Marcel Callo

Marcel Callo was born in Rennes, France on December 6, 1921 and died on March 19, 1945 after several months of forced labor within the KZ Gusen I & II complex near the Mauthausen central camp. Growing up in a religious family with many brothers and sisters, he early joined the boy scouts and became a printer in his home-town. There he was also very active leading a group of the “YOUNG CHRISTIAN WORKERS” movement “Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne” (JOC).

Marcel Callo
Marcel Callo

When the Nazis invaded France, Marcel with some friends volunteered as railwaystation-missionaries where they helped many people to escape the Nazis to non-occupied French territory by giving their Red-Cross armbands to them. In March 1943 he followed order to do (civilian) forced labour in Nazi-Germany, regarding it as a mission to help the many others that were also deported to Germany.

On March 23, 1943, he arrived at the “Walther” arms-manufacturing plant at Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia, where he organised religious services and a group of Christian activists among his comrades. This was the reason why, on April 19, 1944, Marcel became imprisoned at Gotha, Germany, and was deported to KZ Flossenbuerg concentration camp where he arrived in October 1944 and to KZ Mauthausen complex later on.

After registration in the Mauthausen central camp he arrived one day later at KZ Gusen I concentration camp (just a few km westwards) on October 26, 1944, where he was employed to sort rivets for the Messerschmitt aircraft-industries there.

On November 7, 1944, Callo was moved to the most horrible KZ Gusen II camp where he had to rivet aircraft-parts for Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighters with heavy pneumatic tools in tunnel No. 4 of the St. Georgen (Bergkristall) underground installations until January 5, 1945.

Due to the disastrous conditions within that KZ Gusen II camp (the “Hell on Earth”, the "Hell of Hells" or the "Ninth Circle of Hell" as survivors used to call it), Marcel soon was exhausted and became seriously ill in January 1945. He vegetated in the filthy and overcrowded camp “hospital” (the Revier) for a while.

Underground memorial plaques for Marcel Callo at former tunnel No. 4 in "Bergkristall", where Marcel Callo was worked to death
Underground memorial plaques for Marcel Callo at former tunnel 4 in "Bergkristall", where Marcel Callo was nearly worked to death in winter 1944/45.

It was a common habit that dying inmates of the Gusen complex were sent back to the Mauthausen central camp, where they spent their last days under indescribably horrible conditions in the so called “Sanitaets-Lager” (sanitary camp) just outside the walls of the “Mauthausen fortress”. 

P. S. Choumoff, historian of Amicale francaise de Mauthausen, Paris, and survivor of the Gusen-Mauthausen complex confirmed in addition to the official address for Marcel Callo´s 10th anniversary of beatification that Marcel together with some 60 French compatriots and some 3,000 other inmates of KZ Gusen II may have arrived at that “Sonderlager (SL)” in the first days March 1945. Most of them died within 10 days there and have got the remark “Gu” for Gusen in the Mauthausen death register (see above). P. S. Choumoff also stated that this “Sonderlager” outside the Mauthausen fortress had some 8,000 inmates in those days while the Mauthausen fortress itself totalled some 4,000 inmates.

So when Marcel´s state of health became worse he was transferred back to the vicinity of Mauthausen central camp where he died due to exhaustion in the early morning of March 19,1944.

Soon after Marcel Callo´s death, Father J. B. Jego, Rennes (France), wrote his biography, which later on has been translated into German, English and other languages. German Catholics early recognized Marcel Callo as a model of Christian life and courageous confessing – and they began to support his Beatification by the Vatican. For many years those efforts were supported by different groups of “Catholic Action” in various countries and finally by all bishops of Germany and Austria. In addition to these efforts, reconciliation and even friendship arose between former enemies. So Marcel Callo stands for international understanding and Peace in Christ – PAX CHRISTI.

On October 4, 1987, Marcel was beatified by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter´s Cathedral, Rome.

On October 4, 1997 the Diocese of Linz, Austria, together with hundreds of pilgrims from all over Europe celebrated the 10th Anniversary of his Beatification at the original sites of Marcel Callo´s Martyrdom in St. Georgen, Gusen and Mauthausen (Austria).

On April 15, 2015 the several Austrian organizations organized together commemorations at the Marcel Callo Parish in Linz-Auwiesen and in front of the "Bergkristall" underground memorial in St. Georgen/Gusen where Marcel Callo, as a prisoner of KL Gusen II, was so exploited in the forced labor for Messerschmitt jet aircraft that he was selected to die in front of the gates of the KL Mauthausen in early 1945.

On October 26, 2020 the road to the new House of Remembrance in front of the "Bergkristall" underground memorial at St. Georgen/Gusen was named "Marcel-Callo-Strasse" by the Community of St. Georgen/Gusen.

On December 5, 2021 the 100th birthday of Beatified Marcel Callo was celebrated by the

  • Parish Marcel Callo at Linz-Auwiesen with a mass with Bishop em. Dr. Maximilian Aichern of Linz and an exhibition 
  • Archdiocese of Rennes with a solemn mass at Rennes Cathedral and with the opening of an exhibition in basilica Saint-Aubin of Rennes.

Today, Marcel Callo is not only one in a long list of Roman Catholic Martyrs. No – he is one of the outstanding personalities that remind future generations of

  • the tens of thousands of forgotten Jewish and non-Jewish KZ Gusen victims
  • the many thousand European civilians that were forced into the war-machine by Nazi-deportations
  • the systematic extermination of non-conformist people in the 3rd Reich
  • the brutalities of the KZ Gusen I & II complex

Meanwhile the following websites are dedicated to Marcel Callo too:

Recommended literature:

  • Ebner Johannes, Marcel Callo, Blutzeugen des Glaubens, Martyrologium des 20. Jahrhunderts, Band 2, Dioezesen: Graz-Seckau, Linz, Wiener Dom-Verlag, Wien 2000 (Herausgeber: Jan Mikrut)
  • Gerardi Bernhard, Marcel Callo – Ein Leben für die Brüder, Augsburg 1961
  • Gouyon, Kardinal Paul, Marcel Callo, p.199 ff., Salzburg 1988
  • Jego J. B., Un Exemple Marcel Callo
  • Pabel Rosemarie, Marcel Callo – Dokumentation, Eichstaett-Wien 1991

Other Recommendations: