelić,
the Croat national leader
and his German and Italian patrons.
These days in the library at Zagreb
were proved decisive
for the entire course
of Hubert Butler's life and work.
-Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
So that's five days.
-Seven days, excuse me.
And what is the sense of that?
What is the essence of that?
This is the annual Ustasha legal code
that led to the suffering
of so many people.
This book led to this book.
Reflecting on this stark juxtaposition,
I can now say that never before
have I seen such a dramatic illustration
of the actual power of writing,
especially in modern societies
and perhaps especially
in totalitarian societies.
This book records simply name,
dates of life,
ethnicity, date and place of death.
The number of those murdered now stands
at about 84,000
and they are still counting.
[Robert] Throughout the late 1940s,
Butler becomes increasingly interested
in this issue
of the forced conversion campaign.
So, what was the Catholic Church's role
in what eventually seems to have been
the slaughter of about half a million
[Chris] The site of the camp at Jasenovac
was chosen very strategically.
At a brick works, next to a train line,
beside a river and with deep forests
and marshes nearby.
The trains brought the human beings,
the deep forests and marshes
took their bodies.
It was a big death camp,
the biggest outside Greater Germany,
Poland and the occupied Soviet Union.
The word "Jasenovac" means
"Place of the ash trees."
Rather like the German concentration camp,
Birkenau means "birch wood."
Like Auschwitz, Jasenovac was both
a concentration camp and a death camp.
These very trees, these very old trees,
saw it all like living witnesses
to the past.
[speaking in foreign dialogue]
[speaking in foreign dialogue]
[classical music playing]
[Chris] Hubert Butler wrote specifically
about what happened
in this Orthodox parish in Vrlika
in his 1947 essay,
Father Chok and Compulsory Conversion.
Butler cites a typical leaflet
issued by the Catholic hierarchy
urging the Orthodox to convert.
Abridged, the leaflet reads,
"Our Lord Jesus Christ declared
that there should be one flock
and one shepherd.
That is to say, there must be one Church
and one Head of the Church,
who is the representative of Christ
and the chief priest
in the Church of Christ.
Members of the Orthodox Church,
we must introduce that unity into Croatia.
The bishop of Čakovec has already received
thousands of citizens
into the Catholic Church.
you will be able to stay in your homes
and carry on your husbandry uninterrupted.
In the Catholic Church,
you will be able to save
your immortal souls
according to the sacred words
of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
"Many will say
that these missives had at worst
the embarrassed connivance of the bishops,
but though the concentration camps
were full with men
who opposed Pavelić's new order,
there is no record of a bishop going there
for violent opposition
to the leaders' intervention
in ecclesiastical affairs."
He describes a law student,
a young law student,
a Catholic from Croatia who excelled
in massacring Orthodox Serbs
who refused to convert to Catholicism.
And this young man
slashed the throats of 1,360 Serbs,
and he won the prize for doing this.
He won a silver tea set, a gold watch
and a roast suckling pig.
And Butler keeps pressing the issue.
He goes back out to Yugoslavia
to try to learn more,
to reconnect with some of the people
he knew when he was there in the '30s,
and comes back to Ireland
and finds that nobody wants to know.
Nobody's interested, because it doesn't
fit with the received narrative.
[narrator] "The trial of General Kvaternik
and five other Quisling ministers
of Croatia and of Siegfried Kasche,
to the Independent State of Croatia,
which has just concluded in Zagreb
was of the highest importance,
yet as it happened at the same time
as the Zagreb fair,
it excited relatively little interest.
Obviously, in Yugoslavia,
a new philosophy of justice
quite different from ours is shaping.
Each trial seems more closely related
to immediate needs
than to ultimate principles.
It is possible that when the need
for stability becomes less urgent,
this tendency will be reversed.
In the meantime,
it must be admitted the guilt
of the accused has usually been so obvious
that justice has not suffered
by the preoccupations of the judges.
All seven prisoners were condemned
It was a just sentence,
and the trial,
insofar as it concerned them,
was fair enough."
[Robert] Very much the postwar narrative
is, we enter the Cold War
and the Catholic Church
has very much positioned itself
against the forces of Communism.
And so, when you have people
like Archbishop Stepinac
and Cardinal Mindszenty
who are arrested by the Communist regimes
in their respective countries,
it seems that they are portrayed
as very much martyrs
to the cause of anti-Communism.
[Chris] Tito offered to suspend the trial
if Archbishop Stepinac was withdrawn
to Rome, but the Vatican refused.
Amazingly, in 1951, Butler managed
to gain access to Lepoglava Prison
and to interview Archbishop Stepinac
in his private cell.
with Archbishop Stepinac here at Lepoglava
is an extraordinary moment
in what might be called
the literature of actuality.
So when Butler starts saying things like,
well, actually, some of the hierarchy--
the Catholic hierarchy knew about
at the very least and perhaps
were even complicit in wartime atrocities,
this cuts right across
the received narrative.
And in 1950s Ireland,
the anti-Communist narrative
is the dominant narrative.
And so by 1952,
Butler is becoming increasingly frustrated
that he can't get this story told,
and so that was going to lead him
into one of the great moments
of his public life.
Hubert was invited to go to a meeting
with the International Affairs Association
in Dublin, and he went.
And the topic of the meeting
was an address by Peadar O'Curry,
who was, I think, the editor
of the Catholic Standard at the time.
And O'Curry was giving a talk
on the passion of persecution
O'Curry had set himself up, really,
as a kind of intellectual policeman
looking out for Communists
or-or Communist fellow travellers
as he saw them,
particularly in the Irish media.
So, he'd really kind of set himself up
as a kind of policeman of the Irish media,
people were very afraid of him.
O'Curry, you know, was-was using
the pages of Catholic Standard
to denounce people who he thought
were-were closet Communists.
We know that he was
cooperating very closely
with the Irish Special Branch,
with the police.
O'Curry's reports were-were
on Special Branch files.
And we know, extraordinarily,
that they found their way--
at least some of them, found their way
from Irish Special Branch files
into CIA files, for example,
so even American intelligence
was-was paying attention
to what O'Curry was saying
about suspected Communists
in-in the Irish media.
And Hubert stood up at the end
of the address and said,
"You can't talk about the passion
of persecution in Yugoslavia
without going back to the persecution
of the Orthodox Serbs
during the 1940s
by the Croatian government,
who had had forced conversions
to Roman Catholicism."
And he had already started
on this observation,
when a dignified figure
in the front of the room
and his companion,
who was equally clad in black, walked out.
And the man was Archbishop O'Hara,
who was an American archbishop
who was there as a nuncio in Dublin.
[Robert] But as soon
as the Papal Nuncio walks out,
journalists surround Butler,
because it's thought
that he has created a diplomatic row
by insulting the Papal Nuncio.
So, what emerges, essentially,
is that Butler is regarded
as something of a-- an embarrassment,
really, a national embarrassment,
because the official representative
of the Vatican has been seen
to be embarrassed
and to have been insulted
by this Irish Protestant from Kilkenny.
Kilkenny had heard he had been insulted,
and by a Kilkenny man, they went berserk.
And there was
a very powerful campaign against Hubert,
who is blamed for insulting the nuncio.
And then, chairman
of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society
Dr. Phelan, whom I knew well,
led this campaign to have him removed
from the society immediately.
[Robert] He finds that he is ostracized
by those who are embarrassed
about what he said
but also angry that he seems
to have insulted their Church.
And yet, much to his disappointment
he doesn't feel that he gets much support
from his own fellow Protestants.
Who supports him? Who rallies around him?
Well, it's more other intellectuals,
many of them from a Catholic background,
and many of the-the cultured
and educated members
of the Kilkenny society
who he's come to know and trust.
And they're the ones
who really stand up for him
in the face of what's quite
a considerable personal assault
on him and on his family.
The creamery manager
on Bennettsbridge was told
that they-- all the creameries cooperative
were passing a condemnation of my father.
All he had done was ask a question,
and it was perfectly legitimate
in a public meeting.
And he had no idea
that the Papal Nuncio was there.
My grandfather, John O'Leary,
was the president
of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society,
the first president
of the Archaeological Society,
And he and Hubert Butler
would've been colleagues.
Not really so much friends,
because their social position
was quite different.
My grandfather was the local baker
in Grange Manor.
Hubert Butler was part of, you know,
the Anglo-Irish landed gentry.
But they would've worked together
in that society.
And what happened was
that a motion to expel Hubert Butler
from the Kilkenny Archaeological Society
was put forward as a result
of the nuncio incident.
And the motion was put--
the motion was not carried,
it was defeated.
People forget that. It was defeated.
So my grandfather,
as president chairing the meeting,
never had to actually cast a vote.
Now, it would've been difficult for him.
He had great admiration for Hubert Butler,
but he was an Irish Catholic.
The Church in the, you know,
1950s and to the '40s
was very much the dominant power
in his world.
The Church mattered much more
than the government or anybody else,
so for him to have gone against
what would've seemed to be
the Church's position
would've been very, very difficult.
[Fintan] You have to remember
that the Catholic Church was here
long before the State was.
So, you know, when the State
the Church already had enormous control
over every aspect of cultural, social,
intellectual and moral life, you know.
That-that was the terrain
it sowed for itself,
and it was really pretty unchallenged
in that terrain.
You know, [stammers] it was able
to get the State to pass laws,
which were completely in keeping
with-with Catholic theology
on all of those questions.
But perhaps even more pervasively,
it-it was just that sense
that you did not take on this institution.
You know, it-it had the power
to anatomise people.
If you were-if you were outside
of the Catholic consensus,
you were at risk of being outside
of our society, of being an outlaw.
[Robert] The big and most hurtful
effects of the Papal Nuncio incident
is that he is forced out
of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society,
because he's seen to have insulted
the piety of-of local Catholics,
as a particularly terrible result.
Now, in retrospect, this might seem like
pretty small potatoes,
but given how much he cared
about the society as an emblem
not only of his passion for archaeology,
but as a sort of symbolic meeting place
for Catholic and Protestant
in the local community.
[Olivia] To be Catholic was to be Irish.
There was an element
of being loyal to the tribe
and the feeling that Hubert Butler had
insulted a prince or chief of the tribe.
There's quite a thick file
in the National Archives in Dublin,
which is simply the passport application
by Hubert Butler and his wife Peggy
to have their passports renewed.
You'd think it's a kind of very standard,
ordinary piece of-of business.
It actually generates quite
a substantial file in 1958, saying,
"Should we renew this man's passport?"
You know, "He's a danger to Ireland.
He's a-- He has a bad reputation.
He's going around the place,
and God knows what he's saying,
God knows what he is looking at."
this-this goes all the way up
from the sort of-- the ordinary, you know,
clerical officer level right up
to the head
of Irish Military Intelligence,
is-is consulted whether or not
the man's passport can be renewed.
I don't think Hubert Butler knew
anything about this at the time,
because his passport subsequently
was renewed in the end.
But on that file,
there was just a very enigmatic note
the Office of the President of Ireland,
who was Seán T. O'Kelly at the time,
has entered a caveat
against Hubert Butler. [chuckles]
Now, it's hard to know
exactly what this means,
but a caveat means "a warning."
And it seems to mean
that there's a warning,
which has gone from the president
all the way down
through the system to say,
"This man is not to be involved
in any official engagement at all.
He's a-- he's a bad egg.
If-if you're seen with him,
if you're seen in his company
or if you're photographed with him,
it's a bad thing.
So stay away from Hubert Butler
and keep Hubert Butler
away from the State."
[Joe] He was thought to be
a Communist already,
a Red, a danger to the body politic
and the republic,
that he was sort of an advanced guard
of a-of a Communist takeover
of the Republic,
and that he had binoculars
in the front room of Maiden Hall
and was working out on conditions
where the Red Army would be able
to get a billet in the Club House Hotel
in Kilkenny and so on.
The man who was sent down
to investigate the thing,
a sergeant who lurked outside
the front gate, apparently,
watching all the comings and goings, said,
"No, there was no evidence of his being
a spy or a Red Communist, not at all."
But the information that he had gathered
was quite-- quite clear
he was a farmer,
a market gardener, an apple grower,
who had written a few pieces
which might perhaps be considered
a little left of centre,
but nothing serious, nothing serious.
[Fintan] I think the implications
for-for Butler of this kind of hostility
that you find in the State files,
I mean, is that, you know,
he really is persona non grata.
And the State even doesn't recognise
the fact that, you know,
that there's any kind of valid role
to be played by a dissident intellectual.
You know, remember,
Butler was not a subversive,
he wasn't a Communist,
you know, he wasn't someone who was out
to ferment revolution in Ireland.
I mean, he was engaged
in no illegal activities of any kind.
And yet, here's this kind of stain
on his character,
that, you know,
he's a-he's a dangerous individual
and of course this means
that-- that, you know,
he's-he's never going to be engaged
at any public level at all.
[Chris] In those months
when Butler was attending
the war crimes trials in Zagreb,
a major Croat fascist war criminal
had escaped the city and Tito's justice
and was making his way to Ireland.
Butler would later make it his business
to find out how Dublin had played host
to the man.
Well, we know
Artukovitch was a very major figure
in-in the Croatian genocide.
He's the interior minister.
He's, you know, very much hands on
in terms-in terms of mass murder.
We know that he's smuggled out
of Croatia at the end of the war
through Catholic Church channels
and finds his way into Ireland,
under the protection
of-of, you know, Catholic priests,
using an alias.
He's then given Irish identity papers
under the new name,
which was crucial for him,
because it allows him then
to enter North America as the new person
that he's pretending to be,
but with Irish identity papers.
They could not have got
these identity papers
without official help,
so this isn't just about
these kind of right-wing Church sources
who were-who were smuggling him out.
At some point, he has to get
the official stamp of the Irish State.
And Hubert Butler discovers this
and begins to try to unpick it.
It-- It's a great piece of detective work
to try to find out, you know,
"How did this happen?
Where did Artukovitch live in the years
that he was in Ireland?
Who was in touch with him?"
And he writes
this absolutely brilliant essay,
which doesn't really answer
all the questions.
And what-- you have kind of
the dramatisation of Butler himself
trying to follow different leads,
trying to find out who these people are,
what they knew of him.
And he was finding a lot of people saying,
"Oh, he was a lovely man.
He was absolutely gorgeous,
his family were lovely,
and I don't believe he could ever
have done any of those nasty things."
And so in itself,
it becomes a great moral essay
about people's blindness to evil.
[classical music playing]
"I could not get it out of my head.
Artukovitch had stayed
for a year in Ireland.
How had he come here?
Who had sheltered him and where?
In the spring of 1966 I was in Dublin
for a week and I decided to find out.
Here was a clue.
His nine-year-old son, Radoslav,
had been born in Ireland.
The children had been exploited
sentimentally to mask the truth,
so they could be used to rediscover it.
I went to the Customs house
and after a prolonged search,
I found Radoslav Anitch's
He was born on the 1st of June 1948
at the Prague House Nursing Home,
28 Terenure Road East.
He was the son of Alois Anitch,
professor of history,
of 6 Zion Road, Rathgar.
On the strength of this discovery,
I sent a letter to all the Dublin dailies,
explaining that I was writing an account
of the Independent State of Croatia,
1941 to '45,
and that I wished information
about the former Minister of the Interior,
Andrija Artukovitch, who had lived
at 6 Zion Road, Rathgar, in 1947.
Only The Irish Times printed my letter,
turning him into a lady called Audrey."
[Fintan] It's not at all surprising
that the Artukovitch files
remained under lock and key for so long
because, after all, I mean,
here was the state effectively colluding
to allow a war criminal
to escape from genocidal crimes.
Now did the state do that accidentally?
[Michael] Now, Chris, here it is.
This is the Department
of External Affairs file
on Andrija Artukovitch's sojourn
in Ireland 1947 to '48.
There it is in front of you,
[Chris] Amazing to be
before this right now.
Basically, a stand or a censoring
has been taken at the highest level
against Hubert Butler,
even as other officials
in the Department of External Affairs
are aware of Artukovitch's criminal past,
and very likely had intimations
of the Catholic Church's involvement
in the genocide
during the Independent State of Croatia.
But if you go back to 1946,
there was an attempt made
by a group of Croatian students in Rome
who were hiding out in the Vatican
to get to Ireland.
And their mentors
and their minders approached
the Irish embassy to the Holy See
and asked Ireland's ambassador
to the Vatican, Tommy Kiernan,
if it would be possible
to get safe passage to Ireland,
to get passage to Ireland.
And Kiernan was wily
and he sends reports to Dublin saying,
"These guys are gonna make contact
with you, but they're Ustasha.
They're bad lot,
they've got a bad background
and we need to be aware of this
before the country gets in too deep."
Now, he sends the reports
to a man called Joe Walshe,
who was Ireland's top diplomat,
he was the head
of the Department of External Affairs,
but Walshe was different
from Kiernan in one critical way.
He was an ardent Catholic,
he was a former Jesuit,
he hadn't finished his training,
but to him, the Catholic Church
was the centre of the universe
and Rome, you know,
was so important at its centre.
So when Walshe picks up this dispatch
from Kiernan, it was perfect.
"Of course we welcome
these Croats into Ireland
if they can be given
the right documentation."
[Chris] This is the reference written
for Artukovitch by the Delegate General,
that is to say the head
of the Franciscans of Switzerland.
Now this process continues.
Kiernan actually gets recalled
from the Vatican
and replaced by Walshe.
And the man who takes over there,
a much more urbane,
astute diplomat than-than Walshe,
he brings this idea to the Archbishop
of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid,
who, you know, saw himself
as the prince of the Church
and very much the ruler
of Catholic Ireland, if you like.
And McQuaid takes one look
at this correspondence,
and McQuaid wrote
in a very, very succinct style, he says,
"I don't want this dumped on me,"
for want of a better word.
"The Vatican are trying to fob off
their problems on me."
I paraphrase slightly in this,
but that's the gist of it.
But I think it's McQuaid's warning
is what Boland listens to.
After the trial of Archbishop Stepinac,
the mood changes in Ireland
towards the Catholic Church in Croatia.
And I think that forms the background
to why the Artukovitch/Anitch
and Ivandich visa applications
are looked on in a more positive light
by the Department of External Affairs
and its officers in 1947.
But what it also does point out to him
and he's very eloquent on this topic,
is how the local and the national
and the international all come together,
that really, just as he is fighting
for certain principles
in his own neighbourhood,
so if people had been more responsible
in local neighbourhoods in Croatia,
perhaps the slaughter there
wouldn't have taken place.
And this is such an important theme
in Butler's writing,
which is that local relationships,
be they in Ireland
or on the outskirts of Paris,
when Jewish children are sent
to the death camps,
or be it in Croatia
during the forced conversion campaign,
it's all about the eye-to-eye
daily contact with your neighbours
that-that has to be maintained
in the face of ideology,
of religious extremism,
and the sort of bureaucratising
and dehumanising impact of modern life.
[narrator] "They spent four days
without food at the Vélodrome d'Hiver,
the winter cycle racing stadium,
before their mothers were taken from them,
then they were loaded three or four
hundred at a time into cattle trains
at the Gare d'Austerlitz
and taken to Auschwitz.
It was related at Nuremberg
that an order came from Berlin
that deportees from Vichy France should be
mingled discreetly with the children
to make them look like family groups.
Was this done?
It is not as though dubious legend
has grown up around these children
as it has around King Herod's
far smaller enterprise in Bethlehem.
The facts are bleak and few.
It should not be hard to find more
and to iron out discrepancies,
but no one seems interested."
[Lara] Butler wrote in 1968,
which was the-- actually the year
of the May Revolution.
At the time, people were not
very focused on the Second World War.
They were not focused
on the issue of collaboration.
On the contrary, basically,
France had swallowed the myth
which was peddled
by General Charles de Gaulle after the war
that all of France resisted.
the Vichy regime were not France.
They were just a tiny, tiny minority.
And it took-- Obviously, Hubert Butler
realised that that was false,
and what he denounces
in this wonderful essay
is the fact that people
just went along with it.
They saw these--
these Jews being rounded up.
They saw the children being torn
from their mothers,
being put on cattle trains
at Austerlitz Station,
and they did nothing.
It took-- Actually, an American academic,
Robert Paxton, historian,
in the early 1970's
published Vichy and that blew the lid off
of French collaboration.
It was a very controversial book
A lot of French people were really shocked
to learn the extent
to which the French population accepted,
indeed, in many cases, welcomed,
cooperated with, worked with Vichy
and was quite zealous in deporting Jews.
[classical music playing]
The essays are fully formed
and-and it needs a particular combination,
which is somewhat contradictory,
so it needs a certain kind of quietness.
You know, [stutters]
it needs to sort of pull people in
and at the same time,
there has to be something urgent going on.
It has to matter.
a certain kind of exploratory feel to it.
You know, you're trying out an idea,
testing it, pulling on the threads,
but if you're testing it too much,
well then, you know, it falls apart.
It has to have a certain structure,
and Butler's just perfect
in relation to that balance.
So when you read Butler,
you get, at the same time--
and he does it miraculously in his style--
a sense of urgency,
a sense that this matters,
and at the same time, a certain sense
of removal, a certain sense of distance.
And it's that combination
of the timely and the timeless
that really is unique in Butler.
I-I can't think of any other essayists
who has it quite
to the same extent that he does.
So clearly, essays like
The Children of Drancy
or The Invader Wore Slippers
are the products of a lot of thought,
and Butler arrives
at a particular moment in history
or a particular concept,
and then he hangs this much
larger argument on-- on the moment.
Like when the children
are betrayed at Drancy
or when begins to ask the question,
"How would the Irish have responded
to an invasion by the Germans
during the war?"
And this sort of sets him off
on these contemplations,
which are really literally
quite beautiful constructions.
And of course, you know,
what he-- what he realised
and-and really wrote about brilliantly
in The Invader Wore Slippers
is that you wouldn't come in,
you know, to crush Catholic Ireland,
you would come in as the ally
of Catholic Ireland.
You would come in and say,
"We are your friends."
You know, "We're-- We're here
to support you in your historic mission
to-to a fully Catholic Ireland,
to shake off the British oppressor."
And what would happen
in that circumstance?
How would Irish people respond?
And I don't think Butler ever said
that, you know,
all Irish people
would be-would be pro-fascist.
I think what he was hinting
at very, very subtly
and very brilliantly
in The Invader Wore Slippers
was that, you know, there were ways
in which the susceptibilities
of Irish people--
their sense of oppression,
their sense of self-pity--
could have very easily been turned
by a putative Nazi invasion.
And yet, then the Nazis would've found
a substantial number of people
who are quite happy to take part
with a Nazi puppet regime.
I mean, it was--
it's a very disturbing essay
because it's-- in a way,
it's a kind of a science fiction,
it's sort of counterfactual saying,
"Well, what would have happened?"
But what makes it disturbing
is not the counterfactual.
It's just how close it comes
to what we know
about what Irish culture was like,
what Irish society was like
and how that kind of rhetoric,
that kind of self-pity
could have been manipulated.
And Butler was able to do this,
because he knew
how these things had happened elsewhere.
[calming music playing]
[narrator] "In totalitarian war,
human nature is reduced
to its simplest terms
and a skilled invader can predict
with fair accuracy
the behaviour of the respectable X's,
the patriotic Y's, the pious Z's.
there are innumerable divagations.
But in an avalanche, it is the valleys
and the riverbeds that count,
the hundred thousand cart tracks
can be disregarded.
In a Zagreb newspaper of 1942,
I read that Ireland,
with Croatia and Slovakia,
was to be one of the three model
'allied' states in German Europe.
In other papers too
there was much of flattering intent
about the common loyalty of Croats
and Irish to faith and fatherland,
our similar histories,
romantic temperaments and literary gifts.
Irish plays continued to be played
in Zagreb, when English were taboo.
I think the Nazi policy
in regard to Ireland
would have been equally agile
The Celtic nationalists would,
as in Brittany,
have been regarded as a valuable tool
for undermining a non-German hegemony,
but of decidedly of less value
for the reconstruction of a German one.
The nationalist would've been manoeuvred,
out of his privileged position."
One of the great Irish writers.
I think his style
is absolutely extraordinary.
And I think when I read
Escape from the Anthill in 1985,
one thing that struck
me besides the clarity and originality
that he was bringing to bear
on many, many topics
that I had vaguely thought of,
but which he made me think about again,
but the other thing that struck me
was metaphors, the similes,
the slashing style that sometimes
is very gentle
and-- and inferential,
and then comes in slam at the end.
He says somewhere-- and in fact
I used this as a title of an essay--
that he-he always admired
or believed the man was right
who gave his son a good slap
when he saw a salamander,
this rare beast,
because then he'd remember it.
Hubert believed in a slap
being a necessary thing to administer
from time to time in style.
And sometimes he comes out with a twist--
a twist of the dagger at the end
of a beautifully constructed paragraph
that makes you go, "Oof!"
And that's why reading him
is a continual revelation.
He writes in a way
that is utterly distinctive.
You know, the makers name is on the blade.
If you read a Hubert Butler essay,
it couldn't be--
it couldn't be written by anyone else.
[narrator] "Looking for a reason,
I can only conclude that science
has enormously extended
the sphere of our responsibilities,
while our consciences
have remained the same size.
Parochially minded people
neglect their parishes
to pronounce ignorantly
about the universe,
while the universalists are so conscious
of the worldwide struggles
of opposing philosophies that the rights
and wrongs of any regional conflict
dwindle to insignificance
against a cosmic panorama.
Like the needle of compass
at the North Pole,
their moral judgment spins round and
overwhelming them with information
and telling them nothing at all.
They feel that truth
is in some way relative to orientation,
no more than a wrong adjustment,
so that they can never say
unequivocally, 'That is a lie!'"
[Robert] You know,
it's sometimes said that human beings
are almost biologically programmed
not to be able to relate
to more than the equivalent
of a small community of other people.
And Butler really believes
we're not meant to relate to the world
in the terms that we-- that media
and modern life often demand of us,
we can only connect meaningfully
with a relatively small group of people
who we know and who-who we are
in relationship with.
And so one of his great concerns
is that modern life
places moral demands
on us just in terms of scale
which really lie beyond our grasp.
If Butler were around today,
the bumper sticker
he might have on his car
would be, "Act locally, think globally."
You know, that's very much, I think,
the way he tried to frame his own life.
And it-- it raises interesting questions
about his relationship
to his European identity,
because he was a fervent European.
But he lived long enough to wonder
what would be impact
of the European Union,
and how would this affect the local--
local industries and the local culture
that he so highly prized.
He was deeply suspicious
[Roy] It's very opposite, I think,
that that's where the centre, so to speak,
of Hubert's intellectual operations
moved out from.
It's one of the few Irish cities
that has Medieval merchant's houses,
wonderful castles in the centre,
antiquities in the wider area.
It's a palimpsest of-- of Irish life,
and it's also very beautiful.
[Chris] Butler was completely involved
in his local world.
He stood for instance for election
barely a year after the nuncio affair.
He didn't get elected
but that didn't quell his activities.
When the local council planned
a housing estate on the castle park,
Butler worked with others
to successfully oppose it.
Many writers try to escape their roots,
often out of a need
to reinvent themselves.
Beck and Joyce come to mind.
Butler nurtured those roots,
whether it was his work
on the city's archives,
his archaeological activities,
or the clan gatherings
of the Butler diaspora.
And let's not forget Peggy,
including her own work on the archives,
the early years
of the Kilkenny Arts Festival,
the arts week,
or the city's art gallery which now
proudly bears their name.
[Roy] But those intellectual operations--
it's rather a military metaphor
but perhaps not inappropriate-
took in Northern Ireland as well,
which he was determined
to throw out grappling hooks to,
and the Kilkenny debates
were a very important part of that,
so is his constant interest
in what's happening up there,
much more than many Southern Protestants
of his era did.
So the 1954 debate, you know,
just bringing Ulsterman
or Ulster Unionist down to Kilkenny
to have an open conversation
about partition and about unification.
It's hard for us now to remember
just how controversial
and upsetting such an idea
would have been to people.
I want to say that this wafer,
after it is consecrated,
the Church of Rome teaches,
is the actual body, bones,
-blood, nerves, sinews…
…and deity of Jesus Christ.
Hubert certainly can see
Northern Protestants as anything like us,
they were-- they were scarily different,
and Hubert became interested
in fundamentalism very early on.
He's writing about Paisley far earlier
than a lot of other people are.
I notice this as some of the essays
found for his--
his-his last collection,
The Appleman and the Poet.
Of course, Peggy came
from a border country,
which is I think is very important too,
and through her and through
his brother-in-law Tyrone Guthrie
and through various Northern friends,
he had a-- a close apprehension
of the tensions in the North,
and I-I think the possibilities
and potentialities in the North,
which were denied
to-to many other Southern Protestants.
The Kilkenny debates are one of the ways
which he tried to infuse that knowledge.
[priest] Anyone home?
Oh! Nearly forgot. Baptismal lines.
Who would they be, Father?
Oh, just for Eileen,
starting at St. Bridgit's next week.
Well, we haven't really made up our minds
about the school yet.
We were in two minds.
Sorry, about what?
[Robert] So the Fethard-on-Sea boycott
happens in 1957.
And again, what starts it off seems like
a pretty minor thing,
but as we all know, back in the '50s,
there was the enforcement of Ne Temere,
which meant that
when you had a mix marriage
between a Protestant and a Catholic,
it was expected that the marriage
would take place
in the Catholic church.
And frequently also it was required
that the Protestant partner
in the marriage
would agree that any children would be
raised and educated
in the Catholic church.
And so you have a young farming couple
called the Cloneys
in Fethard who are a mixed marriage,
and Sheila Cloney has agreed
to all of these.
But as a Protestant mother,
when it comes time to educating
her two young daughters,
she begins to have second thoughts.
And this very personal, familial matter
quickly turns into a cause célèbre,
because the local Catholic priest
is not willing to let it drop.
And so her response to this
is to flee town with-- with her two--
her two children.
And in response to this,
the local Catholic community
begins to boycott
the Protestant businesses in Fethard.
[priest] From now on…
all those who are against
the one true Church,
will be boycotted.
So the local news agent,
the local iron monger,
they suddenly find that they are
being boycotted on sectarian grounds
because of what Mrs. Cloney has done.
And-and this raises lots of questions
for Hubert Butler,
not just about the ongoing friction
between the two religious communities
and the status of the minority,
but it also raises for him questions
about whether Protestants
are gonna stick up for themselves.
-[man] …and if I may say…
It's Butler actually
who joins in an effort to--
of local Protestants
from around the region
to go and buy their groceries,
and their newspapers,
and their other items
from the Protestant businesses
in Fethard to keep them open,
to keep them going,
as well as a show of solidarity.
But again, it is very much secular
progressive tolerant intellectuals
who take up the cause.
So-- oh, and Sheehy-Skeffington raises
the point of the boycott in the Senate
and sort of forces the hand
of Éamon de Valera
to come out and say that he considers
the boycott unfortunate.
[narrator] "In the long run,
is the best basis for ecumenical harmony.
Hitler once explained to
Hermann Rauschning how he intended
to use the churches as his propagandists.
"Why should we quarrel?
They will swallow anything provided
they can keep their material advantages."
Yet Hitler never succeeded
in corrupting the churches
as effectively as did Pavelitch
who professed to be Christians.
We shall not be able to estimate
the extent of their success
and how it might have been resisted,
while a single fact
is diplomatically 'forgotten.'
It is well known that those
who suppress history have to relive it."
[Chris] If Father Chok…
and his Orthodox parish church
destroyed by the NDH policy
of forcible conversion
could be called Act One,
then Act Two, we might say,
is this very church,
with its relatively modern windows
and its shiny door,
almost certainly destroyed
during the recent war
in this part of Croatia.
Here we are at the end of day,
in Ileka village ravaged
by ethnic cleansing and war.
This is the Balkan writing
of Hubert Butler as prophecy.
This is what might be called
the peregrination of trauma,
the way terrible historical experience
goes underground for a period
and then emerges undimmed and undaunted
in new historical circumstances.
[Lara] I have a hunch
that Hubert Butler might agree
when I say that nationalism and religion,
so often the scourges
of humanity in the past,
are in danger of blighting
our young century.
So, you're publishing now in November
this very important book,
Hubert Butler's Balkan Essays.
[Roy] In his 80s, when I knew him
he had the most seraphic smile,
beautiful smile lit up his face,
and very charming voice,
wonderful sense of humour.
And a terrific double act
with his wife Peggy,
who was extremely intelligent
and very, very funny.
The house slightly down at heel,
shabby books everywhere
with a kind of Eastern European
feel about it, I always thought,
because some of the books were, of course,
in Eastern European languages.
and rather neglected orchard
and a slight sense of something sinking
I-I think for Ireland
there was a certain tragedy
in the marginalisation
of-- of Hubert Butler,
particularly when you think
about the 1960s and the 1970s
when he was still incredibly active.
That mind was still-- was still at work.
He knew so much. I mean,
he had such deep--
not just technical expertise,
which he had,
but a moral expertise.
I mean, he really understood Europe.
He understood its history in--
in very, very profound ways.
And here we were as a small nation,
you know, joining Europe as we--
as we saw in ourselves, I mean,
going in to the European Union,
trying to remake
this kind of relationships.
And here was, you know,
this extraordinary public resource
that was available to Ireland.
I mean, you have to remember
Butler was an Irish patriot.
You know, he-- he really wanted
to be seen as someone
who-- who was a proud Irish man.
And-- and the fact that he--
that nobody ever talk to him,
nobody ever used him, nobody ever tried
to [stammers] place him in a position
where he could be that bridge between,
an Ireland which had been
very insular on the one side
and an Ireland
which wanted to be internationalist
and European on the other side,
It-- It is really sad.
Not so much for him, I think,
because in a way
I think he got over by then.
But I think it is sad for Ireland.
This is a contract with Transworld
Euro Publishing done ran for us,
and I may need your signature, okay?
I was a sort of outsider
within an Irish society.
Not an outsider, but I-I was sent away
to be educated in England
as Hubert Butler was and…
I miss my home very much and so forth.
And I was hungry for…
an Irish identity, I suppose, being--
being a smart little public school boy.
And, he was somebody who spoke to me
in-- in a language
that I thought was wonderful.
And he appreciated the divisions
in Irish society
like my mother was a Protestant,
my father, Catholic.
I was baptised, one way
my brother's baptised another.
So, I kind of apprehended that…
bifurcated world that Butler embodied.
Myself and Frank McGuinness were…
Seamus Cashman's readers and…
I was-- We read many fiction,
but I read this collection of essays and…
I wrote a very strong report
telling Seamus that he had
to publish this man.
And Seamus was very gracious, he said…
"It's Anglo-Irish stuff.
This doesn't sell,
but, you know, if you wanna do something
with it yourself, you're welcome."
So, I picked up the phone
to Hubert Butler,
and I rang Maiden Hall.
I found the number.
And this voice answered,
which was Hubert, and I said,
"Can I speak to Hubert Butler?"
And there was a pause. [chuckles]
And the voice said,
"Do you mean Mr. Butler?"
I said, "Yes, of course."
And it was Hubert and…
It was very uncharacteristic.
He's-- He's the most un-pompous man
you can imagine,
but it was a… poignant start
to a very long relationship.
So, I went down the following weekend,
and I was welcome by he and Peggy.
And it developed from there
as he showed me more and more
[Fintan] When the first collection
of Hubert Butler's essays
was-- was published,
Escape from the Anthill, in the mid-1980s,
I-I remember opening it up
and just starting to read,
and realising this is one
of the great essayists, you know.
And not just one
of the great Irish essays.
It's not that, you know,
this man is in our midst,
which was obviously very important.
But just as, you know,
morally, in terms of the essay form,
in terms of what's he doing, what it says,
you know, he-he really is one
of the great figures
in the history of this form.
You know, you don't find
very many essayists
who have a body of work
that is as brilliant, as prescient,
as well expressed,
as morally complex,
and as morally important
as Butler's work is.
[John] I wish,
and a few others like me wish,
that people like him had continued
to contribute, that more people like him
had continued to contribute to Irish life,
because what we were left with
was an Ireland
ruled by very small-minded people,
as Hubert learned later on to his cost.
I would dearly like to read Hubert
on our present predicament in Ireland.
I would dearly have loved to have read him
during the Celtic Tiger years.
He would have been… a wise voice.
And of course,
we wouldn't have listened to him,
because we were all having
such a wonderful, wild party
with all this non-existent money.
But it would have been marvellous
to read Hubert on it.
He would have been so funny.
And so, you know, his--
It would have brought out
the best of his wit, I think,
and the best of his-- his lamentation
for the stupidity of human beings.
So, I wrote a review
about 3,000 words long or something,
and this was cut savagely down
to a thousand words.
And I made such a fuss about this
that the editor at The TLS
read the book himself,
and then said,
"This man is-- is absolute gold dust."
[Antony] So that review
in The Times Literary Supplement
alerted the intellectual world,
if you like, to Butler.
We then went on to publish
two subsequent volumes,
The Children of Drancy
and Grandmother and Wolfe Tone
in the late '80s,
again, happily during Hubert's lifetime.
And we were approached by Farrar,
Straus and Giroux in-- in New York
where there was a wonderful editor
called Elizabeth Sifton,
who again apprehended exactly where--
where Butler was coming from, as they say.
And she did a gathering of the essays
from our existing books and--
as Andrew Foster did the same for Penguin.
[Olivia] The wonderful thing
for people of my generation
was to pick up a book of essays
which was just so fresh, it could have
been written in our own day.
This man was 50 years ahead of his time.
The funny thing is
somehow that maybe he escaped.
You know, the fact that he's not--
He wasn't part of the Irish world
means that we can now see him
not just as, you know,
as a-- as an interesting Irish figure,
I think he-- he is a world figure,
and… that's the payback, in a sense,
for the kind of neglect
that he went through for so long.
[Antony] I was rung up excitedly
by a small French publisher.
I think he was called Samuel Brooksel.
He had read Hubert Butler's essay
on Graham Greene
in which he, in a very quiet way,
Greene-- Greene's moral claim
to-- [chuckles] to literature.
And-- And Graham Greene is god in France.
And-- And Samuel was so thrilled,
he rang me from a phone box
on the Quai d'Orsay,
saying, "I have to publish this man."
Butler became international,
and his time had come.
[Robert] He seems to have taken it
in a stride.
I think one of the wonderful things
about Butler is
that although he struggled often know
where his place was,
he never seem to-- to lack
for a kind of calm inner confidence.
He knew he was a gifted person.
He knew he had important things to say.
It was just a case
of everybody else taking note.
So I think he obviously delighted
in-- in getting some recognition,
but in a-- in a lot of ways, I think,
he took the greatest pleasure
in knowing that Ireland itself,
in a sense, had-- had begun to ask
some of the same questions
he had been asking,
and that in many ways the more open
and pluralist society
that he hoped for seemed to be emerging.
[Christopher] It was
a very admirable position that he took.
I think that it contributed to the fact
that he has not the reputation
that he should have,
both in Ireland and abroad.
I mean, he should be seen
as major Irish writer,
I think, and he's not.
You know, part of the difficulty is
The English think he was Irish,
the Irish think he was English.
All I know was that he--
he did really believe
that the local was
the important life to lead.
He always held that Ireland needed
the decentred tradition,
that we needed it very badly,
and that we were suffering
from being so monotheistic
in terms of this Catholic domination
of-of-- of everything.
[Robert] There's this wonderful scrap
of paper I came across,
in his files when researching.
And he had the receipt
of his postal ballot
from the 1990 Irish presidential election.
And he and Peggy both sent in--
as quite elderly people,
sent in their votes in favour
of Mary Robinson.
And by this point, of course,
Butler knew that someone like me
was gonna come along
and want to know more about him,
so he wrote in his rather
"P and I voted for Mary Robinson.
She got in."
And this was sort of right
at the very end of his life,
and I think he felt like that was
a kind of vindication
in some ways of the values
that he had espoused,
you know, for the previous 50 years.
So, there is a lovely symmetry in a way
to the fact that he dies
shortly after she's elected president
of the Republic.
[calming music playing]
[classical music playing]