This story is excerpted from Irish Holocaust memorial literature.
Peter Bielenberg was a young German lawyer married to Anglo-Irish Christabel Burton (named after the suffragette Christabel Pankhurst). She was a music student in Hamburg who had sung with famed Irish tenor John McCormack.
Peter and Christabel moved to Germany after their marriage in 1934. Because Peter refused to join the Nazi party, he could not practice law, so he volunteered for the army.
He and Christabel were so appalled by Kristallnacht in 1938, that they decided to settle in Ireland. An anti-Nazi friend, Adam von Trott zu Solz, convinced Peter that it was his patriotic duty to stay in Germany and fight Nazism. Peter and Christabel continued to associate with anti-Nazi circles and to work to overthrow the regime.
Von Trott and several of the other plotters were caught, tried, and hanged from meat hooks. Peter was arrested by the Gestapo. Pulling strings with Nazi acquaintances, Christabel visited Peter. He managed to plant in her palm a matchbox that carried a message outlining the story he had told his interrogators about his involvement with the plotters.
Armed with Peter’s alibis, and with typical effrontery, Christabel turned up at Gestapo headquarters, demanding to be interrogated and that her husband had an alibi.
Playing up her Irish roots (her mother was from Corofin) and her family links with the press baron, Lord Rothermere, who at one time had been sympathetic to the Nazis, she bluffed her way through the interview, using Peter's concocted stories.
Peter was released to an army punishment camp, but slipped away and was reunited with his family in the Black Forest.
In 1948, Peter and Christabel settled on a farm near Tullow in County Carlow with their three children. Christabel’s autobiography "The Past Is Myself" was published in 1968, translated into seven languages, and was later turned into a BBC drama.
Christabel helped to set up a fund for the families of the Resistance to Hitler, and routinely confronted Holocaust deniers such as David Irving. Peter and Christabel lived the rest of their lives in Ireland.
Peter died in 2000, followed two years later by Christabel who died in November 2003.
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