Biographie

Bennedict Kimmelman

États-Unis

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Shortly before the fall of Wiltz, on 18 December 1944, the rear sections of the US 28th Infantry Division were moved towards Bastogne. For logistical reasons, many of the wounded could not be evacuated with them. Captain Dr Bennedict Kimmelman (born 20 July 1915, died 5 August 1999) decided, in spite of all the danger he would face himself, not to abandon them.

In the autumn of 1944, the US 28th Infantry Division suffered terrible losses in the murderous battles in the 'Hürtgenwald'. They were subsequently transferred to the Luxembourg Ardennes to defend the thin front line. Far from home, the exhausted infantry men  prepared for a peaceful Christmas.

The contact with the civilian population was cordial and in Wiltz, as in other towns, even St Nicholas celebrations were organised for the children.

Due to the stubborn resistance of the US soldiers in the first days, the number of wounded increased continuously.

During that time, many field hospitals and military hospitals of the division were located in the Wiltz area. On the morning of 18 December, the critically wounded were evacuated to Bastogne on the orders of Chief Medical Officer Dr H Weest. This was  due to the threat of enemy encirclement of the town. Despite all the urging to go to safety, the dentist of the division, Dr B Kimmelman, who was under the direct command of the US commander of Wiltz, took the decision to stay voluntarily with the wounded who had been left behind, in order to assist them and also save them.

On 19 December, at dusk, a mixed formation of military and Red Cross vehicles  were assembled at the cemetery of Wiltz to attempt a breakthrough, without light across an open road to Bastogne. After only one and a half kilometres, the column was fired upon by German paratroopers and shortly before the 'Schumannseck’ road junction. They came up against an impregnable roadblock. Dr Kimmelman hastily buried his identification badge with his Jewish religious affiliation in case he was to become a prisoner of war.

In his hopeless situation on the 20 December, he called for a ceasefire at 01:00 with a white flag. According to the Geneva Convention, this was done in order to obtain safe passage of the Red Cross vehicles to Bastogne.

Because of the mixed column with military vehicles, this request was not granted to him.

With more than 200 comrades, he embarked on the bitter road to captivity, from which he was liberated, emaciated, only in April 1945. He was awarded the Silver Star for his courageous and selfless bravery.

Until the end of his life, however, the gratitude and respect of his comrades was more important to him.