A County Kilkenny man's birthday party took the cake this week. The Adolf Hitler cake.
Larry Brennan, 79, from Coonwest near Gowran in County Kilkenny, startled the whole of Ireland when he appeared in a photograph in the Kilkenny People newspaper alongside his daughter Maria. The smiling pair were pictured cutting a decorative cake with a picture of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on the top.
In a flourish the bakers (who have not yet been identified) apparently added a little party hat to the Fuhrer's head, perhaps in the hope of bringing a little birthday cheer, or to distract from the fact that Hitler is the most universally loathed figure in human history.
Hitler is seen giving his famous Sieg Heil Nazi salute and wearing a swastika. 'Happy Birthday Dad,' it reads.
In another baker’s flourish a dove of peace (or perhaps a German eagle) is seen taking flight on the side of the cake.
Brennan told KCLR 96FM presenter Sue Nunn this week that he cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Speaking about his controversial cake he explained that he collects military memorabilia and that he simply 'admires' Hitler’s army, mostly for its well made uniforms and equipment.
He also likes the uniforms of the Swiss Guard, the highly trained unit that provides security at the Vatican, he said.
'Well, I have great admiration for Hitler’s army, the way he dressed, his immaculate uniforms and his equipment,' Brennan explained.
The equipment and clothing of the Nazi era German army is highly sought after by many collectors he said. 'It commands a very high price, unfortunately, today,' he said, adding that even English collectors were very interested in Nazi era items.
But Nunn countered that most people would think of Hitler's era as one of 'absolute mayhem, the torture and death of millions of people.' Brennan replied that his interest was in memorabilia and that he was 'not political.'
Then things got a little heated. Brennan made some eye popping comments about the Holocaust and Hitler’s motivations that enraged listeners who lit up the phones lines ringing, texting and emailing the station during and after the broadcast.
Asked if he admired Hitler, Brennan said he did.
'I admire Hitler because his army was so disciplined and he had great command over the people, and he fought for the people of his country. He was behind them, like, and they were behind him. It took three nations to beat him, like, and you know, he must have had some power.'
'And all the people that he burned?' asked the interviewer?
'Yes, well, that was the sinister thing about him. Behind that as well – and I don’t want to go into politics – but apparently there are two sides to every story and I heard that the other side of the story, the people that he, am, ah, put to death were spoiling the economy of his country by devaluing the Deutschmark.'
'Oh holy God,' gasps the interviewer. 'I can’t even let you say that, Larry, because I think that is just so offensive to people, you know. I mean…'
'That’s what I heard,' Brennan counters.
The the interviewer asked him why he had a picture of Hitler on his birthday cake in the Kilkenny People, where such pictures are rarely seen. 'And why did the kids get, why did your daughter get the cake for you then, Larry? Was it a surprise?'
'It was a surprise because she knew I collected all sorts of stuff like that. I collect motorbikes – well, I’m not saying I have masses of motorbikes, I have an interest and have a few motorbikes – and guns, swords, anything that’s old and antique-ish. I’ve a great interest in history, like, you know.'
Critics say Brennan may have a great interest in history but he does not have a great grasp of it. Whilst it looks certain to them the motivations in Brennan's story are closer to Father Ted than the Fourth Reich, they point out that the Nazi era represents the pole star of human evil, the benchmark against which humanity gauges our capacity for horror as a species.
It probably should not come sugar coated with a frosted cream filling, they say.
Nunn later delved into Brennan's background, asking about his emigration from the town of Coon West in Kilkenny to England in 1957. He had a wide ranging career working as a trapeze artist at one point before returning to his trade as a mechanic. Brennan added that he came back to Ireland 22 years ago and is now retired.
Listeners were mostly apoplectic. On air Nunn said they were suggesting that Brennan shouldn’t have airtime, that his cake was racist. They fumed that Brennan shouldn't admire Hitler in any way. People find it 'almost unbelievable' that he could have a Hitler birthday cake Nunn said.
But Brennan countered that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that he wasn’t 'condoning' what Hitler had done.
'I’m just saying admiration for his army, I’ve also admiration for the Swiss army palace guard. They have got brilliant military dress.'
Brennan added that the photographer from The Kilkenny People who took picture for the local paper had warned him that some people might not like it.
'It’s not meant as a derogatory sort of thing against the people,' Brennan said, 'It could be even Stalin, it could be anyone like that. People have very short memories, you know.'
There's no long line of people ordering Stalin sponge cakes or Pol Pot pies in Gowran, County Kilkenny however.
Following her interview, presenter Sue Nunn told the press she had 'no idea' that Brennan would announce he was an 'admirer' of Hitler's and she was startled by his comments during the interview.
Listen to the full interview on the KCLR 96FM site by clicking HERE.
Father Ted Hitler Episode: