Helmut Ewald Clissmann

11.5.1911 – 6.11.1997Helmut's later years

Helmut was born in Aachen in 1911.  Even before leaving school he had joined a young socialist movement with specific interests in revolutionary movements at home and abroad.

On a private visit to Dublin he made contact with the republican paper “An Phoblacht” and its editors Frank Ryan and Peadar O’Donnell.

The following year he led a group of his movement to Ireland and extended his friendship with traditionalist groups and families.

At this time he was attending University in Germany and applied to become an exchange student in Trinity College and studied history under Prof.  Curtis.  He became more and more interested in Irish Nationalism and developed his friendship with many nationalists countrywide, including Sen McBride and Tom Barry.  He later returned to the staff of Trinity as a guest lecturer in the German Department.

He was appointed by the German Exchange Service to extend exchanges of student lectures, authors, musicians, etc.  The Goethe Institute, Munich, also appointed him as a teacher of German and he held classes for several years in Mount Street.

His links with Ireland were then strengthened by his marriage to Budge Mulcahy.

Then came the war and, having being recalled to Germany in error, he was appointed as Exchange Representative in Copenhagen.

He was called up to the Germany army in 1940 and served in the Brandenburger Regiment, which gave him an opportunity, with friends, to manipulate the release to Germany of Frank Ryan from his Spanish prison.  He served in North Africa, in France and in Denmark and, for two years, was seconded to the Foreign Office in Berlin to deal with Irish affairs.  During his war service he did his best to serve Irish interests as well as German – but this is history.

After three years internment he returned to his family in Sligo.  Following his two loves, he built a business in Dublin, which connected Ireland with Germany and worked also at building the cultural links between them.  Many friendships grew from his business contacts.

He became a founder member of the Irish German Society and was for many years on the committee.  This led to the foundation of the German School (St. Kilian’s Deutsche Schule, Dublin) where he had the happiness of seeing eight of his grandchildren concurrently enrolled.

Helmut became an early member of the Irish Section of Amnesty International.  He strongly supported the principals of non-violence and freedom of thought.  He remained involved with Amnesty’s work until his death.  This work was carried on with his close friends Seán McBride and Kevin White and many others.

After his stroke in 1987, he gave up his business life and devoted himself more and more to his family and his garden.  He was happily able to visit his beloved Aachen every year where he still had many family and regimental friends.

On his retirement, his firm was well established and his sons have carried on his tradition in business life in Dublin.

Although his love of Germany never diminished, he was happy to see that his family had become established as an Irish family – an Irish family still continuing its links with Germany and German culture.

The unexpected re-unification of his country gave him great pleasure and it was his fervent wish that a happy solution could also be found for Irish divisions.

See also the Irish Times article  November 8th 1997