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He aided the Nazis before he shaped the minds of Irish children

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Schoolbook publisher Albert Folens
(Irish Independent)
Last night I got my first look at my daughter's booklist for the coming school year. One book in particular caught my eye - The United States & The World 1945-1989. My problem with this book is that it's published by Folens, a company founded by a man who aided the Gestapo in his native Belgium during WWII.

Albert Folens escaped from prison and made his way to Ireland under a false passport. Folens then got work as a teacher before setting up his publishing company.

Folens and his defenders claim that he was never in the Gestapo. His daughter says he only joined the Flemish Legion, which consisted of 300,000 men. One to two thousand is probably more like it. If Folens wasn't a Nazi he was one of their fascist first cousins.

It wasn't like he was repentant after the war either. In a 1986 interview – only aired in 2007 – he denied he was anything like a Nazi. Almost in the next breath, however, he put his extreme anti-Americanism out there, calling the Americans "stupid and criminal" for insisting on a "complete surrender" by the Nazis. "And that's the stupidity of the Roosevelt. A sick man with a sick mind and ignorant."

This is the man who set about building Ireland's leading schoolbook publishing company. This is the man whose history books "helped to shape the minds" of generations of Irish school children.

Folens died back in 2003, but his family still owns the company. I see no reason to assume that the culture established by this virulent anti-American will have changed much.

Funny thing is I first got really angry at one of the Folens texts before I heard about his fascist past. I remember hitting the roof when my oldest daughter showed me her 6th grade history book back in 2002. The book's short section on World War II downplayed what the Nazis had done, but turned Hiroshima and Nagasaki into the most unspeakable crimes ever. It was all done in a cunning way, through the fictional memory of a fictional character who was supposedly remembering the horror of hearing about the bombings on Irish radio.

Then when I first learned of Folens' past I was angry about that book from 2002 all over again. I wanted a total ban on Folens' books in this house. That wasn't really practical, unfortunately, but there's no way I want this bigoted anti-American's legacy landing in in my house ever again. My daughter will have to survive with another publisher's text.

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