EXPIRED: 02/23/10 – Heinz Stahlschmidt, 92, was a German Navy ordinance expert who, during World War II, was ordered to blow up the docks of Bordeaux, France’s most vital harbor. But he said, “Nein.”
He disobeyed the orders and instead blew up his own explosives cache and went into hiding. Hunted by the Gestapo, he was later tried by the French who tried to have him shot for his participation in the German military.
He later said the weight of the more than 3,500 civilians who would have been killed by his blasts seemed like too much of a cost when “the war was clearly lost.”
Nonetheless, Stahlschmidt was proud of his efforts, and eventually so was France. They granted him naturalized citizenship and a new name: Henri Salmide. He married a French woman and stayed in Bordeaux for the rest of his life. In 2001, He was decorated with the French Legion of Honor.
He later said he had no regrets: “Despite it all, in the same circumstances I’d do it all again.”
The Bordeaux City Hall said this week that it would like to erect a memorial in honor of Salmide and his services to the city.