Missouri veteran who escaped Nazi prison camp gets medal

4 years 5 months 2 weeks ago Sunday, April 03 2016 Apr 3, 2016 Sunday, April 03, 2016 9:17:00 AM CDT April 03, 2016 in News
By: The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Edwin Shifrin's family knew he successfully escaped from a Nazi prison camp during World War II, but it wasn't until one of his children started digging into his wartime past that they learned the details of the clever escape.

Shifrin, 93, seldom discussed his time at war, but he received a prisoner-of-war medal in February after his son Dan Shifrin dug through old news reports and his father's military records and pieced together what happened.

"It is an amazing story," said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who expedited the medal process after hearing about it from Shifrin's daughter in January. Shifrin received the award during a family-only ceremony in the suburban St. Louis apartment that he shares with his wife of 67 years.

"This is the very best part of my job," McCaskill said by phone from her Senate offices in Washington D.C.

Edwin Shifrin's memory is fading, so his son Dan shared his story:

Assigned to the Army's 30th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, Company C, Shifrin landed on France's Normandy beach in June 1944 a week after the D-Day invasion and then fought the Germans in battles at St. Lo and Mortain.

The Germans captured him on Aug. 7, and Shifrin was sent from a prison camp to his final stop, Poland lockup Stalag IIIC, which was about 90 miles from Berlin. Telegrams to U.S. family members notified them he was missing in action.

Shifrin was among the camp's roughly 1,000 prisoners, many of whom formed "an escape committee" and drew up a getaway plan.

Each morning when the Germans did simply a numerical headcount — no actual names were called out — a prisoner designated by the committee would hide, touching off what turned out to be a futile search by guards. The hiding prisoner would later quietly rejoin the others, but the befuddled guards would lower the next day's headcount by one.

On the second day, two prisoners would hide, touching off another futile search and getting the guards to lower the next day's head count by one again. That continued with three and four prisoners hiding and the guards classifying them as escaped. Eventually, four men actually escaped, but the guards didn't notice because they had already lowered the roll-call numbers to account for the prisoners who had hidden.

Shifrin and some other prisoners got their chance in mid-January 1945, just weeks before the Russians liberated the camp. Dan Shifrin said "the rest of their journey is pretty hazy," but what's known is they hitchhiked on Allied supply trucks and purloined rides on horses and bikes on their way to Italy. By that April, Shifrin was back on U.S. soil, in Boston.

After getting his law degree, he became a St. Louis attorney and worked well into his 80s. He seldom discussed his time at war.

"We knew he'd been in the war, that he had been captured and that he escaped. That's about it. He didn't talk about it," said Dan Shifrin, who lives in the Denver area. "My guess is he figured it was just part of his life — many went through it, many didn't return. Many of those who did return didn't return in one piece."

Chronicling his dad's past, Dan Shifrin added, "[It] 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."

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - A Columbia Hy-Vee is giving away 500 free meals on Tuesday, September 22. The Hy-Vee on Rock... More >>
1 hour ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 7:47:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- The Columbia City Council will vote on whether to authorize the construction of the Perche Creek Trail at Monday's... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 5:52:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLE COUNTY- Osage Fire crews were called to a barn fire around 12:30 p.m. Monday in the 7700 block of... More >>
3 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 5:08:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
PHELPS COUNTY- Two teenage suspects allegedly murdered a 15-year-old boy after the three ran away from the Great Circle facility... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 4:25:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
MILLER COUNTY- Terry E. Ewens was charged with first-degree murder and seven other felony charges in Miller County on Friday,... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 3:58:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - An acrylic casing was installed on Saturday around the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson, located next to the Francis... More >>
5 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 3:03:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- Columbia police responded to a report of a robbery around 11:45 p.m. Saturday in the 700 block of Seventh... More >>
5 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 2:53:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- Room 38's operating permit was suspended on Saturday, Sept. 19, following citations for violating COVID-19 health orders. A... More >>
6 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 2:41:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
MISSOURI - Walking around downtown Fulton, you can only find a few stores that require or even recommend masks to... More >>
6 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 2:38:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- Gov. Mike Parson signed HB66 and HB46 into law Monday. HB66 will create a Pretrial Witness Protection... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 1:47:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - After months of debate about whether or not a Missouri football season would even happen, it's finally game... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 1:31:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
MISSOURI - While parents prepared to send their students back to school during a pandemic, local school districts prepared by... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 1:27:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- Ellen DeGeneres returned to the studio for the season premiere of talk show and addressed allegations of a... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 1:03:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
Washington (AP) - The body of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court this week,... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 11:21:01 AM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
NORMANDY, Mo. (AP) — Police in suburban St. Louis say a man was fatally shot over the weekend at an... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 11:09:56 AM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - City of Columbia Finance Director Matthew Lue said there will be major changes to the 2021 budget after... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 9:34:00 AM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. Previous coverage: ... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 9:02:00 AM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
MU adds casing to protect Thomas Jefferson tombstone A clear casing was added to Thomas Jefferson's tombstone at... More >>
16 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 4:42:00 AM CDT September 21, 2020 in Top Stories
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 67°
9pm 64°
10pm 63°
11pm 62°
12am 61°