Treason, the Holocaust, and an Irish Impostor
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Phyllis Ursula James. Nora O’Mara. Róisín Ní Mheara. Like her name, the life of Rosaleen James changed many times as she followed a convoluted path from abandoned child, to foster daughter of an aristocratic British family, to traitor during World War II, to her emergence as a full Irish woman afterward. In Masquerade, authors Mark M. Hull and Vera Moynes tell James’s story as it unfolds against the backdrop of the most important events of the twentieth century. James’s life—both real and imagined—makes for an incredible but true story.
By altering her identity to suit the situation, James manipulated almost everyone she encountered: the German intelligence service, the Nazi propaganda broadcasting service, British intelligence, and various Irish cultural groups. She was in a liaison with Irish writer Francis Stuart and, with him, provided a voice for Nazi radio programs aimed at neutral Ireland, served as the pseudo-Irish expert for German espionage missions, and participated in the failed, almost comical effort to recruit Irish prisoners of war to join the Nazis against Great Britain—quite a series of performances, considering her only contact with Ireland had been a weeklong visit in 1937.
Immediately after the war, James was wanted by British intelligence as a “renegade” (traitor), but her case was quickly squelched by the British government. Drawing on an assumed wartime persona, she became fluent in Irish Gaelic and organized a number of conferences for which she won grants from the Irish government. James garnered wider attention in 1992 with her autobiography, published in Gaelic, in which she claimed that the Holocaust was a myth—a belief she maintained until her death in 2013.
In documenting James’s life of deception, Hull and Moynes masterfully analyze how an intellectually gifted child turned traitor to her country and convincingly rebranded herself as an Irish patriot and intellectual, while denying historical reality. The story of Rosaleen James reminds us that reality may be much less—or more—than what meets the eye and ear.
“A fascinating journey through Irish nationalism, its separateness and victimhood at the hands of the English, and the duplicity and deceit of foreign agents as Hitler’s rise to power ensnared many of Britain’s pro-German aristocracy. The beauty of this volume is that the recollections of Rosaleen James are expertly exposed to the facts, revealing her as an intriguing figure and a reflection of the tumultuous events of the mid-century in wartime Europe. This is historical detective work at its best.”—Arnold Krammer, author of War Crimes, Genocide, and the Law: A Guide to the Issues
“Masquerade exposes one of the twentieth century’s most compelling literary fraudsters, an English woman whose multiple name changes and mastery of Irish Gaelic enabled her to hide her past as a female Lord Haw-Haw during the Second World War. Despite her revisionist, pro-Nazi sentiments and Holocaust denial, Rosaleen James, under the assumed name Róisín Ní Mheara, won Irish government literary grants, framed herself as someone she was not—an Irish nationalist—and fooled an entire country’s literary and journalistic establishment.”—David Conley Nelson, author of Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany
“Rosaleen James, dubbed ‘Mata O’Hara’ by some of Hitler’s inner circle, spent her long life fanatically devoted to German Fascism and Irish Patriotism. Generally misrepresenting her shameful part in the Second World War, James adopted multiple identities to further her own treacherous cause. Masquerade is a brilliant, virtuosic, and gripping account of an extraordinary British traitor. Mark Hull and Vera Moynes have distilled the truth from a mass of lies that the self-deluded James could never have imagined would be exposed.”—Geoffrey Elborn, author of Edith Sitwell: A Biography