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The Ritchie Boys was a US special military intelligence unit in World War II comprising mainly German-speaking immigrants to the USA. They were predominantly Jews, most of whom had fled Nazi persecution. They were primarily utilised for interrogation of prisoners on the front lines and counter-intelligence in Europe because of their knowledge of the German language and culture.

About the group[edit | edit source]

The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 9,000 young Germans and Austrians,[1] who were mostly Jewish, and who had escaped from their countries of birth and immigrated to the US as refugees. Most had been drafted or volunteered into the United States Army. Some had originally arrived in the USA as children, many without their parents so that these were also One Thousand Children. (One such OTC was Ambassador Richard Schifter.)

They were trained at the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, now officially known as Fort Ritchie. They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation and psychological warfare. They were suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly the German mentality and life behaviours, better than most American-born soldiers. The role of these soldiers was therefore to work in the front lines (or even behind them), at strategic corps and army levels, at interrogation, analyzing German forces and plans; and also as members of the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps; and also to study the enemy, and demoralize him in order to achieve an unconditional surrender.

After the US declared war on Germany, the Ritchie Boys became a decisive weapon for the Allied powers. Many of them entered Europe on D-Day on June 6, 1944 along with the other Allied troops. Others followed over time. Shortly after reaching land they left their units and pursued their special tasks. They were able to feed the Allies valuable information. Gen. Oscar Koch (Gen. Patton's G-2) acknowledged that the advance warning of the German Bulge offensive was made possible by information gathered by their MIS units. Moreover, the Ritchie Boys helped break German resistance by demoralizing them in both open and covert operations. They interrogated POWs and defectors to obtain information about German force levels, troop movements, and the physical and psychological state of the Germans. By means of targeted disinformation via newspaper announcements, flyers, radio broadcasts, and sound trucks, the German population and military was prompted to cease their resistance against the Allied invasion.

After the war, many of the Ritchie Boys served as translators and interrogators. Some had these roles during the Nuremberg Trials. Many of them went on to successful political, scientific, or business careers. The Ritchie Boys included several prominent men such as Hans Habe, Klaus Mann, Stefan Heym, Hanus Burger, George Mandler, Richard Schifter, Guy Stern, Walter Schwarz and David Robert Seymour.

In 2004, the group and its work was the subject of the documentary movie "The Ritchie Boys" by film-maker Christian Bauer, featuring ten Ritchie Boys. (See external links below.)

The first-ever reunion of the Ritchie Boys took place from July 23-July 25, 2011, at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Jeffreys, Keith: Remembering the Ritchie Boys. Retrieved 2007-02-12

External links[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

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