Albert Coyle and Evidence on Conditions in Ireland

A little bit more on Albert Coyle, of Evidence on Conditions in Ireland fame.

Coyle, a Stanford and Yale graduate, compiled and edited testimony given to hearings in Washington DC in 1921 about events in Ireland over the previous couple of years. Over 1,100 pages were published by Coyle as ‘Evidence on Conditions in Ireland’ in 1922 (this is now reprinted – see here). Coyle ended up in the post due to the influence of a former mentor, Stanford President David Starr Jordan and possibly due to his Irish-American heritage.

Coyle’s incredible life story includes being involved in the first world war including being captured by Bolshevik troops and held prisoner for several months in Russia in 1919, adding Russian to his existing language skills (German, French, Latin and Ancient Greek – he later learned Spanish too). He became a noted labour and left-wing activist and lawyer, to the extent that individuals being questioned at UnAmerican Activities hearings in the 1930s were asked if they knew him. Coyle met Stalin, ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II and other prominent domestic and international figures of the 1920s and 1930s and took part in high profile delegations to the Soviet Union (before the US granted diplomatic recognition) and also organised travel between the US and Soviet Union. He later lobbied for that recognition and to be made US Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

His language skills, European knowledge and contacts, including lawyers, some Communists and some Jewish, got him involved in trying to get various individuals out from imprisonment by the Nazis and away from Germany. In court in 1942, Coyle was said to have “gotten more unfortunates out of German concentration camps than any other living American.” Yet his name is largely unknown in research into Jewish immigration into the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. It is possible that Coyle was more focused on left wing prisoners of the Nazis, but it should equally be noted that in the 1930s and 1940s official policy sought to severely restrict immigration in the US and elsewhere, in particular Jewish immigration and that many of those working to find ways to circumvent regulations had to go underground to do so. If you need a reminder of one of the (unintended) consequences of those policies – and as it’s the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – here’s Claude Lanzmann’s ground breaking documentary Shoah (part one and part two).

I’ve written a little more about Albert Coyle, here on Irish Central in the hope to see if I find anyone who knows a bit more about him.

One thought on “Albert Coyle and Evidence on Conditions in Ireland

  1. I am Albert’s granddaughter, and am working on a bio of him, after uncovering his FBI file. Please, feel free to contact me with any questions.

    Liked by 1 person

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