Today I had the privilege of paying a final tribute to Jan Olaf Hausotter. The BBC headlines were ‘snow brings chaos to German motorways’, and that was something of an understatement. We battled through blizzards and blockages, with crashes and overturned lorries all about us. Once, the autobahn was closed to allow the snowploughs to do their work, but thanks to the heroic driving skills of Pierpaolo, we made it and, though we missed the first part of the funeral ceremony, the epic nature of our journey (over six hours) somehow seemed fitting for the occasion. Hungen is a small town in the Lande of Hesse, in the centre-west of Germany. The Lutheran chapel was crammed to the rafters. There were terribly touching tributes from Jan’s fiancé, Caroline, from his brother and sister, his childhood friends, his university friends, a room mate from Fletcher, and his school teacher. A heroically large contingent of his Bruges contemporaries had made it through the blizzard and I had the honour of speaking from the Bruges perspective (the text is below). There was beautiful music; Teleman, Bach and Debussy. And because of all of this there was a general recognition among us all that Jan Olaf Hausotter had been very special. A wonderfully eloquent metaphor, in English, came from his Fletcher contemporary, who likened individuals to trees whose branches intertwined. Jan, said the contemporary, had left behind a forest of friends. A UN flag was draped over Jan’s coffin, and that was perhaps the most eloquent of symbols. For throughout the world, similar ceremonies of grief and remembrance are surely being held, in places much like Hungen, to commemorate the very many UN personnel who, like Jan, lost their lives in trying to make a difference to the world.
Tribute to Jan Olaf Hausotter, born 2 July 1976, died 12 January 2010
Hungen, Germany, 30 January 2010
Dearest Lilly, Dieter, Carola and Caroline,
Family and friends of Jan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Martin Westlake.
For five years I had the great pleasure and privilege of teaching at the College of Europe in Bruges.
Jan and Caroline were among my students.
And I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity today to pay tribute to Jan, who was a very special person.
Teaching at the College of Europe is such an immense privilege because almost all of the students are ‘bright young things’ – and Jan was definitely a bright young thing.
Nevertheless, some students make more of an impression than others.
Jan was among those who made more of an impression and, when I think back, it was not so much because of what he did, but because of who he was.
Some students impress with their intellectual prowess – and there was no doubting Jan’s intellectual strengths – but Jan impressed because of what he wanted to do.
It was not so much what he could get from life and the world, but what he could give.
I think that remained his guiding principle throughout his life.
At the last lecture of my course I always told my students that there was an ‘after sales service’; that I was happy to provide references and advice or, more generally, happy to know how my former students were getting on.
Jan and Caroline were among those who took me up on this offer from time to time.
Indeed, the last time I saw Jan was on Monday, 4th January, when he came to my office, in Brussels.
I was late. Jan chatted with the staff of my private office. And in that very short space of time Jan left an indelible impression upon them. It was not just the smiling, friendly, jovial personality, nor the American accent – though that always impressed – but his whole being. He was, as my PA put it, so ‘full of life’.
I was very proud of Jan. He had, it seemed to me, waltzed effortlessly in and out of a number of prestigious organisations: the Bundestag, the European Parliament, NATO and the United Nations. But what I was proudest about was the fact that he always knew what he wanted to do, and what he wanted to do was to help, to give.
Indeed, this commitment made such an impression upon me that I spoke about him to my young children that Monday evening at the dinner table, about how I would like them to have that determination to give to the world.
This determination comes across very clearly in the article he wrote about the UN stabilisation mission in Haiti, which I read again just last night.
Indeed, in paying tribute to Jan, we are also paying tribute to the organisation for which he worked, and which suffered so very, very badly in the cataclysmic event of 12 January. This is also what the UN is about; a truly noble organisation.
Dearest Lilly, Dieter, Carola and Caroline,
It will be scant consolation for you now in the sudden, stark certitude of his passing away, but your son, your brother, your fiancé, was, quite simply, a beautiful human being who thought only of bringing good to the world.
He represented all that is best about the human race.
In his passing away, as in his life, he is an immense tribute to you.
Marcel Proust wrote about how people who have passed away remain with us through our memories of them. It is as though, he wrote, they have gone abroad.
So, Jan, then, you have gone abroad. But the memories of you will remain strongly with us. And I will always be your proud professor.