October 9, 2007, - 7:22 am

Dr. John Withers, Rest in Peace: Courageous Black WWII Hero Risked Career to Save Holocaust Survivors From Dachau

By Debbie Schlussel
On Sunday, America lost a great hero–John Withers. The Black World War II veteran risked a dishonorable discharge and the loss of his academic career in order to hide and save two dying Jewish teens he liberated from the Dachau concentration camp. It was an especially great risk in those days of segregation.
In 2003, the Wall Street Journal ran this incredible front page story by Bryan Gruley about Withers’ heroic efforts risking his future for two strangers and how decades later he was reunited with one of them, now an American citizen.
Today, the Wall Street Journal runs this touching obituary on this great American:

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Uncommon Courage:

John Withers Risked Everything to Save 2 Dying Strangers

John Withers, a World War II lieutenant who risked a dishonorable discharge to help two young Holocaust survivors, died Sunday.
Mr. Withers, who was 91 years old, was the subject of a page one article in The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 25, 2003. The article described how Mr. Withers, as a leader of an all-black Army supply unit in 1945, broke military rules to hide two Jewish-Polish survivors of the Dachau concentration camp. He spent more than a year mentoring the two, whom his soldiers had nicknamed “Peewee” and “Salomon.”
Mr. Withers, who had grown up in segregated Greensboro, N.C., said he identified with the boys “very strongly and instantaneously” and that they taught him that “it is possible for someone — me, anyone — to overcome the obstacles in his path without losing himself and face prejudice without becoming prejudiced in return.”
He lost touch with them after he returned to the U.S. in 1946. But in 2001, Mr. Withers was reunited with Peewee, by then a successful Connecticut businessman named Martin Weigen. The reunion inspired Mr. Weigen to unburden himself of his own stories of losing his parents and sister during the Holocaust, and time he spent at Auschwitz and other camps. Mr. Weigen died in October 2003 at the age of 75.

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Dr. John Withers (Right) Re-Unites with Martin Weigen, Holocaust Survivor He Saved From Dachau

Read more about John Withers’ amazing life and heroism and how he overcame segregation and prejudice to achieve his dream of a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago – he was one of 12 to graduate from the prestigious university with that degree at the time (in the days when there was no affirmative action whatsoever):
* For Lt. Withers, Act of Mercy Has Unexpected Sequel: U.S. Officer Broke the Rules To Let His Men Take In Young Dachau Survivor
* Holocaust & Humanity: John Withers Bio
* The Boundless Compassion of John Withers
* An interview with Dr. John Withers II about reuniting his father with the man whose life he saved
Watch a video interview with John Withers. (Scroll down to middle of page, “Mapping Our Tears – Lt. John Withers.”)
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John Withers, American Hero & Patriot, Rest in Peace.

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13 Responses

Instead of celebrating the life and death of trash such as Che Guevarra, maybe the nit-wits in Hollywood should honor this man by filming his life story.

Rich B on October 9, 2007 at 8:46 am

Thank you for that story…it made my day.

storagemanager on October 9, 2007 at 8:53 am

Whether you’re white or black, THIS is what being an American is all about, bravery, and love of life & freedom!!!!
Islamofascist Badouins will NEVER win as long as we produce more people like Dr. John Withers!
May God Receive his soul in Heaven.

God&America on October 9, 2007 at 8:59 am

Whether you’re white or black, THIS is what being an American is all about, bravery, and love of life & freedom!!!!
Islamofascist Badouins will NEVER win as long as we produce more people like Dr. John Withers!
May God Receive his soul in Heaven.

God&America on October 9, 2007 at 8:59 am

Thank you for posting this heart warming story. Very few things bring a tear to the edge of my eye, but this did. This man took action in pursuit of the right things, in a war where atrocity was the norm, and even he was subject to persecution. That is true courage. I am humbled by him. In a war 20 plus years later I met people in need, and we did what we could, but nothing near the scope of this man’s efforts, and those of his unit. Truthfully, I am not sure I’d have had the same courage.
A twinge of regret recurred today as I read this post. Did I leave someone behind I might have aided further? Did I fail to respond to an obvious need, so obssessed with my own? I don’t know those answers and it is haunting.
Dr Withers, you will always be with us, and now I will keep you with me as well. You will help me keep from being too full of myself. It is my hope that someone played “Taps” for you, too, and that you “Safely rest” forever.

Zoyadog on October 9, 2007 at 10:20 am

What a great heartwarming story, Debbie. A pleasure to read about a true humanitarian, a patriotic American. He will be remembered and missed.

countywolf on October 9, 2007 at 11:43 am

Debbie,
Thank you for the absolutely wonderful tribute to Dr. John Withers. I regret to say that this is the first time I’ve heard of him and I’m very grateful that you brought his story to our attention. I would have loved to have been there to see the reunion between Dr. Withers and Martin “Peewee” Weigen. It’s good to see a story of human kindness that occured in the midst of one the worst cases of mass murder and genocide in history.
As Zoyadog said, it does make one wonder about our own courage, our own contributions, and what we can do to better assist others….

JibberJabber on October 9, 2007 at 12:44 pm

God bless Dr. Withers. Thank you for giving him this tribute, Debbie.

AmericanJewess on October 9, 2007 at 12:54 pm

What a great role model for all of us, but especially for our black brothers and sisters. Dr Withers’ life story is a virtual “how to succeed in life” manual; yet, black leadership in America is stuck on proclaiming victimhood and assessing blame. John Withers had no time for such foolishness.

Southernops on October 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Yes, thank you, Debbie, for posting his story. I, too, would not have known of him, were it not for your efforts. I spent the last two hours “blubbering” at my computer reading and listening to his wonderful testimony of courage and compassion. Thank you. You made our day.

Floyd R. Turbo on October 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm

It will be my high honor to meet this man in Heaven someday.
Last night, I was reading Martin Luther King’s last speech, the mountaintop one. Most folks remember the video coverage of that, especially the last part where he says ‘mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord’. But I’m not sure that many people have ever read the entire speech he made that evening.
He talked about us making that transition from the “I” to the “thou” and being dangerously unselfish in life. He also said that instead of asking ourselves “What will happen to me if I help this person?” we should ask “What will happen to that person if I don’t help him?”
Dr. Withers made that transition from the “I” to the “thou”. God look kindly upon him on that Great Day.

kozanne on October 9, 2007 at 3:45 pm

We all need heros, and John Withers is one to be cherished ever more. Thank you for introducing him Debbie. Rich B – I agree 100%, this story deserves to memorialized in film. How about it Spielberg? Michael Apted (Amazing Grace)?

heroyalwhyness on October 9, 2007 at 11:24 pm

This wonderful Man,Dr Withers – I hope you don’t think I’m crazy, but he LOOKS Jewish! Could it be he has Jewish antecedents?

juniper on March 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

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