Saturday 26 May 2018

Holocaust Day tribute to Donal's Belsen camp uncle

Fionnbar Walsh, from Tralee, with a wooden icon which will be presented to the parish in Listowel to commemorate his grand-uncle, Fr Michael Morrison. Photo By : Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD ©
Fionnbar Walsh, from Tralee, with a wooden icon which will be presented to the parish in Listowel to commemorate his grand-uncle, Fr Michael Morrison. Photo By : Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD ©
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Donal Walsh's great-grand-uncle - the chaplain for the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp - will be commemorated today at a special ceremony to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Donal, from Blennerville, Co Kerry, was just 16 when he died in 2013 after battling cancer three times.

He came to national attention for highlighting the trauma of suicide in Ireland and urging struggling young people to get help.

Yesterday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the world remembered the millions who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis during World War Two.

Fr. Michael Morrison. Photo By : Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD ©
Fr. Michael Morrison. Photo By : Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD ©

Donal's Listowel-born great-grand-uncle Fr Michael Morrison was with the British and Canadian troops who entered Bergen-Belsen in western Germany in 1945. It was the first Nazi concentration camp to be liberated on the Western Front.

Ordained in 1939, Fr Morrison joined the Welch Regiment as chaplain in 1941. The cleric was later part of the Lancashire Fusiliers when Bergen-Belsen was liberated.

The British and Canadian troops had no idea of the unspeakable horrors they would encounter when they entered the camp.

During his first week there, Fr Morrison anointed 300 dying people a day.

Inspirational teenager Donal Walsh,
Inspirational teenager Donal Walsh,

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Donal's father Fionnbar said a special event would take place today during 11.30am mass in St Mary's Church, Listowel.

"We're presenting a piece to the parish of a wooden icon of the Virgin and Child, which was reputedly carved by a prisoner of war," he said.

"We think the piece may be from Bergen-Belsen. We're using this to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day and Fr Morrison. Listowel was the first town to put a memorial to the Holocaust in the local park."

The Bergen-Belsen camp was built to hold 10,000 people, but on the day it was liberated 60,000 were crammed into appalling conditions. An estimated 50,000 people died there between 1941 and 1945.

Following the war, Fr Morrison served as a parish priest in Australia, before eventually returning home to Ireland, where he died in 1973.

Sunday Independent

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