Ex-Prisoner of War Honored with Medal for Escaping Nazi Camp

Edward Shifrin landed in Normandy as a member of Charlie Company, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division. He took part in some of the biggest battles in France including the battles of St. Lo and Mortain. But Shifrin’s story only began there. On August 7th, he was captured by the Germans and sent to the Stalag IIIC prison camp in Brandenburg, now part of Poland.


Edward Shifrin inspects his new POW medal

The camp was for non-commissioned officers, and was home to Russian, Italian, British, French, Belgian and after February 1944, American Prisoners of War. The prisoners of Stalag IIIC formed an ‘Escape Committee’ which planned an ingenious way of escaping the prison camp.

Every morning, the Germans lined up their prisoners for a headcount. The ‘Escape Committee’ selected someone to hide, causing the German headcount to come up short. The Germans would search for the “escaped” prisoner but would never find him since he would secretly rejoin his comrades in line. The Germans marked the man as “escaped” and lowered the headcount total for the next day. This scenario was repeated until the Germans lowered their headcount by four.  When four of the prisoners attempted a real escape, their absence went unnoticed by the Germans, whose headcount had already excluded them.

Shifrin escaped from Stalag IIIC in the middle of January, 1945. He headed west, stealing bicycles and horses to expedite his journey. He eventually reached Allied lines where he hitchhiked his way on trucks until he reached Italy. By April 1945, he was back on US soil.

After the war, Shifrin got his law degree and lived in St. Louis, Missouri. He didn’t talk much about his wartime adventures but his son was able to put together his story from old newspapers and his father’s military records. In February, Shifrin received a POW medal in a ceremony at his home with the help of Missouri senator Claire McCaskill.

“Going over his dad’s past,” Dan Shifrin said, “gave me much greater appreciation for what he and others went through. I guess also it’s that these men and women are dying at an unbelievable rate and their stories are being lost. This is one more story we can tell and keep alive.”

Photo via AP

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