Irish Legation Berlin
German Foreign Office:
Summary - Contact with the Irish Legation 1943-1945:
(chargé d'affaires William Warnock Irish Legation Berlin 1939-Nov/Dec 1943):
● The note from the 12th February, 1943, supplemented the previous Irish embassy list with additional information on this list. At the same time, passport forms were submitted for the attention of some of these seafarers.
● By note of the 7th of April, 1943, the Irish Legation also requested additional information on the issue of passports.
● On the 7th April 1943 Irish chargé d'affaires William Warnock wrote to the German Foreign and said “The Irish Legation has the honor of referring to the verbal note of 12th February 1943 and the letter of confirmation of the office of exhortation - R.3518 - of 19th February 1943 concerning Irish nationals in Marlag und Milag Nord, and to inform the Office that, The following data should be required., Name, Profession, Date of Birth, Domicile, Height, Colour of Eyes, Colour of Hair, Face, Special Pecularities Signature of the person concerned. The Legation would be very grateful to the Foreign Office, if it wished to induce the individual seafarers to submit the aforementioned personalities. So that they could soon be issued passports. Berlin, April 7th, 1943. To the Foreign Office, Berlin W 8.
● By the 5th July 1943, 24 questionnaires sent by the Irish Legation completed by Irish applicants to be repatriated from Bremen-Farge, showed: 19 of the Seamen had declared Irish birth and nationality to obtain an Irish passport. Harry Callan declared he was a national of Northern Ireland and British and did not complete the questionnaire. Three others refused because they viewed themselves as British.
● On 2nd June 1943, application forms were again submitted by the Irish. The completed passport forms submitted by the Oberkommando of the Kreigsmarine on the 9th of July, 1943, were sent to the Irish Embassy on 16 July 1943.
● On July 27th, 1943, the Irish Legation asked for passport photos. The purchase of the passport images was delayed by the OKM.
● By note from 27th September 1943. On the 4th of October 1943, the Irish embassy announced they had the passport photos. They were requested by the OKM on 15 October with a letter of urgency.
● On the 22nd of November 1943, as a result of the air raid on the Irish Legation, all the photos presented were burned.
● On January 3rd, 1944, the Irish embassy asked for a renewal of the forms and photographs.
● By letter of 8th February 1944, the working camp at Farge-Bremen, in which the Irish seafarers have been staying for some time, has been asked to complete the forms in an accelerated manner and send them directly to the Irish embassy with the passport images. At the same time, the work camp was requested to point out to the Irish Seamen the matter of delay was as a result of the destruction of all documents by the enemy's terrorist attacks. (RAF Bombing, Berlin, November 1943).
November/December 1943 - chargé d'affaires Con Cremin appointed Irish Legation Berlin:
● By an additional note of March 14th, 1944, received on the 23rd of March, 1944, the Irish embassy sent a reminder.
● With a quick letter from March 31st, 1944, the head of the labour camp at Farge near Bremen was asked to obtain Passport forms and pictures, and to send them directly to the Irish embassy.
● 12th April 1944, Irish Army G2 Intelligence compiled a List of Merchant Seamen (Irish Nationals) with reports of their known locations in Germany. Address for Harold Callan was recorded as Marlag und Milag Nord although he was in the Arbeitslager, Farge, Bremen from January 1943. Irish Army Intelligence also remarks there was no correspondence seen from Mr Callan. The address of some Merchant Seamen was recorded in Intelligence files as Marlag und Milag Nord, while others were recorded as being in the Arbeitslager Farge Bremen. Some Prisoners are listed as still being located in Stalag XB Sandbostel. eventhough Marlag und Milag Nord Sandbostel had been evacuated by mid 1942 and all the Prisoners moved to their new camp Marlag Milag Nord Westertimke.
● By letter from 22nd April 1944, received on 2nd May 1944, the work and education camp confirmed the filling and signing of the application forms, leading to the further settlement of the Secret State Police in Bremen. (Gestapo-Bremen). R 2443 Li is above Dg. This draft was again asked to carry the correspondence directly with the Irish Embassy in order to speed up the matter. ORR Kröning and the OKM were asked to instruct the subordinate offices to bring the matter to a close as quickly as possible. All incoming applications were immediately processed by us and immediately forwarded, indicating the urgency. The matter could be expedited by asking ORR Kröning to report on the Bremen-Farge working camp via the Bremen State Police Office, and deal with the matter in a particularly accelerated manner, and to answer all formal questions directly in the correspondence with the Irish embassy, at their alternate accommodation, located in Staffelde, Osthavelland. Berlin. 17th May 1944.
German Documents show that by August 1944, Irish chargé d'affaires Con Cremin, had successfully acquired the cooperation of the Nazis to extract the Irishmen from Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager: see letter dated 30th August 1944: Con Cremin to the Irishmen in Farge bei Bremen. However the German authority required proof that each of the Seamen to be issued an Irish Passport was Irish before being released from Farge Camp. Following extensive background checks on each of the Seamen to ascertain their Irish Nationality via the German Minister in Dublin Dr Eduard Hempel, in cooperation with Assistant Secretary of the Department of External Affairs Frederick Boland, by October/November 1944 all except 3 of the Irish Born British Merchant Seamen had been confirmed as having Irish Nationality. Following rechecks within Ireland, on the 22nd January 1945, the final batch of 3 Passports were issued by the Irish Legation in Berlin for Henry Callan, Edward Condon and William Knox.
Persistent allegations from within Ireland that the Irish Government
did nothing to help obtain the release of Irish Nationals from the
Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge, despite the existence of contemporary
documentary evidence that clearly shows Irish chargé d'affaires Con
Cremin and William Warnock had intervened on behalf of the Irish
Government, demonstrates an abject failure by Irish sources to
observe the fundamental principle of diligent historic enquiry when
dealing with Irish Born British and Allied Merchant Navy Seamen and the
policy of Irish Neutrality during world war two.
23 April 2017: A Concluding Note: William Warnock - Irish Legation Berlin: 1939 - Nov/Dec 1943:
On the 27 October 1941, the Supreme Commander of the German Armed
Forces communicated instructions to the Foreign Office that
for the moment the presence of Irish Nationals in
Marlag und Milag
Nord Sandbostel was not to be revealed to the Irish Legation in
Berlin due to military reasons. Following the removal of 32
Irish Born British Merchant Navy Seamen from their new Camp
Marlag und Milag Nord Westertimke in January 1943,
and their subsequent refusal to workfrei on German Ships they were
relocated to the
Work Concentration Camp at Bremen-Farge.
Interestingly the men protested they were British Merchant Navy
Seamen, albeit Irish Born who were Prisoners of War and demanded to
be returned to the
Internment Camp at MILAG Nord. On the 31st March 1943 Gestapo-Bremen sent a list of these Prisoners to Berlin stating they had
Irish Nationals held in the
Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager and requested instructions. The Irish
Legation was subsequently advised and despite the difficulties
surrounding claims of British Nationality by some of the Irishmen,
chargé d'affaires Con Cremin
had eventually confirmed the Nationality of each applicant and
succeeded in obtaining their release by January 1945. However there
is still a narrative that suggests William Warnock did not do
anything to help the Irishmen. So in Rebuttal, the following for
● 08 August 1941 German Foreign Office to the High Command of the War Navy: re a list of Prisoners which included 22 Irishmen are not the subject of Internment and they are asked to release them to their home country after completion of identification as to nationality:
● 27 October 1941 The Supreme Commander Armed Forces High Command communicated that for the moment no information about the release and departure home of Irish Seamen in Sandbostel shall be given to the Irish Legation due to Military reasons.
● 13 November 1941 The Supreme Commander Army re Prisoners of War: Concerning Irish Citizens in the Marlag und Milag Nord: Is against publication of particulars at present of Irish Nationals Civil Interned in Marlag und Milag Nord: no doubts exist on the part of the OKW.
13 December 1941:
Command of the Army- Prisoners of War: To the Foreign Office,
● 22 January 1942: Foreign Office to the Irish Embassy; is honoured to send you a list of seafarers of Irish Nationality to Marlag und Milag Nord referring to the interview held on 23 June 1941 between a representative of the consul general (William Warnock Irish Legation Berlin) and Mr Consul General Lautz.
It is obvious that William Warnock was making enquiries as to Irish Nationals held as Prisoners in German Prison Camps. Arguably if Warnock had received a list of Irish Seamen he would have acted immediately to obtain their release as he had done on other occasions for Irish Born prisoners interned in German Prison/Internment camps. Question arises, had this list of Irish Seafarers been sent directly to the new camp being set up in Marlag und Milag Nord, Westertimke and subsequently buried in the administration block with other documents and never re-routed to the Irish Legation in Berlin? The Red Cross report on the transition of Marlag und Milag Nord Sandbostel to Marlag und Milag Nord Westertimke shows that the movement of over a 1000 Merchant Seamen/Prisoners had been accomplished by 22 November 1941 but would not be completed for several months. They remarked on the chaos that resulted from the mass transfer of Prisoners and the removal and reconstruction of accommodation huts from one camp to the other. The Red Cross also highlighted that communications between Sandbostel and Westertimke were very difficult. As the new administration for the Merchant Navy Seamen was in Westertimke, consequently the post office and the mail to be collected had to pass through this camp. Whatever list of Irish Seamen was sent may have been mislaid and directed to the administration section in their new camp at Marlag und Milag Nord Westertimke.
● By letter of the 31 March 1943: Gestapo-Bremen to the Reich Main Security Office SS, Foreign Workers Section Berlin: Re Holding for safe custody against 32 Irish Nationals due to their refusal to work. Currently in the Work Education Camp Farge: Bremen Gestapo sends a list of Irish Born British Merchant Navy Seamen to the Reichsführer-SS requesting instructions on what to do with the Irishmen.
● On the 7 April 1943 the Irish Legation Berlin wrote to the German Foreign Office referring to the Verbal Note 12 February 1943 from the Foreign Office and their Verbal Note of the 19 February 1943 concerning Irish Nationals in Marlag Nord/Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager. Chargé d'affaires William Warnock informed the German Foreign Office that the following data should be required for the issuing of an Irish Passport: Name, Profession, Date of Birth, Domicile, Height, Colour of Eyes, Colour of Face, Special Pecularities and Signature of the Person Concerned. Chargé d'affaires William Warnock stated he would be grateful to the Foreign Office, if it wished to invite the individual seafarers to submit the aforementioned personal information, So that they could be issued passports.
● By letter of the 24 April 1943: Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police writes to Dr Theiss Legations Secretariat of Foreign Office, Berlin. Subject: Treatment of Irish Nationals: Attached Copy of a report by the Bremen State Police to the undersigned: Since the Irish Nationals are not members of the enemy, they are not subject to internment. On the other hand, it is necessary for certain reasons to hold neutral sailors who are members of a friendly state, who were involved in the journey of the enemy
● By letter of the 5 July 1943: The Supreme Command of the War Navy advised the German Foreign Office, Reichsführer-SS/Chief of the German Police, and Supreme Command of the Army, that when invited to complete the Irish Legation Questionnaire for a Irish Passport,19 Internees in Farge completed their Application forms, Nr 90882 Harold Callan and Nr 747 George W Knott refused to complete the forms declaring they were of Northern Ireland Nationality. Nr 88940 William Knox, Nr 89232 Thomas King, Nr 526 Patrick Reilly, Nr 627 Bernard Goulding and Nr 528 Michael Lawrie asserted they had lost Irish Nationality and were of British Nationality but completed the forms. Nr 877 Patrick J. O’Brien, Nr 90863 Daniel Ryan and Nr 89146 James Furlong refused to fill out the Irish Embassy Questionnaire for an Irish Passport stating they were Englishmen and of British Nationality. Nr 94146 Thomas Byrce and Nr 527 Patrick Kavanagh were in Hospital. Nr 529 Patrick Breen died in Rotenburg Reserve Hospital 1st May 1943...Gestapo-Bremen Stated: Re holding the Irish Internees in Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager: "The Gestapo Bremen in the work training camp Bremen-Farge is not addressed as a particularly happy solution. The 32 (Irish Born British Merchant Seamen) internees are very depressed and feel completely innocent. In general, Work Education prisoners cannot be held here for more than eight weeks, but they have been there since the end of January. A retransferment to the Marlag und Milag Nord is not advisable for propagandistic reasons, as this would result in a considerable disquiet as a result of a possible separation from the rest of the inmates of the camp. Since the matter has now become urgent, the High Command of the War Navy attaches more importance to its spherical conclusion. With regard to letter R12034, dated 18.5.43, there is therefore a call for the date when the announced discussion will take place at the Foreign Office with the participation of the representatives of the Reichsführer SS, and so on. Since the camp commander of the Marlag und Milag Nord will also participate in this meeting, it is requested that the meeting be held not between 10 and 17 July. Since the camp commander is then on leave: Oberkommando Der Kreigsmarine: Michahelles:"
The varying claims of being British and Irish by the Prisoners was of concern to the German authority. As Mr Callan declared he was of Northern Ireland Nationality in 1943 perhaps he and those Irish Born Prisoners who declared themselves to be of British/Northern Ireland Nationality should take responsibility for the delay in obtaining an Irish Passport which would have led them to being released at the very latest by the end of 1943 from the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager. Unfortunately the efforts of chargé d'affaires William Warnock to gain the release of all the surviving Irish Born British Merchant Navy Seamen in Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager had been frustrated by the varying claims of Nationality by Mr Callan and others. Perhaps there are some Irishmen who would have been alive had Mr Callan and some of his shipmates cooperated with the Irish Legation in 1943? Ironically by January 1945 following the efforts of Con Cremin, Irish Legation Berlin, Mr Callan and all the Irish Born British Merchant Navy Survivors of Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager were given an Irish Passport. However, by January 1945, it was too late for some of the Irishmen. Perhaps Mr Callan and others who since 1945 have directed their approbrium and apportioned blame to the Irish Legation in Berlin for their continual incarceration in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge should in fact be grateful for the efforts of the Irish Diplomatic Corps who despite all the difficulties for Neutral Ireland during World War Two, succeeded in getting Northern Ireland Born British Merchant Navy Seaman Mr Callan along with his Shipmates out of Bremen-Farge Work Concentration Camp and returned to their former Camp Marlag und Milag Nord Westertimke in April 1945: (Film extract showing the Liberation of Marlag und Milag Nord 28 April 1945 - Imperial War Museum): Google Map location Prison Camps Germany where Irish Born British Merchant Navy Seamen were held 1941-1945:
Note 1: In August 1944, chargé d'affaires Con Cremin Irish Legation Berlin, was accompanied by SS Sturmbannführer and Regierungsrat der Bremen Polizei Dr. Erwin Dörnte during his visit to meet the Irishmen in the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager. Bremen Police - Bremen Polizei 1939-45: An Exhibition opened in 2011 reveals Bremen police's collaboration with the Nazis from when they seized power in Germany in 1933. Their decision to collaborate turned civil servants into mass murderers. Bremen's police force was involved in deporting Jews and participated in mass murder. Very few people in Bremen know their city was home to two special police battalions during the Nazi era. One of those, the 303rd police battalion, was founded in Bremen in 1940. It was later involved in a massacre at Babi Yar in Ukraine, where more than 30,000 Jewish men, women and children were shot and killed over a period of just two days. Bremen's other special police task force, the 105th police battalion, had a part in deporting Dutch Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp. "Every week, Bremen's policemen, along with some other people, helped prepare trains for the deportations, which they then escorted before kicking the passengers out on to the selection ramp at Auschwitz,"Then they returned and were normal civil servants here." Research conducted by historians revealed that the city's various police units all worked together and all bore some responsibility for persecuting and annihilating individuals despised by the Nazis."The Gestapo did not act alone and was only able to do its work with the help of the regular police and the criminal police. See also Bremen Polizei Post 1945:
Note 2: In April 1945. Korvettenkapitan Berhard Rogge took over command of both Milag and Marlag Nord. Not only had Rogge been a prisoner of the British in WW1, but his sense of honour and fair play endeared him to the men in his charge, many of whom he had taken prisoner whilst Captain of the Commerce Raider Atlantis. Before taking responsibility for both Marlag and Milag, Rogge had been officer-in-charge of the Merchant Seamens Internment Camp Milag and had on several occasions ignored or forgotten inconvenient orders from higher authority. He had refused to obey orders to open tins that arrived in Red Cross parcels and have the contents tipped out to prevent secret messages from home reaching the Merchant Navy Internees. Only when forced to do so did he comply with these orders. Even then, he insisted that the guards carrying out this task and keep the contents separate, unlike Commandants in other camps who were only to happy to mix the various contents, dried milk, coffee, biscuits, jam, and tinned fish altogether before handing the resulting mess to the recipient. Rogge remained in the West German Navy after the War and retired with the rank of Vice Admiral.
Note 3: Hamburg Ast (Hamburg Abwherstelle)1M(Marine), was the Naval Intelligence section responsible for espionage against foreign navies. A staff member of this section, Kapitänleutnant Ernst Müller organised a Marine Interrogation service to systematically question all officers of the German Merchant Navy after their return to Hamburg, the so called Schiffsbefragungsdienst. It was Kapitänleutnant Ernst Müller who interrogated Irish Born British Merchant Seamen in Hamburg in January/February 1943 and attempted to persuade the Irishmen to workfrei on German Merchant Ships. After the Irishmen refused to cooperate with Müller they were driven to the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager arriving in Farge circa 6th February 1943. The building of the former Abwherstelle Hamburg is now occupied by Restaurant Randal. During 1939, Seamus O'Donovan visited Abwherstelle Hamburg on behalf of the IRA. Located in Hamburg Ast was Hauptman Friedrich Carl Marwede an officer who was in the nachrichtendienstlichen Abwehr in der Amtsgruppe Ausland/Abwehr (Intelligence defense Office Group foreign/defense , (Group II: Relations with foreign military forces) operating in diverse applications, including making contact with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At the end of the Second World War, Marwede became a lieutenant in the British Army. In 1939, the Abwehr team led by the head of Hamburg Abwherstelle (Group II), Friedrich Carl Marwede (who used the cover name Pfalzgraf) met Seamus O'Donovan to discuss matters of common interest. History Ireland: New Evidence IRA Nazi Links:
Note 4: The Abwehr branch for secret military wireless services for operations abroad was officially designated as Der geheime Funkmeldedienst des OKW-Amt Ausland OKW. The use of the designation OKW implies that it was officially responsible for all three military organisations i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force. In September 1942, John Francis O’Reilly began training with Marineabteilung (Naval section) of Abwher 1M at Bremen in preparation for a mission to Northern Ireland. In October 1942 O’Reilly began an intensive radio communications course and subsequently claimed that his Morse code transmission rate was considerably higher than that of other trainees. He also received training in both normal photography and microphotography, in Wohldorf, North of Hamburg, in a luxury villa (Der Kuperhof) which accommodated the “Übersee-Funkzentrale” or wireless services for overseas operations. This organisation was responsible for the signal traffic with South and North America, the Middle East and, the Far East. They were also involved in directing the wireless operations in the preparatory phase to the invasion of Russia (known as operation “Barbarossa”, which started on 22 June 1941) and, some time thereafter, in theatre “Don” (the Don is the major river in the Ukraine). On the 4th May 1971, At the age of 54, John Francis O’Reilly was seriously injured in a road accident in London and died in the Middlesex Hospital. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin in an unmarked grave. History Ireland: John Francis O'Reilly The Flighty Boy:
The Repatriation of Wounded Prisoners 1939-45
Formed in 1939 to assess the condition of wounded British and German prisoners of war and compile lists of those recommended for repatriation during world war two, a mixed medical commission, sometimes called the repatriation commission, visited prisoner-of-war camps regularly for the purpose of deciding who among the sick and wounded should be repatriated. The Commission was set up by international agreement and worked through a number of teams. The composition of each team was usually two neutral doctors (Swiss) plus a doctor from the detaining power, i.e., a German when the team was touring Germany and a British doctor when the team was touring Canada. All these doctors were top grade, usually of professorial status, and they were very impartial and fair, though often with a slight bias in favour of prisoners of war. The criteria for repatriation was the improbability of the prisoner of war again serving his country and the inability of the detaining power to provide the requisite treatment. The cases presented for consideration fell into several categories: (a) Obvious – the limbless, the blind, those with tuberculosis cavities; (b) Less obvious, which were subjected before presentation to much investigation by British and German medical officers, e.g., those with peptic ulcers; (c) Doubtful – those insisted upon by British medical officers without agreement by the Germans: the doubtful lung shadow, the suspected early disseminated sclerosis, etc.; and (d) those who neither the British nor the German medical officers believed should be presented, but who were allowed to present themselves. They rarely succeeded without medical advocacy. Among cases presented from prisoner-of-war hospitals as high a pass rate as 95 per cent was not uncommon. Naturally among the more ambulant more difficult decisions had to be made, and a correspondingly smaller percentage passed. Being passed for repatriation did not always mean early action, and there were sometimes considerable delays before the prisoners of war concerned were actually repatriated. Note: Although Merchant Seamen were regarded as Internees in Milag Nord, they were also regarded as British and Allied Merchant Navy Prisoners of War, a status which attracted the benefits of entitlement to red cross parcels.
Repatriation - Irish Nationals - WW2
In July 1942, with the assistance of chargé d'affaires William Warnock, B.G Fitzsimons was released from Stalag 111D Berlin and routed to Lisbon via occupied France for onward passage to Dublin. By the late summer of 1944 the only safe way of repatriating prisoners and wounded or sick personnel and the most direct route was on the Baltic train ferry crossing from Sassnitz, on the German island of Rügen, direct to Trelleborg, near Malmö in Sweden. On the 7 September 1944, Able Seaman, James Byrne from Arklow, who had been interned in Marlag und Milag Nord merchant seamens internment camp, located in Westertimke, Germany, was following illness with the assistance chargé d'affaires Con Cremin repatriated by ferry along with other prisoners through Sassnitz to Sweden. On the 10 September 1944 an exchange took place in Gothenburg, where 845 Germans, mainly wounded from North Africa, were sent home, and 1,700 to 2500 British sick, wounded and protected personnel including AB James Byrne from Arklow, were brought back to the UK in exchange and arrived in Liverpool circa 21 September 1944. The Pathe News footage shows the British vessel "Arundel Castle", the Swedish hospital ship "Drottningholm", and the "Gripsholm", arriving in Liverpool port circa 21 September 1944, bringing back the repatriated British prisoners. Able Seaman James Byrne was one of the repatriated POW's on board. James was repatriated to Ireland in September 1944 and hospitalised in Rathdrum Sanitorium (Which is now St Colmans Hospital), where he died of TB on the 22 October 1944. Able Seaman James Byrne is buried in St Gabriel's Cemetery, Arklow, County Wicklow. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Grave Reference
ADVISORY: BREMEN-FARGE WW2 PROJECT
16 April 2017: Due to concerns relating to embellished accounts given by former Irish Born British Merchant Navy Prisoners compounded by the hamfisted intervention of Irish Author David Blake Knox. It is imperative that enquirers exercise due diligence when researching the history of Irish Born British and Allied Merchant Seamen who refused to work for the Nazi’s during WW2. To restate for the record:
German Documents show that by August 1944, Irish chargé d'affaires Con Cremin, had successfully acquired the cooperation of the Nazis to extract the Irishmen from Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager. However the Nazi's required proof that each of the Seamen to be issued an Irish Passport was Irish before being released from Farge. Following extensive background checks on each of the Seamen to ascertain their Irish Nationality via the German Minister in Dublin Dr Eduard Hempel, in Cooperation with Assistant Secretary of the Department of External Affairs in Dublin Frederick Boland, by October/November 1944 all except 3 of the Irish Born British Merchant Seamen had been confirmed as having Irish Nationality. Following rechecks within Ireland, on the 22nd January 1945, the final batch of 3 Passports were issued by the Irish Legation in Berlin for Henry Callan, Edward Condon and William Knox.
Persistent allegations from within Ireland that the Irish Government did nothing to help obtain the release of Irish Nationals from the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge, despite the existence of contemporary documentary evidence that clearly shows Irish chargé d'affaires Con Cremin had intervened on behalf of the Irish Government, demonstrates an abject failure by Irish sources to observe the fundamental principle of diligent historic enquiry when dealing with Irish involvement in world war two.
On the 25th March 2017, Irish Author David Blake Knox captioned his article on Bremen-Farge in the Irish Independent "How Irish seamen were abandoned by our government to face Nazi brutality". Perhaps Dr Knox might show his evidence? Indeed Dr Knox might consider rewriting his book Suddenly While Abroad which is responsible for muddying the history of the Irish experience in Germany during world war two.
In 2002, the transcripts of the Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial 1947/48 along with other supporting documentation were procured from the Public Record office in Kew, London. The UK researcher employed communicated his concerns at the obvious contradictions in Irish evidence to the Military Court in Hamburg. From 2002 these files/transcripts have been located in Dublin and examined line by line. The Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial transcripts are an extant contemporaneous record (and the only official existing record) of the sworn evidence given by Irish Born British Merchant Seamen who had been held in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge from 1943 to April 1945. On the 4 April 1948 (JAG) Judge Advocate General Guy Sixsmith in his concluding observation regarding the cogency of Irish witness evidence stated inter alia "that he came away from the trial (Bremen-Farge) profoundly disturbed at the outcome" and raises doubts as to the reliability of Irish witness evidence.
Forgotten Hero of Bunker Valentin - The Harry Callan Story Michele Callan, Pub 2017, Collins Press
At Page 62-63: Mr Callan crewmember SS Afric Star records the death of Frank Evans in the hold of the German Prison Ship Portland on their way to Bordeaux in March 1941: Interestingly Mr Callan ex Afric Star previously asserted that it was a submachine gun which was fired into the hold full of Prisoners from outside by a German guard during the Mutiny on board MS Portland. When one met Mr Callan first in 2001, and on several other occasions, one put the question to Mr Callan, what had he seen of the Mutiny in the hold of the German Prison Ship MS Portland. Mr Callan advised then that he was not in the same hold where the shots were fired and did not know what had happened as the lights were put out. However Mr Callan now offers evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the Portland Mutiny report which was provided to Mr Callan free gratis may have prompted a change in his version of events. Mr Callan asserts he was beside Frank Evans when he was shot and would have been an important witness to events. However Mr Callan was never called to give evidence at the preliminary investigation held by the Germans when the MS Portland subsequently docked in Bordeaux, and significantly Mr Callan was never called to give evidence to the Hamburg trial in 1941 of those involved in the mutiny on board Portland. An extensive recheck of ones archive which includes all the German documentation confirms Mr Callan is not listed as a witness to the death of Frank Evans during the Portland Mutiny, which is inexplicable. Either way there is a credible doubt as to where Mr Callan was located in the hold of the SS Afric Star when the shooting took place and Mr Callan's assertion that he was sitting beside Frank Evans, or on another occasion his assertion that he was standing beside Frank Evans when Mr Evans was shot can no longer be taken as fact unless corroborated by other evidence.
At Page 65: Mr Callan writes "Eventually "32 days" after our arrival in Bordeaux we were rounded up and marched to a nearby station": In contrast, Hubert Hall 3rd Radio Officer of the Afric Star and a Shipmate of Mr Callan, asserts in his interview published by the Imperial War Museum 20 April 1990, that it was "14 days" after their arrival in Bordeaux when they were moved to the station: Extract: Audio Recording 3rd Radio Officer Hubert Hall SS Afric Star
At Page 66: Mr Callan asserts: "There were "no carriages on the train, just boxcars". I had seen these at home, they were used to transport livestock to market. Now we were told to get into the boxcars; they shoved about 50 of us into each one": Mr Callan has stated on previous occasions that he had been transported in cattle wagons. However British evidence suggests captured merchant seamen from the SS Afric Star, who were Mr Callan's shipmates, were transported from Bordeaux, in third class rail carriages with seats. Hubert Hall 3rd Radio Officer of the Afric Star and a Shipmate of Mr Callan, asserts in his interview published by the Imperial War Museum 20 April 1990: "We were in this camp in St Medard for 14 Days, and then we were entrained for Germany, we weren't in Cattle Trucks, we were in actual coaches with wooden seats": Extract: Audio Recording 3rd Radio Officer Hubert Hall SS Afric Star
At Page 129 Mr Callan Writes:
the early summer (1943), a German officer came to our barracks with
passport applications. I saw the older men taking and reading them.
They did not throw these forms back but took them to the officer, who
typed them up. Each man signed the typed form. I was very suspicious
and confused, so I turned to see what Billy was doing. He explained to
me, If you say you’re British, Harry, you’ll never get out of here. If
you say your Irish – which you are – you need to fill in this
application form for an Irish passport. Then we can get out of here
and go home. I trusted Billy (English) so I completed the form.
We all did”.
At Page 134:
extract letter from the Irishmen in the SS Arbeitserziehungslager to the Swiss
Consulate Bremen dated 2nd October 1943, Re passport forms:
“everyone signed with the
exception of 5 men who did not consider themselves to be
At Page 173: Photograph Shows "Harry Callan wearing Farge Camp Doctor Heidbreder's Shirts in 1944 and wearing the watch he bartered for in Milag und Marlag in 1941": Allegations of a starvation diet from February 1943 while being held as Prisoners in Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager and subjected to slave labour on the Bunker Valentin, and showing a fit looking Mr Callan in 1944, raises questions. It has been alleged that Mr Callan and the Irish survivors from the Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp arrived back at the main gates of Marlag und Milag Nord Merchant Seamen's Internment Camp, Westertimke on the 6 April 1945 in a malnourished and emaciated condition. A photograph extracted from a British Military film taken on the 28 April 1945 when Milag Nord was offically liberated, which was 22 days after the Irishmen arrived back from Bremen, shows two of the surviving Irishmen, Robert Roseman and John Connor. Captured in March 1941, Mr Roseman and Mr Connor were also held in the same POW camp as Mr Callan, then Milag Nord Internment Camp, and for 2 years and three months held as prisoners until 6 April 1945 along with Mr Callan and the other Irish born British Merchant Seamen in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp. This photo extract clearly shows Mr Roseman and Mr Connor in a remarkable healthy condition some 22 days after being released from a Gestapo slave labour camp having spent 2 years 3 months as prisoners. The spontaneous weight recovery of Mr Roseman and Mr Connor following the alleged near starvation diet of Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp is inexplicable. In contrast a photograph taken on the 16 April 1945 following the Liberation of British Armed Forces Personnel from a Prisoner of War Camp in Fallingbostel, Germany, shows three malnourished emaciated British POWs. Mr Callan has previously asserted "we were forced to work 12 hours per day. We were given a bowl of soup per day + 3 slices of black bread". However the photo extract of a fit looking Robert Roseman and John Connor, would suggest that the Irish in Bremen-Farge were better fed over a period of time while they were prisoners in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp than British Prisoners of War held in Prisoner of War camps who had access to Red Cross parcels. For the record, the Gestapo in Bremen had contacted Gestapo HQ in Berlin and the German Foreign Office to check on the Irish position and were seeking instructions as to the Irish citizens in Farge. Gestapo Bremen indicated the job performance of the Irishmen in the Work Education Camp Farge was acceptable. Interestingly on arrival from Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp at the main gate of Milag Nord Internment Camp, British Merchant Seamen who were Prisoners in Milag Nord accused the Irishmen of working as free workers for the Nazi's. Perhaps the sight of a healthy looking Mr Roseman and Mr Connor may have provoked that accusation?
At Page 191-192: Mr Callan asserts: "JOHN HIPTON a British Merchant Seamen and Prisoner of war in Milag had seen us go and return. Years after the war he was interviewed and asked about the treatment meted out to the Irish and British by the Nazis. I do think the Irish were given worse treatment by the Nazis than the British were". Firstly the name is JOHN HIPKIN not HIPTON and John was challenged in November 2005 over his remarks: To recall. On January 12th 2002 an article entitled Payouts Hope For Ex-Seamen was published in the Newcastle Journal which credited Mr John Hipkin, that: "His evidence over how captured seamen were mistreated has led to a campaign to extend the deadline on a compensation fund set up by the German government. This was misleading and untrue. Although the article goes on to elaborate on our involvement, it misleadingly gave the impression that John Hipkin was somehow responsible for compensation that might have been procured at the time for former Irish Born British Merchant Navy Seamen held captive by the Germans in the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager, a project which we completed by 2004 and recorded in the Sunday Times 4 April 2004. Mr Hipkin made contact in May 2001 as a result of our article in the UK edition of the Irish Post. John did give helpful information regarding the fact that he had seen Irish born British Merchant Navy Seamen held as prisoners IN the Merchant Navy Internment Camp known as Marlag und Milag Nord in Germany during world war two. When requested to provide further information to corroborate as to where and when he had seen the Irishmen, John Hipkin said he believed that it was in April 1945 at the front gate. Prior to the November 2005 London Cenotaph Parade, in the company of Mr Harry Callan and Isaac Christy Ryan, when the issue of the Irishmen in Milag was raised with John Hipkin he was reminded that in April 1945 hundreds of Prisoners were making their way west towards advancing British forces with many ending up at the front gate of Marlag und Milag Nord Westertimke seeking refuge from the battles raging in the area. When challenged, John admitted he was unsure of the date and agreed that he was also unsure if he had seen the Irishmen at the gate of Milag Nord on their return from Bremen in April 1945, as there was so many prisoners inside and outside the Camp at the time. In April 1945, the whole area surrounding Marlag und Milag Nord and the village of Westertimke was in a state of confusion due to the ongoing conflict. However, John recalled seeing Irishmen in Milag Nord in 1942, which is likely. Interestingly some years ago Mr Callan commented that in April 1945 he recalled British Merchant Navy Seamen who were Prisoners in Milag Nord had accused the returning Irishmen of working as free workers for the Nazi's. Perhaps the sight of a healthy looking Mr Roseman and Mr Connor may have provoked that accusation ?
At Page 264/265: RE COMPENSATION: Mr Callan states he never gave permission for information to be published in the Sunday Times 4 April 2004 and asserts "Peter and I never discussed the Article": One begs to differ. Harry Callan was informed by telephone on Saturday afternoon 03 April 2004 that an Article was planned by the Sunday Times and advised the publicity was important to support the case of another claimant for compensation, and had the potential to locate more survivors. Apparently the Sunday Times being advised not to publish names had procured other details from London and proceeded regardless. Despite Mr Callan's protestations the publicity was very helpful in progressing our project...and as a reminder..our project had also achieved a benefit for Mr Callan: Significantly, Mr Callan now describes himself as a British Merchant Navy Prisoner of War while he was located in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge. This is not what Mr Callan claimed when he made his application for Compensation in 2001. On the 24 August 2001 Mr Callan in his witnessed statement of claim for compensation to the German Force Labour Compensation Programme, Question 31: Were You (or the deceased) a Prisoner of War at any time from 1939-45: Mr Callan answered NO. At the time of application, Mr Callan fully understood that ex Prisoners of War were specifically excluded from any claim for compensation that was prepared by the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46), and if Mr Callan had described himself as an ex Prisoner of War in his application his claim would have been immediately rejected by the Swiss administrators of the German fund. To restate: Prisoners of War were not eligible to claim compensation under the German Foundation Law. In light of Mr Callan's change in his description to British Merchant Navy Prisoner of War while located in Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager. Perhaps Mr Callan should now consider returning his award ?
At Page 265: Mr Callan refers to the sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Marlag und Milag Nord commemoration ceremony which was to be held at the location of the former Merchant Seamens Internment Camp in Westertimke in April 2005. The Irish Seamen’s Relatives Association (1939-46) contributed to Milag 60 fund organised by the MILAG PoW Association in the UK for the erection of a memorial plaque in the location of the former Camp.
At Page 265: Mr Callan writes: "But he (Peter) spoke to me about returning to Germany, in particular to Farge and Bunker Valentin. I am not going back there, Peter, no way". From 2001 until the return trip in 2005. Mr Callan never indicated that he had been back to Farge on several occasions 1948, 1949 and May 1968. Some years post 2005, Mr Callan briefly mentioned he had been back on one occassion to Farge, but got off the subject. It is now a surprise to read that Mr Callan had in fact been a regular visitor to Bremen and had visited Farge on several previous occasions post war. Towards the end of 2004 in discussion with a TG4 Producer a suggestion was made to organise a trip to Germany to Commemorate the Anniversary of the Liberation and visit various locations including Bremen-Farge. We understood that Mr Callan, Christy Ryan and the O'Hara family had never been in Farge, Westertimke, Sandbostel or Rheinberg War Cemetery where four of the Irishmen our buried. Indeed we organised a Piper from the Irish Guards Regimental Pipes and Drums and had him travel at our expense to Germany to Pipe a lament for the fallen. If it had been known prior to April 2005 that Mr Callan had been back to Farge years ago, and on several occasions, no trip would have been organised by the Irish Seamen’s Relatives Association (1939-46) back to Germany for Mr Callan. Instead, we would have travelled to Germany on our own to meet with others from the UK in Westertimke. The Irish trip to Germany was based on the understanding it was a first for all the Irish participants. Unfortunately one now knows this was not the case with Mr Callan. In hindsight Mr Callan's protestations in 2005 that "he was not going back there, Peter, No Way", and to discover now from this book published in 2017, that in fact Mr Callan had on several previous occasions been back to Farge, raises questions.
At Page 265: Mr Callan writes: "He (Peter) found Ginger O’Dwyer in Great Britain but he was not well enough to attend". (The Commemoration in Milag April 2005 in Germany). Mr Callan is very much mistaken. One was not aware that Michael O’Dwyer was still alive until June 2006, which is well past the date of the Milag 60 Commemoration held in April 2005. To remind Mr Callan: One had been advised in 2006 that another survivor Isaac Christy Ryan had been in contact with Michael O'Dwyer for years usually at Christmas Time. On the 13th June 2006, I immediately sought Michael's Contact details from the Ryan Family. On the 15th June, I received Michael O'Dwyer's contact details in London and contacted Michael O'Dwyer directly. On the 16th September 2006, a trip was organised to London accompanied by Mr Callan to meet and interview Michael O’Dwyer as he had been a witness in the Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial Hamburg in 1947/48. During the interview in London with Michael O'Dwyer, I was informed that the BBC Journalist who accompanied our group to Germany in April 2005 had been in contact with Michael on the 10th February 2006 seeking an interview. It was and still is concerning to discover that the Ryan family and the BBC Journalist had kept their knowledge of the existence of Michael O'Dwyer's contact with Christy Ryan to themselves, despite the fact they already knew of the existence of a German Compensation fund, and that one was actively seeking Irish survivors. Ironically, while the existence of Michael was kept private, on behalf of Isaac Christopher Ryan the Irish Seamen’s Relatives Association (1939-46) had already submitted an appeal for compensation to the German Fund on Monday 7th June 2004 which was eventually successful. If we had known earlier in 2004 or at least in 2005 a submission for compensation to which Michael would have been entitled to, as a bona fide claimant, could have been submitted to the German Fund Administrators for adjudication. A complaint was directed to the BBC and the Ryan family for not advising of Michael's whereabouts in time so that we could help him with drafting a claim, or at least make the attempt. By September 2006 it was too late as the fund had closed. Regretably Michael O'Dwyer RIP passed away on 20 December 2012 in London - Obituary Limerick Leader 19 January 2013:
At Page 278/279: July 2007: Re: Princess Anne's Not Forgotten Association Tea Party in Buckingham Palace: The Author asserts "Peter too had received an invitation so we travelled together and met up with other veterans from the British Merchant Navy". Just to state: Peter Mulvany never received an official invitation to attend a function in Buckingham Palace and he did not travel to Buckingham Palace to attend any tea party.
At Page 287: WAR CRIMES TRIAL FINDINGS: Research documentation which included the Bremen Farge War Crimes Trial Transcripts, copy photographs, copy dvd's, copy cd's etc were given over time to Mr Harry Callan on the understanding that they would be a private legacy for ALL the Callan family. The Author, Michelle Callan was notified on the 15th of October 2013 that she had no permission to use any copy archive material etc given to Mr Callan, take notes, or use in any other way for publication. Mrs Callan was advised that all copy archive material, including photographs, documents, cd's, dvd's etc previously gifted to Mr Callan were to be returned un-copied by post to the address indicated. It is regretted that our request for a return of our archive material was ignored by Mrs Callan:
16 April 2017: The Purpose of the Bremen-Farge WW2 Project initiated in 2001 was to support veterans and attempt to work through the complexities of the experiences of Irish Born British and Allied Merchant Navy Seamen held as Internees who refused to work frei for Nazi Germany, but who during their captivity varied their status from being British and Merchant Navy Prisoners of War on some occasions, to claims of being Irish Nationals, and back to being British Merchant Navy Prisoners of War. In January 2013, in support of Mr Callan, as he had alleged he had been deceived by Irish Author David Blake Knox for his publication Suddenly While Abroad, and to give Mr Callan an opportunity to voice his concerns, we published recordings of his complaints, see below: Irrespective, after 12 years one became aware of other issues/contradictions going on in the background, which also raised the same concerns as reflected on the 4 April 1948 by (JAG) Judge Advocate General Guy Sixsmith in his concluding observation regarding the cogency of Irish witness evidence submitted under oath to the British Military Court convened in the Hamburg Curio-Haus "that he came away from the trial (Bremen-Farge) profoundly disturbed at the outcome" and raises doubts as to the reliability of Irish witness evidence post war. Taking into account all the issues, and concerns, and despite the time, research and financial effort expended since 2001, one was relieved to walk away in 2013:
1943-1945 - To Conclude:
"Apart from the following observations/comments - Nothing further needs to be said"
Bremen-Farge WW2 Project - Irish Born Prisoners/Internees
British Merchant Seamen - 1939/45
The reckless disregard for historical accuracy shown by author David Blake Knox, along with the embellished contribution of a former Irish born Prisoner/Internee, has so obfuscated the public record, that researchers would be well advised to exercise due diligence when enquiring into the experiences of Irish born British merchant seamen who were Prisoners/Internees in Bremen-Farge, Marlag und Milag Nord and Stalag XB/Sandbostel during world war two.
Enquirers should be aware that British Military Intelligence/MI9 was instructed to seek out individuals for awards following liberation in 1945, and there was a tendency by various POWs, and the Irishmen, to embellish their statements. In some cases claims of brutality were asserted years after wars end which could not be corroborated and lacked cogency as details were unclear as to who did what, to whom, and when. British military intelligence post war had forewarned that any report they compiled from information derived from Prisoners/Internees which cannot be verified should not be accepted as fact unless stated to be confirmed by information from other sources. In this regard, Guy Walther's article Blood, Tears, Sweat and Tall Tales should be required reading for every historian, writer and commentator, in particular he "found that many escapers' memoirs seriously conflicted with the accounts they gave to the authorities during and immediately after the war". See also: Check Facts Historians. Cognisant that accuracy of memory can be distorted and dimmed through the passage of time, world war two stories emanating from former Prisoners/Internees should be viewed with caution, until corroborated from other sources.
Note 1: The suggestion that an apology should be obtained from the Irish Government for their perceived inaction to assist Irish born British merchant seamen located in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge during world war two needs clarification. German documents in our archive clearly show, that from 1941 instructions were issued to Nazi Camp Commandants which stated, the presence of Irish Nationals in Stalag XB/Sandbostel and Marlag und Milag Nord was not to be revealed to the Irish Legation in Berlin prior to their incarceration in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge. Following the relocation of Internees to Bremen-Farge in February 1943, the Gestapo had within a short time accepted that the Irishmen were neutrals and were attempting to sort out the exact status of each of the 32 Internees with the Irish legation in Berlin via the German foreign office and Gestapo HQ in Bremen. Interestingly a problem had arisen because some of the 32 Irishmen had previously asserted themselves to be British, albeit Irish born, consequently the authorities in Berlin required the status of each to be ascertained by the Irish legation before any repatriation. As a result of the RAF bombing of Berlin in late 1943 the majority of the legation files were destroyed, leaving newly appointed chargé d'affaires Con Cremin, with no other option but to redo the Irishmen's passport applications which created more delays. By August 1944, and despite all the difficulties, Cremin had successfully acquired the cooperation of the Nazis to extract the Irishmen from Farge camp. However due to further RAF bombing of the Bremen area the Irish legation determined that it would be safer for the Irishmen to return to Farge camp rather than routing them back to Ireland through other zones of occupation where belligerents were actively engaged in operations against each other.
Note 2: On the 29 November 1943, the Irish Legation building located at Tiergartenstrasse 34A in Berlin was destroyed by fire during an RAF incendiary attack, and as a result, chargé d'affaires William Warnock lost all his files and other official records (although some have survived) in the flames, and he had to move himself and the legation to temporary premises on a stud farm at Staffelde outside Berlin. A few days later Warnock was replaced by Con Cremin, who arrived from Vichy France with instructions to take over at the Legation in Berlin, and for Warnock to return to Dublin. Surviving documentation shows, that on taking up his post in Berlin, chargé d'affaires Con Cremin did his very best to extricate the Irishmen from Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager, and to his credit, eventually succeeded in his efforts. It has been alleged by one Irish born British merchant seaman ex Prisoner/Internee, that Cremin did nothing for the Irishmen while they were in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge during world war two, an allegation which is untrue. To clarify the historical record: See letter dated 30 August 1944: Con Cremin to the Irishmen in Farge bei Bremen:
Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial - Curio Haus - Hamburg - 1948 - Irish Witness Evidence
In 2005, when gifting copies of the transcripts of the Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial including other documentation from our research, Irish survivors and others were forewarned, that evidence submitted under oath by Irish born British merchant seamen to the Bremen-Farge War Crimes Trial was determined to be inconsistent by the British military court. In this regard commentators and writers of record should take note: On the 4 April 1948 (JAG) Judge Advocate General Guy Sixsmith in his observation regarding the cogency of Irish witness evidence stated inter-alia: "that several of the accused (Bremen-Farge Camp Guards) who were acquitted had at least one friend amongst the Irishmen"; "the key to whatever pattern there is behind the convictions and acquittals is the personal likes of the Irishmen"; They (The Irishmen) were manifestly wrong in their delusion that he was ever camp commandant"; "I was prepared for a large number of (Bremen-Farge Camp Guards) acquittals"; "It seemed to me almost impossible to prove guilt satisfactorily in respect of many incidents owning to the time element". JAG's conclusion "that he came away from the trial (Bremen-Farge) profoundly disturbed at the outcome" (Guilty verdicts) raises a reasonable doubt as to the reliability of Irish witness evidence proffered against the defendants on trial, and also suggests that post war statements promulgated by the Irishmen should be viewed with caution.
Compensation - German Government - Irish born British Merchant Seamen - Prisoners/Internees - Bremen-Farge
The two main qualifications for entitlement to compensation from the German Fund were, status and location e.g: 1. The applicant was not a Prisoner of War; and 2. The Applicant had been located in an Arbeitserziehunglager (Work Education Camp) during world war two. The Irishmen qualified for compensation because they had been interned in Marlag und Milag Nord, a merchant seamen's Internment Camp, and relocated to an Arbeitserziehungslager. Whether the Irishmen were involved in slave labour or not in Bremen-Farge is immaterial to the application process. Their status as internees and relocation to Bremen-Farge Work Education Camp were the salient points. Irish born British merchant seamen captured during world war two while serving on British or Allied Merchant Ships along with many other Seamen, were interned in Marlag und Milag Nord, a designated merchant seamen's Internment Camp in Germany, and were not Prisoners of War per se. To re-iterate, and for the record; The Irishmen were never Prisoners of War, and if they had been designated Prisoners of War, the Irish claim for compensation, prepared by the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46), would have been rejected from the outset by the Swiss administrators of the German fund. Consequently, the granting of compensation to surviving Irish born British merchant seamen ex Prisoners/Internees, is an acknowledgement under German and Swiss law that 1. The Irishmen were NOT Prisoners of War, and 2. Confirmation the Irishmen had been located in an Arbeitserziehungslager/Work Education Camp during world war two. Pursuant to criteria set out by the German fund administrators, if a claimant qualifies for compensation, there is also a presumption that said claimant was forced to do slave labour. However, Irish born British merchant seamen relocated to the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager were treated a lot better by the Gestapo in comparison to other Prisoners, a fact which raises further questions as to the cogency of accounts given by ex Irish Prisoners/Internees post war, and arguably rebuts the presumption of slave labour in the Irishmen's case. In 2001, a claim for compensation argued on the basis that the Irishmen were NOT Prisoners of War was submitted to the Swiss Administrators of the German Compensation Fund by the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) on behalf of one Irish born British merchant seaman. By March 2004 this application was successful and is a legal precedent. Another Irishman subsequently came forward and indicated that his claim prepared by his family had been refused and sought our assistance. Following a re-examination of his claim form, it was observed the claimant had erroneously described himself as a Prisoner of War, and as Prisoners of War were specifically excluded from compensation, the Swiss Administrators correctly deemed his application to have failed on those grounds. However, the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46), resubmitted an appeal in support of his claim to the Swiss Administrators, arguing that Irish born British merchant seamen located in the Arbeitsertziehungslager Bremen-Farge who had been been interned in Milag Nord, Merchant Seamen's Internment Camp, Westertimke, were NOT Prisoners of War, and on that basis the Irish claimant satisfied the criteria. On Tuesday 14 November 2006, the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) was advised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), German Forced Labour Compensation Programme, Genève, Switzerland, this appeal was successful and the claimant received his compensation.
British and Allied Merchant Seamen : 1939-1945
Despite being officially classed as non-combatants, the German authorities created a special camp for Allied merchant seamen and their civilian passengers. At first MILAG (a Marine Internment Lager/Camp) was merely a barbed wire compound inside the Sandbostel Concentration Camp (Stalag XB). Eventually, as a result of protests by the Protecting Powers, the seamen were relocated to a new camp located adjacent to the village of Westertimke where they had to build their own huts and fence themselves in. Some 4,500 merchant seamen from the British Empire, the USA and from all over the world, spent up to 5 years in captivity in this camp. Pursuant to International Law Merchant Seamen were designated as having civilian status, except those seamen who served as DEMS (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship Personnel) Gunners. Captured merchant seamen, irrespective of nationality, were civilian internees 'Ziv Int', NOT Prisoners of War; However the British were concerned that captured merchant seamen should attract the status of Prisoner of War and be entitled to the protection of the Red Cross. While Irish Born British Merchant Seamen held as Prisoners in Stalag XB, Sandbostel, and MILAG Nord Marine Internment Camp were designated as Merchant Navy Prisoners of War by the British, once taken out of MILAG Nord in February 1943, Irish Born Merchant Seamen moved to the Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager were deemed not to be Prisoners of War/Internees. As Nationals from a neutral country their status then became an issue for the Bremen Gestapo, which was eventually resolved following the intervention of chargé d'affaires Con Cremin and the Irish Legation in Berlin, see letter dated 30 August 1944: Con Cremin to the Irishmen in Farge bei Bremen. Once returned to the MILAG NORD Internment Camp in April 1945, Irish Born British Merchant Seamen, regained Prisoner of War Status, albeit they were still Marine Internees. The 27 Irish Born British Merchant Seamen, Survivors of Bremen-Farge Arbeitslager are named HERE:
Graphics Panel - Irish Victims of the Nazis - National Museum of Ireland
In 2006, the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) contributed photographs for the construction of a Graphics Panel entitled Irish Victims of the Nazis, which is currently on display in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin. A survivor asserted that one photograph showing a group of workers in Bremen-Farge circa 1944 laying railway girders was an image of himself and the other Irishmen. A review of this photograph indicates the Irish survivor was mistaken in his identification.
|RTE Radio - 13 September 2014 - Clouds in Harry's Coffee|
Following contact outlining concerns to RTE Radio One, regarding the reference to Harry Callan on their website that "One day, he became aware that a German academic was seeking testimony from survivors of "Prisoner-Of-War slavery" under the NAZI regime during the Second World War. "There was an offer of some compensation; Harry felt that he qualified and made contact with the German authorities", the programme makers corrected the record and that correction is much appreciated. However, their updated quote re Harry Callan that "One day, he became aware that Germany was offering compensation to survivors of Prisoner-Of-War slavery during the Second World War. Harry felt that he qualified and applied" embellishes the record. To clarify: Harry Callan never felt he qualified and always doubted as to whether the application would be successful and he said so at the time of signing his application. Prisoners of War were specifically excluded from applying to the German Fund for compensation and as Mr Callan was never a Prisoner of War at any time during his captivity he would never have qualified for compensation as a Prisoner of War slave. To be precise, interned Irish born personnel moved from an internment camp to an Arbeitserziehungslager/Work Education Camp changed their legal status from internee to slave labourer and it was this change (The Location) which presented an opportunity to have the application procedure tested, thereby creating a precedent for other potential Irish claimants. In this regard the search for a survivor was critical to progressing any claim as deceased personnel were excluded, hence a public appeal through the newspapers in Ireland and the UK. While this Radio Programme is a contribution to the knowledge base within Ireland surrounding the experience of Irish born British merchant seamen held as internees during world war two in Germany, the continual exclusion of the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) by Mr Callan and others from the narrative of Bremen-Farge project that one initiated from June 2001 is an unacceptable gratuitous insult to our support base and prompts the following for consideration:
1. To restate: Harry Callan or his family did not do the research, fund the project, prepare a briefing note, or argue for any compensation from the German Government. That was undertaken in its entirety by the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) with support from organisations and individuals worldwide. Following publication of a letter in the newspapers in July 2001 seeking survivors, Mrs Ann Callan RIP brought Mr Callan in her car to my home on Sunday evening 22 July 2001 and it was Ann who delivered the attached Letter. Mrs Callan later returned knocked at my door and I went with her and spoke with Mr Callan who was sitting in the passenger side of her car. I advised Mr Callan that I would interview him in his home on Monday morning 23 July 2001, my day off work, to complete the application process for compensation. The purpose of the letter in the newspapers was to invite survivors to come forward so that a legal analysis could be tested which eventually proved successful in Mr Callan's case: Dublin Man Paid For Nazi Slavery 4 April 2004. At the same time the closing date for applications was August 2001 and time was of the essence. With the assistance of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the German Government and the administrators of the fund were persuaded to extend the closing date from the 31 August 2001 until the 31 December 2001, to permit more time to locate other Irish survivors. A later appeal on behalf of another internee/slave labourer Isaac Ryan was also successful. Mr Callan's deceased wife, Ann Callan RIP, is deserving of much of the credit as it was she who supported Mr Callan for many years post world war two, and but for her dogged determination the Project may not have concluded successfully. It is regretable that Ann Callan RIP seems to have been written out of Mr Callan's record. Hopefully this mention of her crucial input will correct that omission.
2.Ibid: "Mr Callan previously asserted that it was a submachine gun which was fired into the hold full of Prisoners from outside by a German guard during the Mutiny on board MS Portland. When one met Mr Callan first in 2001, and on several other occasions, one put the question to Mr Callan, what had he seen of the Mutiny in the hold of the German Prison Ship MS Portland. Mr Callan advised then that he was not in the same hold where the shots were fired and did not know what had happened as the lights were put out. However Mr Callan now offers evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the Portland Mutiny report which was provided to Mr Callan free gratis may have prompted a change in his version of events. Mr Callan asserts he was beside Frank Evans when he was shot and would have been an important witness to events. However Mr Callan was never called to give evidence at the preliminary investigation held by the Germans when the MS Portland subsequently docked in Bordeaux, and significantly Mr Callan was never called to give evidence to the Hamburg trial in 1941 of those involved in the mutiny on board Portland. An extensive recheck of ones archive which includes all the German documentation confirms Mr Callan is not listed as a witness to the death of Frank Evans during the Portland Mutiny, which is inexplicable. Either way there is a credible doubt as to where Mr Callan was located in the hold of the SS Afric Star when the shooting took place and Mr Callan's assertion that he was sitting beside Frank Evans, or on another occasion his assertion that he was standing beside Frank Evans when Mr Evans was shot can no longer be taken as fact unless corroborated by other evidence".
3.Ibid: "Mr Callan has stated on several occasions that he had been transported in cattle wagons. British evidence suggests captured merchant seamen from the SS Afric Star, who were Mr Callan's shipmates, were transported from Bordeaux, in third class rail carriages with seats".
4. There is a suggestion that there were 31 Irish together + Mr Callan in one cattle wagon travelling from Bordeaux. Untrue. Irish born prisoners arrived at several locations on the coast of France and other countries. Bordeaux was only one arrival point. For instance a group of captured merchant seamen were landed by German ships at La Rochelle in March 1941. After a few days in an ex-Foreign Legion barracks all the prisoners, including five Irishmen, were moved northeast by train in regular passenger cars, but without seats, for Holland and Germany.
5. Mr Callan has previously asserted that he saw the mother of one female prisoner in Milag Nord Merchant Seamens Internment camp, Westertimke in 1941. One communicated this information to her daughter currently living in Argentina as evidence that Mr Callan had seen her mother walking outside the wire perimeter of Milag Nord merchant seamen's camp. Mr Callan said he along with other prisoners talked with the mother of this lady before her transportation from Milag to Liebenau internment camp. That information appeared later in the daughter's book published in Argentina about her families experience during world war two; Book extract HERE. A recheck of extant evidence established that Mr Callan could not have been in Milag Nord, Merchant Seamens Camp, Westertimke at the same time as this lady, and that Mr Callan was mistaken in his recollection.
6. Ibid: "It has been alleged that Mr Callan and the Irish survivors from the Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp arrived back at the main gates of Marlag und Milag Nord Merchant Seamens Internment Camp, Westertimke on the 6 April 1945 in a malnourished and emaciated condition. A photograph extracted from a British Military film taken on the 28 April 1945 when Milag Nord was offically liberated, which was 22 days after the Irishmen arrived back from Bremen, shows two of the surviving Irishmen, Robert Roseman and John Connor. Captured in March 1941, Mr Roseman and Mr Connor were also held in the same POW camp as Mr Callan, then Milag Nord Internment Camp, and for 2 years and three months held as prisoners until 6 April 1945 along with Mr Callan and the other Irish born British merchant seamen in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp. This photo extract clearly shows Mr Roseman and Mr Connor in a remarkable healthy condition some 22 days after being released from a Gestapo slave labour camp having spent 2 years 3 months as prisoners. The spontaneous weight recovery of Mr Roseman and Mr Connor following the alleged near starvation diet of Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp is inexplicable. In contrast a photograph taken on the 16 April 1945 following the Liberation of British Armed Forces Personnel from a Prisoner of War Camp in Fallingbostel, Germany, shows three malnourished emaciated British POWs. Mr Callan has previously asserted "we were forced to work 12 hours per day. We were given a bowl of soup per day + 3 slices of black bread". However the photo extract of a fit looking Robert Roseman and John Connor, would suggest that the Irish in Bremen-Farge were better fed over a period of time while they were prisoners in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp than British Prisoners of War held in Prisoner of War camps who had access to Red Cross parcels. For the record, the Gestapo in Bremen had contacted Gestapo HQ in Berlin and the German Foreign Office to check on the Irish position and were seeking instructions as to the Irish citizens in Farge. Gestapo Bremen indicated the job performance of the Irishmen in the Work Education Camp Farge was acceptable. Interestingly on arrival from Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp at the main gate of Milag Nord Internment Camp, British merchant seamen who were Prisoners in Milag Nord accused the Irishmen of working as free workers for the Nazi's. Perhaps the sight of a healthy looking Mr Roseman and Mr Connor may have provoked that accusation?"
7. Mr Callan has also asserted on many occasions that it was he who contacted the Camp Doctor Dr Heidbreder in his home by telephone from the administration Barrack in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp, and following instructions from the Doctor carried out the surgical procedure on another Irish Prisoner in the camp hospital. In contrast Dr Heidbreder in his evidence adduced under oath to the Bremen-Farge War Crimes Court post war, and corroborated by another witness suggests that it was Doctor Heidbreder who had performed the surgical procedure and not Mr Callan, which begs the question, wherein lies the truth? Mr Callan's access to a telephone in a Gestapo run Slave Labour Camp during world war two is a remarkable consideration, when compared to the treatment meted out to other slave labourers by the Gestapo in Bremen-Farge. Conflicting accounts surrounding events during world war two raise questions as to the reliability of witness recollections and cognisant that accuracy of memory can be distorted and dimmed through the passage of time, any assertions emanating from former prisoners, no matter how cogent, should be viewed with caution, until corroborated from other sources.
8. Regarding statements of alleged physical brutality and ill-treatment made to investigators by returning prisoners of war, writers of record should note. MI9 was instructed to seek out individuals for awards following liberation in 1945 and there was a tendency by some POWs and the Irishmen to embellish their statements. In some cases claims of brutality were asserted some years after the wars end which could not be corroborated and lacked cogency as details were unclear as to who did what to whom, and when. British military intelligence post war had forewarned that any report they compiled from information derived from prisoners of war which cannot be verified should not be accepted as fact unless definitely stated to be confirmed by information from other sources. In this regard Guy Walther's article Blood, Tears, Sweat and Tall Tales should be required reading for every historian, writer and commentator, in particular that he "found that many escapers' memoirs seriously conflicted with the accounts they gave to the authorities during and immediately after the war". See also Sunday Times letters page 27 January 2013: Check Facts - Historians
9. Information which has only came to light in recent years suggests that Mr Callan and other Irish citizens held as Prisoners in Bremen-Farge Slave Labour Camp had been photographed and had signed application forms for an Irish Passport on the 7 April 1944. Mr Callan has previously stated he does not recall doing so and instead asserted that he had been photographed in Stalag XB, Sandbostel. For the record, there is no extant evidence of Irish passport photographs being taken in Stalag XB. Group Identity photographs of Merchant Seamen Internees dressed in battledress British Army uniform which had been left behind following the Dunkirk evacuation were taken by the Nazis in Milag Nord Merchant Seamen's Internment Camp circa late 1942 by a civilian photographer based in a local village. Mr Callan is pictured in British Army battledress uniform in this group photograph. In contrast, the Irish Passport Identity Photograph of Mr Callan in Bremen-Farge shows Mr Callan not in battledress uniform but in a blue Kreigsmarine jacket which had been supplied to the Irishmen when they were first put into Bremen-Farge Camp in February 1943. Indeed Mr Callan is in a remarkable healthy condition for a slave labourer. It has been alleged by Mr Callan, that chargé d'affaires Con Cremin in the Irish Legation, Berlin, did nothing for the Irishmen while they were in the Arbeitslager Bremen-Farge during world war two, an allegation which is untrue. To clarify the historical record: See letter dated 30 August 1944: Con Cremin to the Irishmen in Farge bei Bremen: See Also Book Review:
Peter Mulvany BCL, HDip Arts Admin,
Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46)