A TRIBUTE TO BISHOP SCHARMACH
If any one human being was responsible for saving the lives of nearly every member of the Catholic mission on the island of New Britain it was its Bishop. The Bishop himself of course entrusted everything he did to the will of God and his faith empowered him to take enormous risks. His name was Leo Scharmach. Polish by birth, Scharmach was resourceful, devious and ironic in his dealings with his captors. At huge risk to his own life he goaded and teased them, often appealing to their sense of humour - sometimes when even he least expected it - and always manipulating the Japanese for the benefit of his own people. He cajoled, he bartered, he challenged them recklessly. I hope he will forgive this writer the opinion that in another life the Most Reverend Leo Scharmach, Vicar Apostolic of Rabaul, might have made an extremely successful con man!
http://www.montevideomaru.info/Montevid ... Latest.htm
Bishop Leo Scharmach was Polish but had served in the German army as a stretcher bearer in WW1. He had a German iron cross medal which he used to great effect in influencing the Japanese. When the order was received from Japan to transport all the Australian women from Vunapope to Japan it included the Australian nuns. The bishop argued with the Japanese about the nuns going but warned them to be ready to travel as he may not be able to convince the Japanese to let them stay. In the end the Japanese acquiesced and settled for the nurses. There are other examples of the Bishop not giving in to Japanese pressure.
The comment that Bishop Leo Scharmach resembled Groucho Marx was unnecessary and possibly gives the reader the wrong impression.
Scharmach's 1960 memoirs: