New tome on Derry man who survived Nazi camp

The extraordinary story of Derry man, Harry Callan, who, as an Irish POW survived a Nazi Labour education camp during World War Two, has been newly-published by the Collins Press.

Wednesday, 29th March 2017, 10:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:02 pm

‘Forgotten Hero of Bunker Valentin: The Harry Callan Story,’ the gripping true story of Harry’s capture, resistance and liberation, has been penned by his daughter-in-law, Michèle Callan.

Harry’s amazing story began in Derry on November 19, 1923, when he was born, the sixth, of nine children.

It took a fateful turn in 1939, when, at the age of just 16, following an appointment at the Labour Exchange, he ended up joining the British Merchant Navy.

Two years later he was captured by German forces, tortured and used as forced labour in the construction of the massive Bunker Valentin U-boat dry dock in Bremen.

Mrs. Callan, who is also Harry’s carer, said: “When I first asked Harry to share his life story with me, I had no idea what to expect or where it would take me.

“We have shared a long road together. I chose to write Harry’s story in his own voice so readers could hear it as he told it to me.”

Thousands of the Bunker Valentin camp’s prisoners perished, including five Irishmen; bodies fell into the foundations and were never recovered.

The surviving Irishmen were saved by the goodwill of ordinary Germans.

Mrs. Callan said her father-in-law, who now lives in Dublin, has carried the memories of what he experienced with him his whole life.

“Harry was unable to speak about the brutality he experienced for decades after he was liberated,” she said.

“When he finally began to tell his story, we were shocked by what we heard.

“He had nightmares because of what he saw but also because of what he tried not to see.

“Trying not to think of others while held captive was the only way to survive but sometimes Harry cried himself to sleep, ashamed of his inability to help.”