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Henri Salmide; his defiance saved port of Bordeaux from Nazis

Henri Salmide at the port of Bordeaux in 1994. He was a junior officer in the German Navy during World War II when he defied superiors and blew up the city’s munitions depot. Henri Salmide at the port of Bordeaux in 1994. He was a junior officer in the German Navy during World War II when he defied superiors and blew up the city’s munitions depot. (Olivier Morin/ AFP/ Getty Images)
Associated Press / February 27, 2010

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BORDEAUX, France - A former German officer who helped save Bordeaux’s port from destruction by Nazi forces in World War II has died.

Henri Salmide, born Heinz Stahlschmidt, died Tuesday, said Alain Moga, deputy mayor of Bordeaux. He was 92.

The Germans had a plan to blow up the port of Bordeaux before they retreated toward the end of the war. About 4,000 fuses needed for the plan were stored in the city’s munitions depot.

Mr. Salmide, then a junior officer in the German Navy, defied his superiors and blew up the depot, rendering the fuses useless and saving the port, Moga said. Hunted by the Gestapo and the French police, Mr. Salmide hid with Moga’s grandmother, becoming a family friend, the deputy mayor said.

After the war, he remained in France and was naturalized Henri Salmide in 1947. He married a French woman and stayed in Bordeaux the rest of his life, and was decorated with the French Legion of Honor in 2000.

The Bordeaux City Hall said this week that it would like to erect a memorial in honor of Mr. Salmide and his services to the City of Bordeaux.