Clan O'Flaherty has an illustrious past, with many colorful characters. In the 20th century alone the name O'Flaherty has been associated with a number of great people, among them, short story author Liam O'Flaherty, The Reverend Colman O'Flaherty, a chaplain during WW1 who won the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery, two mayors of Galway, Michael O'Flaherty, elected in 1949, and Cir Birdie O'Flaherty elected in 1986.* There are many others as well who have proudly born the name, and many who continue to do so. But one of the most notable, who will always be associated with the preservation of life and a true example of God's love and mercy, was Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty.
Monsignor O'Flaherty, was born in Lisrobin, Kiskeam, Co Cork in 1898, and grew up in Mangerton View, Killarney. He earned his Bachelors from the Urban College of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and was ordained a priest in 1925. He stayed on at the college as rector for a number of years, while earning several doctors degrees. From there he was appointed to the Vatican diplomatic services, and later, a notary of the Holy Office. Engaging in activities that, because of his position in the Church were deemed undesirable (i.e. golfing, which was prohibited for diocesan Roman priests), he managed to make contacts with Italian high society that would help him later in his campaign to help the Jews and others the Nazis and Fascists persecuted.
His rescue operations began in the fall of 1942. Until then, the Italian officials had been somewhat lethargic in their Nazi colleague imposed roundups of Jews to be sent off to extermination camps. But with the occupation of Rome by the Germans, that was no longer the case. Mgr. O'Flaherty saw many of his Jewish friends, and other non-Fascist/non-Nazi friends being persecuted. He took some of these people into his own home, and others he hid in monasteries and convents, and even in the Vatican itself.
By the spring of 1943, his efforts expanded to include the rescue of many British POWs, mostly downed pilots over Italian soil. He kept many of these in his home, in the Vatican, but after some time set up a line of apartments where these men could go to stay in hiding until they could escape Italy and rejoin their branches in the British military.
Eventually the Monsignor's activities drew the unwanted attention of Colonel Herbert Kappler, Rome's Gestapo chief. Kappler did all he could to discourage Mgr. O'Flaherty, threatening him with arrest, and even setting up an assassination attempt on his life. But none of this deterred Mgr. O'Flaherty.