THE National Library of Wales has become engulfed in controversy after accepting a £300,000 (e357,443) bequest from a Nazi collaborator who taught French in a fee-paying Dublin 4 school for 30 years.
Louis Feutren was a French teacher at St Conleth's College on Clyde Road in Ballsbridge from the 1950s until he retired in 1985. He died in 2010 and bequeathed a collection of tapes and papers, along with a cash sum of about £300,000, to the National Library of Wales.
However, during World War Two Feutren collaborated with the Nazis, joined the Waffen SS and was forced to flee France following the collapse of the Third Reich.
He arrived in Ireland as a penniless fugitive along with two other collaborators and was granted residency by the Irish State. The decision of the library to accept the bequest has been sharply criticised by Welsh Heritage Minister Hew Lewis.
"Louis Feutren was a Nazi collaborator and a member of the SS. That is an abhorrent fact of history. I am therefore disappointed by the decision of the National Library to accept these funds and do not believe that anyone in Wales would have challenged them if they had chosen not to accept the bequest."
Feutren was born in 1922 in Brittany and become interested as a young man in Celtic mysticism and the links between "true Celtic people" of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. He became a member of the Bezen Perrot, a tiny separatist movement which was agitating for separation from France and a free Breton state.
The members of the group took their inspiration from the Irish rebels of 1916, particularly Padraig Pearse. During World War Two, many members of the Bezen Perrot collaborated with the Nazis, believing that "France's difficulty is Brittany's opportunity".
In the latter days of World War Two they were part of the Bretonische Waffenverbande, which wore SS uniforms that were devoid of any Breton insignia and fought against the allies, including attacks against French Resistance fighters.
According to historian Daniel Leach of the University of Melbourne, the group was accused of assisting in massacres of captured Resistance fighters in Brittany, "although some veterans of the unit maintained they simply stood guard while the SD and other auxiliaries carried out the atrocities".
After the collapse of the Third Reich and the surrender of Germany, some of the group's leaders were executed as war criminals. Feutren and other collaborators had to flee France. Among the seven boxes of documents donated to the Library are papers relating to two of Feutren's Bezen Perrot colleagues who also settled in Ireland, Neven Henaff and Alan Heusaff.
Heusaff was sentenced to death in absentia after the war for "attacks upon the integrity of the French State" but received an amnesty in 1967. He studied at UCG and joined Met Eireann after he graduated. He became an Irish citizen in 1955 and was presented the Pearse Award by President Patrick Hillery in 1986. He died in 1999.