April 28, 2017
The 94 year old was deeply touched. “I may forget your faces, but I will never forget your kindness”, Harry Callan said. In an emotional ceremony on Thursday, the Irishman passed the book „Forgotten Hero of Bunker Valentin: The Harry Callan Story“ to the library of Jacobs University. „Contemporary witnesses like you, who share their experiences, are making history vivid to younger generations“, emphasized Professor Arvid Kappas, Dean of Jacobs University.
On January 29, 1941, the German auxiliary cruiser “Kormoran” attacks a British freight and passenger ship in the South Atlantic; Callan is aboard as a cook’s apprentice. Via a circuitous route, he travels to Northern Germany, initially to the Westertimke Prisoner of War Camp, and then to Farge, where there is a branch camp of the Hamburg-Neuengamme Concentration Camp. There he is used as forced labor on the Valentin U-boat Bunker, which was then under construction. “In Farge I learned what fear was. We didn’t know what the next day would bring, and we were treated like animals,” the 94-year-old recalls.
Only with a lot of luck and the help of a doctor does he survive this time. In March 1945, he is liberated by allied soldiers. It takes a year before he is able to work again. For a long time, he remains silent about his depressing experiences.
His daughter in law Michele Callan has recently descripted his capture, his resistance, and his liberation in the book „Forgotten Hero of Bunker Valentin: The Harry Callan Story“ to preserve it for ensuing ages.
After a greeting of Cynthia Bolen-Nieland, coordinator of the German-English discussion group „English for JU“, members of the „Schulschiff Deutschland” choir sang sea songs to honor Harry Callan. Michele Callan, who accompanied his father in law, read an extract of the book. Dr. Julia Timpe, University Lecturer in Contemporary History, moderated a discussion between Harry Callan and students who recently visited Bunker Valentin.
Denise McQuade, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Ireland, had send a welcome address which Dean Kappas read out during the ceremony: “We are delighted that Harry Callan is today being honoured at Jacobs University”, McQuade stated. “His story is also an important reminder of our common European history and of the need to continue to work together to create a better future.”