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Friday, February 26, 2010

Resistance hero

World War II was coming to a close when Kriegsmarine (Navy), Heinz Stahlschmidt was approached by resistance fighters in France. They promised him sanctuary and a life in France if he would help them. It was apparent axis loss was inevitable, so he weighed the words of his contact with what he knew.

The allies were advancing and the Germans needed a strategic retreat. In order to put distance between them, Port Bordeaux was to be destroyed. Heinz was ordered to prepare for its destruction. It was the best way to ensure the Germans could regroup to continue the fight by pulling ahead of advancing allied troops.

Heinz Stahlschmidt had a choice, continuing to fight would only lead to more deaths, on both sides. The war was lost and the death toll was too high already.

Instead of bombing the port, he set off explosives in a bunker holding supplies and fuses for the planned demolition. He was labeled a traitor in Germany though he saved an estimated 3, 500 lives. Heinz struggled to gain recognition in his adopted country though he lived there the remainder of his life, serving as a Port fire fighter.

In a rare 1997 interview with Reuters, Heinz was quoted as saying: "I acted according to my Christian conscience...I could not accept the port of Bordeaux be wantonly destroyed when the war was clearly lost."
In 2000 he received the French Legion d'Honneur . He died the 25th of February, this year, at the age of 91.

The mayor of Bordeaux has said Heinz will be buried at the Protestant cemetery where a representative of city hall will be in attendance.

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