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WW2 Renegades Saved Lives

One was codenamed Agent Rose, the other was dubbed Bordeaux's Choltitz.

669500.jpgAndree Peel was a member of the French Resistance movement. She got her codename for being a saving grace to more than 100 British and American pilots shot down over France whom she helped flee the German occupied country.

In 1944, Heinz Stahlschmidt was a German Navy ordnance expert who was ordered to blow up the docks of Bordeaux, the country's most vital harbor. But Mr. Stahlschmidt wouldn't do it.

He disobeyed the orders and instead blew up his own explosives cache and went into hiding. (Much like Dietrich von Choltitz, the German general who refused Hitler's orders to burn Paris.)

Mr. Stahlschmidt 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


During her efforts, Mrs. Peel was captured by Nazi foot soldiers who tortured and interrogated her for her role in helping the Allies. Just as her captors were lining her up to be executed, U.S. troops arrived and liberated the prison.

"I was born with courage."Agent Rose later said of her exploits. "I saved 102 pilots before being arrested."

Her work did not go unnoticed. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was honored to shake her hand.

Mr. Stahlschmidt was not as lucky. After blowing up the explosives cache, he was hunted by Gestapo and French officials later tried to have him shot for his participation in the German military.

Nonetheless, Stahlschmidt was proud of his efforts, and eventually so was France. They granted him naturalized citizenship and a new name: Henri Salmide. In 2001, France awarded him with a prestigious honor.
He later said he had no regrets: "Despite it all, in the same circumstances I'd do it all again."

Mrs. Peel died March 5 at age 105. Mr. Stahlschmidt died Feb. 23 at 90 (or 91, there are conflicting reports).

It's pretty interesting to learn about how both of these people acted on their own instincts to preserve some humanity during a dark period in history.

After watching the Oscars last night, in which several war movies won awards, do either of these Renegades' life stories sound script worthy to you? Let us know below if you do.

By T. Rees Shapiro  |  March 8, 2010; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  Taylor Shapiro , World War II  
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