The Hidden History of Herr Hoven, Part 2

In October 1938 Ryan was visited in Burgos Prison by the Irish ambassador in Madrid, Leopold Kerney. Kerney hired a lawyer for Ryan, (Jaime Michel de Champourcin, one of the best lawyers to be found in Spain, paid for by the Irish government), but in spite of all his efforts, and the pleadings of de Valera, he could not secure Ryan’s release. It was not through de Champourcin’s contacts nor even Abwehr chief Wilhelm Canaris, that saw Ryan released into Abwehr hands as an “Agent of Abwehr ll” on 14th or 15th July 1940 but due to his friend Dr Jupp Hoven of the “Brandenburgers”.
The handover took place on the Spanish border at Irun-Hendaye, but a cover story that Ryan had “escaped” was released at the time. Ryan was taken to the Spanish border by Madrid-based Abwehr agent Wolfgang Blaum and handed over to Sonderführer Kurt Haller. From the border, Ryan was first taken to the resort town of Biarritz then on to Paris where he received several days hospitality courtesy of the Abwehr. He was then transported to Berlin, and met up with Seán Russell on 4 August 1940.

On his arrival in Berlin, Ryan was introduced to SS Colonel Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer. As part of his roving SS and German Foreign Ministry brief, Veesenmayer was intimately involved in the planning of all Abwehr operations in Ireland during 1940 – 1943, particularly those involving Russell and Ryan. The day after arriving, Ryan was asked by Russell to accompany him to Ireland as part of Operation Dove (“Unternehmen Taube” ) Although Ryan had not been involved in the training or preparation for Dove both he and Russell departed aboard U-65 on 8 August 1940. When Russell became ill and died during the journey (of a perforated ulcer), Ryan asked the Captain of U-65, Hans-Jerrit von Stockhausen, to cable Germany and ask for fresh instructions before proceeding. The mission was subsequently aborted and Ryan returned to Germany via Bordeaux. After the failure of Operation Dove, Ryan remained in Berlin.

The Abwehr felt that Ryan might have other uses and that was to persuade Irish Prisoners-of-War to work for the Germans. According to Clissmann: “All Irishmen in prisoner-of-war camps were therefore invited to give their names with a view to going to a special camp which offered better conditions.” There were naturally no illusions on the German side that among the applicants for special treatment would be Irishmen who had only now discovered their Irish national consciousness on the strength of their Irish names. It was also recognised that from among the English prisoners some stool-pigeons would be deputed to apply for the special camp in order to establish what really went on there.

The special camp for the Irish was established close to the village of Altdamm near Friesack in Brandenburg Rhin-Luch. Helmut Clissmann, Dr. Jupp Hoven and Frank Ryan were among those who had to undertake the thankless task of finding useful volunteers in this camp. Their selection was not large: when Dr Hoven made his first visit to the camp in the spring of 1941, he found about eighty Irishmen there. Helmut Clissmann recalls that later on there were collected in Friesack “not more than a hundred men who described themselves as Irishmen”. According to Dr Hoven the number of officers was less than would be counted on the fingers of one hand.

To be continued

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