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Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler

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Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory. In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secr Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory. In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secret weapons in the battle to defeat Adolf Hitler: training nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and making use of their mastery of the German language, history, and customs. Known as the Ritchie Boys, they were sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they interrogated German POWs and gathered crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win the war. Though they knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured, the Ritchie Boys eagerly joined the fight to defeat Hitler. As they did, many of them did not know the fates of their own families left behind in occupied Europe. Taking part in every major campaign in Europe, they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions. A postwar Army report found that more than sixty percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys. Bruce Henderson draws on personal interviews with many surviving veterans and extensive archival research to bring this never-before-told chapter of the Second World War to light. Sons and Soldiers traces their stories from childhood and their escapes from Nazi Germany, through their feats and sacrifices during the war, to their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones in war-torn Europe. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.


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Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory. In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secr Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory. In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secret weapons in the battle to defeat Adolf Hitler: training nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and making use of their mastery of the German language, history, and customs. Known as the Ritchie Boys, they were sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they interrogated German POWs and gathered crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win the war. Though they knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured, the Ritchie Boys eagerly joined the fight to defeat Hitler. As they did, many of them did not know the fates of their own families left behind in occupied Europe. Taking part in every major campaign in Europe, they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions. A postwar Army report found that more than sixty percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys. Bruce Henderson draws on personal interviews with many surviving veterans and extensive archival research to bring this never-before-told chapter of the Second World War to light. Sons and Soldiers traces their stories from childhood and their escapes from Nazi Germany, through their feats and sacrifices during the war, to their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones in war-torn Europe. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.

30 review for Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    Such a well written and researched account of six young Jewish men whose parents were lucky to enough to get them safely out of Nazi occupied Europe to America. These men later enlisted in the US Army to fight for their adopted homeland and the families who were left behind in Germany. I had never heard of the The Ritchie Boys and how two thousand German-born Jews were able to get the crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win World War II. This account follows six of these c Such a well written and researched account of six young Jewish men whose parents were lucky to enough to get them safely out of Nazi occupied Europe to America. These men later enlisted in the US Army to fight for their adopted homeland and the families who were left behind in Germany. I had never heard of the The Ritchie Boys and how two thousand German-born Jews were able to get the crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win World War II. This account follows six of these courageous men as they return to Europe trained as special interrogators of German prisoners. The account is extremely well researched through interviews with surviving veterans as well as archival information. I found the story quite emotional as I read of parents putting their children first and doing anything to get them out of Germany in the hopes that they would be safe from the hell taking place there. When these grown men return a few years later to fight with the US Army we see how they were deployed in small elite teams attached to every major combat unit in Europe to collect key and tactical intelligence that was paramount to the war effort, so much so that A post war Army report found that nearly 60 percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from these unlikely hero's. The book Concludes with these young men trying to locate their families and coming to terms with what has happened to many family members and friends before they return to their adopted country. This was such a good read for me, I did struggle a little with trying to keep track of which of the six young men I was reading about now and again in the story and needed to flip back and forward a little but it didn’t take from the book just made me concentrate a little harder, however I was glad I had a hard copy of this book which did make it easier. There are quite a few photos throughout the book which I always appreciate. A remarkable story, well written and informative and another one to add to my favorites shelf.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    We immigrant newcomers were proud of the contribution we provided in the war effort, although it was not known about or greatly appreciated by many Americans. Even if we were only small pieces in an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that had to be assembled in order to win the war, we German-speaking refugees were like 'natural resources' in America's fight against Hitler and the Nazis." - Martin Selling I had not heard of the Ritchie Boys, newly immigrated Jews who escaped Hitler and joined the military t We immigrant newcomers were proud of the contribution we provided in the war effort, although it was not known about or greatly appreciated by many Americans. Even if we were only small pieces in an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that had to be assembled in order to win the war, we German-speaking refugees were like 'natural resources' in America's fight against Hitler and the Nazis." - Martin Selling I had not heard of the Ritchie Boys, newly immigrated Jews who escaped Hitler and joined the military to defeat him, and according to Bruce Henderson, this is an untold story of WWII. Ritchie Boys were present in all major battles from Normandy to The Battle of the Bulge, with special training in military intelligence. My grandfathers fought in WWII in Germany, each in different places, and neither would talk with us about their experiences. I read quite a bit of WWII fiction and nonfiction, probably in attempt to wrap my head around what it must have been like for them. Sons and Soldiers was a wonderful reading experience and definitely added to my understanding. Henderson took us right to the battlefield in an approachable way, but this book was so much more. My favorite parts of the book included the beginning chapters where we get to know the early life of each of the soldiers, the end with their involvement in the liberation of the camps, as well as finding out where they are now. Bruce Henderson is a smooth writer and excels at nonfiction that reads as fiction. I cherished my time spent getting to know the Ritchie Boys and hope each of their memories and sacrifices will never be forgotten. Thanks to Goodreads, William Morrow, and Bruce Henderson for the complimentary copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    I think most readers of WW2 histories know a bit about the American and British soldiers who translated for the Allies in occupied Germany after the war. These men often did more than just interpret; many were hunters of war criminals and did other investigative work. Most of these men - native German speakers - were Jewish and had left Germany in the 1930's and early 1940's for safety in the United States and Britain. Many left family members behind who were lost in the Holocaust. Bruce Henderso I think most readers of WW2 histories know a bit about the American and British soldiers who translated for the Allies in occupied Germany after the war. These men often did more than just interpret; many were hunters of war criminals and did other investigative work. Most of these men - native German speakers - were Jewish and had left Germany in the 1930's and early 1940's for safety in the United States and Britain. Many left family members behind who were lost in the Holocaust. Bruce Henderson, in his new book, "Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Stories of the Jews who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the US Army to Fight Hitler" (whew, that some subtitle!) traces the lives of about 10 men who were lucky to leave Germany as teenagers and found safety in the United States. Wanting to give something back to their adopted homeland, many joined the US army and found themselves assigned to Fort Ritchie in Maryland, where they received training in the work they would do in Germany with the occupying forces. As native-German speakers familiar with Germany, they were able to give a valuable service to the US Army. (The British Army also used German-born Jews, but this book is only about the Americans.) Henderson writes movingly about their mission and how they carried it out. Many were also looking for relatives left behind. Bruce Henderson's a very easy writer and the book is a pleasure to read. I also bet it would make an excellent Audible book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily Onufer

    I received a copy of this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaways program. This book was expertly written, compelling, and compiled a significant amount of research to tell a very important story. My only complaint was that at times, I felt there were too many characters to keep track of easily, and I sometimes found myself flipping back to remind myself of each character's background and story. This book would make a great film - it is a fantastic story that so many more people should be I received a copy of this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaways program. This book was expertly written, compelling, and compiled a significant amount of research to tell a very important story. My only complaint was that at times, I felt there were too many characters to keep track of easily, and I sometimes found myself flipping back to remind myself of each character's background and story. This book would make a great film - it is a fantastic story that so many more people should be aware of. Henderson's research and writing capabilities do justice to these brave men's stories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    During World War II there was a little known group of men who were trained at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. Their extensive classwork and field training was designed to prepare them to interrogate German prisoners of war and gather intelligence to be used against Nazi forces. What became known as the “Ritchie Boys” was formed in mid-1942 and was made up of 1985 German born Jews who had immigrated to the United States in response to Nazi persecution particularly after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Kr During World War II there was a little known group of men who were trained at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. Their extensive classwork and field training was designed to prepare them to interrogate German prisoners of war and gather intelligence to be used against Nazi forces. What became known as the “Ritchie Boys” was formed in mid-1942 and was made up of 1985 German born Jews who had immigrated to the United States in response to Nazi persecution particularly after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Kristallnacht in November, 1938, and the events of 1941. Most of these German-Jewish boys arrived without parents and siblings and had to adapt to their new homeland on their own. Part of the reason was due to the racist/anti-sematic attitude on the part of a number of important State Department officials like Breckenridge Long who as an Assistant Secretary of State helped set American immigration policy. The journey of the Ritchie Boys and their impact on the Second World War is aptly told by Bruce Henderson with compassion and insight in his latest book, SONS AND SOLDIERS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE JEWS WHO ESCAPED THE NAZIS AND RETURNED WITH THE ARMY TO FIGHT HITLER. The story of the Ritchie Boys takes them through their wartime experiences in gathering important intelligence from German POWs, their participation in a number of important battles, including the Normandy invasion, Operation Market Basket, the Battle of the Bulge, liberation of extermination camps, and their efforts after the war to locate family members. In the first part of the book Henderson focuses on the early plight and immigration of a number of men who would become Ritchie Boys. They include Martin Selling, who was rounded up after Kristallnacht, separated from his family, imprisoned in Dachau and after his release made it to the United Kingdom due to the work of a Jewish relief agency that eventually provided a visa to enter the United States. Gunter Stern, who would change his name to Guy grew up in a middle class family in Northern Germany and as the situation for Jews deteriorated in 1937 he was sent by himself to the United States to live with an uncle in St. Louis because the State Department refused to allow the rest of his family to immigrate. Stephan Lewy was placed in an orphanage after his mother died and the economic fortunes of his father collapsed. After his father was released from a concentration camp and they experienced Kristallnacht he left Germany for Paris leaving his father and step mother behind. Werner Angress was not a very good student and he was sent to an agricultural farm in Poland where he found success. Once things deteriorated in Berlin his father developed a successful plan for the entire family to escape and go to Amsterdam. In 1939 Angress escaped from Holland and left for America. Lastly, Victor Brombert, another teenage boy was smuggled out of Germany in 1933 and moved to Paris, however, during the Vichy regime he left France to experience a harrowing voyage to New York and safety in 1941. All of the boys experienced the emergence of Hitler, their removal from schools, harassment by Hitler Youth, and the collapse of their families as parents were arrested, businesses confiscated, and the eventual separation. All witnessed and were affected by the 1935 Nuremberg “Blood” Laws, Kristallnacht, and the difficulty of emigrating in part because the Nazis seized their assets and only allowed them to take a pittance of their wealth out of the country. Henderson further explores the difficulties as they had to navigate the exclusionary immigration laws of the United States and their enforcement by elements in the State Department. Jews were required to provide affidavits from American citizens that they would take care of their relatives financially, along with other documentation that took a great deal of time to obtain. The work of David Wyman provides an inside look into the “old boys club” of the State Department and their arcane views when it came to race and Jews. Henderson describes the heroic efforts of the families as they realized that only one family member would be allowed to leave and in most cases it was the eldest son with the hope they could reunite later. The boys that are the center of the story would become naturalized American citizens before they were sent overseas to fight the Nazis. Henderson describes their training and dispatch to England to participate in the Normandy landing. Since native Germans would have knowledge of Nazi/German culture and colloquial language the Ritchie Boys were in high demand to interrogate POWs. The individual stories Henderson presents reflects the importance of the Ritchie Boys to the allied war effort. Particularly interesting is Werner Angress who was attached to the 82nd Airborne and with little training parachuted behind German lines. His later intelligence gathering leading up to and during the Battle of the Bulge was very important. Another insightful segment deals with Victor Brombert’s participation in the 28th Infantry Division as he experienced combat in Belgium and Northern France and predicted the Battle of the Bulge which was ignored by hire ups. Perhaps one of the most ingenious of the Ritchie Boys was Guy Stern who after Normandy was made Head of Survey and his reports were distributed to all allied commanders including General Eisenhower. Along with another Ritchie Boy named Manfred Ehrlich, who changed his name to Fred Howard, he developed a number of unusual schemes in order to extract information from POWs. Henderson tells a number of wonderful stories including the visit of Marlene Dietrich as part of the USO, the capture of Hauptmann Kurt Bruns who ordered the death of two captured Ritchie Boys, how the Ritchie Boys had to overcome the skepticism of some officers who accused them of being German spies, and at times the guilt they felt when they had to use unorthodox methods to extract information from POWs. Perhaps the most poignant part of the book is when the Ritchie Boys confronted the Holocaust when they witnessed the concentration camps. Stephan Lewy arrived at Buchenwald with the Sixth Armored Division, Guy Stern arrived at Buchenwald three days after its liberation, Werner Angress witnessed the Wobbelin concentration camp, and when Manny Steinfeld arrived there he could not escape the possibility that his sister and mother were murdered there. Overall, Henderson tells a remarkable story. It is told clearly integrating numerous interviews with the Ritchie Boys and accompanying research. My main criticism involves the method of sourcing which is very ineffective and difficult to attribute information. As a historian I would love to have been able to match materials to citations so I might have pursued certain aspects of the book further. However, the topic is fascinating and Henderson has done these men a great service by telling their story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this very interesting book. I would give this a 4.5. For years I have been interested in reading about the Holocaust. This book takes a different take on those horrific years. "Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler" this book focuses on a group of Jewish boys who were sent to America to escape the Holocaust they were sent by family so they could carry on the family name. These tee I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this very interesting book. I would give this a 4.5. For years I have been interested in reading about the Holocaust. This book takes a different take on those horrific years. "Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler" this book focuses on a group of Jewish boys who were sent to America to escape the Holocaust they were sent by family so they could carry on the family name. These teenagers lived in America for a few years and when war broke out joined the services to go to Germany to fight against Hitler. The joined up to 2000 other German Jewish young men in a group called "The Ritchie boys" all these boys could speak German and other languages {like French}they were trained in special interrogation techniques. They learned how to interrogate German P.O.Ws to get information from them. These almost 2000 men were divided among the troops and were crucial in helping out the services. These young men wanted to help defeat Hitler. This is a very good read. I never heard of the "Ritchie Boys" before. I was very impressed in what these brave young men contributed to the American armed services. Anyone interested in history and knowing more about "The Ritchie Boys' may find this to be a very good read.I was sure glad I got the chance to read this well done book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Doug Phillips

    Spend any time in the “History of World War 2” section in a library or a book store (remember those?), and you’ll see a range of fiction and non-fiction works detailing aspects of the war experience. Bruce Henderson took me to a new understanding of relatively unsung heroes with “Sons and Soldiers”. Without reading any reviews of this book (a purposeful strategy), I let the author lead me through this interesting work that consists of several very personal stories that all share the common thread Spend any time in the “History of World War 2” section in a library or a book store (remember those?), and you’ll see a range of fiction and non-fiction works detailing aspects of the war experience. Bruce Henderson took me to a new understanding of relatively unsung heroes with “Sons and Soldiers”. Without reading any reviews of this book (a purposeful strategy), I let the author lead me through this interesting work that consists of several very personal stories that all share the common thread of Jewish young men who escape Germany in the late 30’s and early 40’s and come to the United States to pick up arms and fight against the tyranny from which they escaped. These young men are tactically deployed to use their language and translation skills to further the progress of the American effort in the European theater of operations. From early in this book, my eyes were opened to the important aspects of interrogation for tactical advantage. Particularly poignant are the post-war details of how these young men come full circle to their respective boyhood homes in search of families and friends who were left behind. Henderson gives very appropriate consideration to the concentration camp experience, without having it overshadow other key milestones such as the D-Day invasion and Operation Market Garden. It is clear that Mr. Henderson is another important voice and scholar of wartime European history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    On par with The Boys in the Boat. This is a little known story that deserves to be well known.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Extraordinary book. This book follows the parallel lives of seven Camp Ritchie boys, from their immigration to America early in WWII, their enlistment into the Army, training at Camp Ritchie in military intelligence, return to Europe during Normandy and subsequent invasions, interrogation of German POWs, discovery of the concentration camps and finally the search for their Jewish relatives many of whom did not survive the concentration camps. The latter portion of the book that covers the liberat Extraordinary book. This book follows the parallel lives of seven Camp Ritchie boys, from their immigration to America early in WWII, their enlistment into the Army, training at Camp Ritchie in military intelligence, return to Europe during Normandy and subsequent invasions, interrogation of German POWs, discovery of the concentration camps and finally the search for their Jewish relatives many of whom did not survive the concentration camps. The latter portion of the book that covers the liberation of the concentration camps and the search for family members was incredibly moving. There is also a riveting section on two members of Camp Ritchie who were captured and murdered by the Nazis, in obvious violation of the Geneva Convention. Then comes the subsequent hunt for their killer. I was struck by the fact that all of the men portrayed in the book have lived into their 80’s and 90’s, all had successful careers and many became writers themselves and provided much of the source material for this book. I feel that Henderson the author did an excellent job by providing enough information to enhance the stories but not saturating the reader with too much information about WWII or digressing to tangents. So it does help if the reader has some knowledge of the major battles involving the Allies in Western Europe. I also came away learning a lot more about the liberation of the camps then I previously knew. The book will lead you to reflect on these seven heroes, the Allied soldiers who liberated Europe from the Nazis, the soldiers who lost their lives in Europe, and of course the millions of Jews who lost their lives in the concentration camps.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Viva

    Fantastic! As someone who has read a lot about WWII, this is the first I've ever read of the Ritchie Boys. There are two components to my praise of this book: 1) The writing was well written and easy to read. Very often non-fiction books are boring, long winded or written text book style but this book was written to be read. Once I picked this up I couldn't put it down and had it in my hands or on me waiting to be read for the best of two days. Despite being over 380 pages, I finished it in about Fantastic! As someone who has read a lot about WWII, this is the first I've ever read of the Ritchie Boys. There are two components to my praise of this book: 1) The writing was well written and easy to read. Very often non-fiction books are boring, long winded or written text book style but this book was written to be read. Once I picked this up I couldn't put it down and had it in my hands or on me waiting to be read for the best of two days. Despite being over 380 pages, I finished it in about 48 hours. 2) The content: The book was very well organized. It followed the story of several German Jews as they were forced to flee as the Nazis rose to power in Germany. It described their early days in the US, their training at Camp Ritchie in the US, their wartime stories and the aftermath. Despite it being the story of several people, their narratives didn't get mixed up during the telling of it and everything was tied up neatly at the end. I think the best part of the book was the interrogation. It went into some depth into the techniques and experiences of the different Ritchie boys. In fact, so much so that I think it should be taught in interrogation school. I surely learned more about good interrogation than anything else I've read before. Now I wonder if there was a similar school for Japanese-American speakers. Overall, a very fascinating look into the lives of these Ritchie boys, the background of early Nazi Germany, the war from their point of view and a little of the aftermath of WWII. Highly recommended. I received this book as a free review copy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin baschinsky

    Mr Henderson weaves a great story with a healthy amount of research. I thought it might get redundant, however he advances the story with ease. For those who like little known stories of World War II, this it it !!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Hill

    Before the beginning of World War II, a new power was rising in Germany. It was a party that had only one doctrine, and it was willing to annihilate anyone that stood within their path to achieve what they saw as a true and pure race. One where they were the dominating force, subjugating the rest of the world to their will. As the Nazi party rose within the country, and German nationalism rose, there were just as many living with the Germany territories that were afraid for the future. While man Before the beginning of World War II, a new power was rising in Germany. It was a party that had only one doctrine, and it was willing to annihilate anyone that stood within their path to achieve what they saw as a true and pure race. One where they were the dominating force, subjugating the rest of the world to their will. As the Nazi party rose within the country, and German nationalism rose, there were just as many living with the Germany territories that were afraid for the future. While many of them looked to escape early, some held on thinking that the worst was behind them. They could not have been more wrong. Six boys faced a future of uncertainty, and while their families did everything they could to remain together, it was eventually clear that some of them had a chance to get out, and these families grasped at the chance. These young boys, from all different walks of life, all had one thing in common. They were Jewish. That alone was the one factor that separated them out from the rest of their neighbors and friends. It did not matter that they had been born in Germany and had grown up there. It did not make a difference that their fathers had fought for Germany in the first World War, many of them were decorated veterans. The only thing that mattered was their faith, and that was even turned around to become a race. They were despised and ridiculed. The children picked on, many by former friends. A few made it out early, but others like Stephan, were not as quick to leave the country. There were organizations set up to help get children out of the country, and parents jumped at the chance to have their children removed from the danger, with the hope that the rest of the family could soon follow. Sometimes families were reunited quickly, some took years. Still others were never reunited, never to see their loved ones again.  But these boys were not finished with Germany yet. Being sent to America, they flourished. Living with relatives, holding jobs, going to school was something that they jumped at. While life in America was much different than it was back home, they all assimilated into their new surroundings. Learning the language (if it was not already known) was key, and many of them still spoke their native tongue at home. But while they were living in America, they were still aware of the events swirling around Europe. With the outbreak of the war, they felt as though they needed to do their parts to help win the war against Hitler. Many of them had ideas of what they wanted to do, but not being a United States citizen held them back. While attending training, they were pulled out and send to a specialized training which would allow them to act as interrogators overseas. Their mastery of the languages and by knowing the countryside, as well as how the people within the country would think would help them to gain information that would be vital in not only pursuing the German army, but by saving American lives as well. Working with the units they were assigned to, the information that they managed to get gave not only troop numbers and movements, but placements of mines. It was not just the American lives that they were saving. Through their interrogations, war crimes began to come to light. The concentration camps were revealed and the true horrors of what the Germans were trying to hide was uncovered.  Werner Angress, Victor Brombert, Stephan Lewy, Martin Selling, Manny Steinfeld, and Guy Stern are not just footnotes in a history book. These six names, six heroes are just a few of the brave soldiers who not only defied Hitler once by leaving Europe before they could be scooped up, but returned with the United States Army to bring him down. There is a longer list of names within the pages of the book, all men who willingly risked their lives to save people that they loved, and people they had never met. Sons and Soldiers follows their stories in a vignette, and masterful intertwining of history and facts that shows just how personal the war was for some. It was not just nameless souls they were trying to save. They were out to save their heritage, their families, their past, and their future.  If you only read one book this year, this is it! Wow! I could not put this one down! I was glued from the start. Well researched and fantastic detail.. this book leaves nothing to the imagination. This book was everything I was hoping it would be and more. Tissues will be required at a few parts, due to the heartbreaking nature of the material.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book follows the story of some of the Ritchie Boys. They were a number of Jewish teenagers who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930's and made their way to the United States. There they wound up joining the armed forces and were sent to Camp Ritchie Maryland where they were trained for IPW - Interrogation of Prisoners of War. The book then follows them through D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and on to the liberation of concentration camps. The book is well written, endlessly interesting and what This book follows the story of some of the Ritchie Boys. They were a number of Jewish teenagers who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930's and made their way to the United States. There they wound up joining the armed forces and were sent to Camp Ritchie Maryland where they were trained for IPW - Interrogation of Prisoners of War. The book then follows them through D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and on to the liberation of concentration camps. The book is well written, endlessly interesting and what I enjoyed most, it covers a chapter of WW2 I had never heard about let alone read about. If you like reading the exploits of individual soldiers I would highly recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Kim

    My current rating is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. I thought every conceivable stories/and perspectives of WWII has been done but I was wrong. This book provided a new perspective and insight not covered, that of Jewish children/young adults in Germany who escape the persecution by immigrating while there was a chance. The author selects a few of them to tell their stories before Nazi came into full power, their escape to United States and how they ended up playing essential roles in defeati My current rating is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. I thought every conceivable stories/and perspectives of WWII has been done but I was wrong. This book provided a new perspective and insight not covered, that of Jewish children/young adults in Germany who escape the persecution by immigrating while there was a chance. The author selects a few of them to tell their stories before Nazi came into full power, their escape to United States and how they ended up playing essential roles in defeating the Nazis as Ritchie Boys. Even thought the book was an easy and straight forward read with some good details, it felt dry and monotone. In hands of a better writer who can write well and tell good stories even though it's non-fiction, e.g. Erik Larson, this book could have been really engaging and immersive. For example, the transitions from one character's story to next were disaster and disorientating. Personally, I dislike the whole structure of the book and I found it bothersome that it took me out of the book. The characters were not flesh out to a point that I was fully invested in any of them, yes, the last few chapters were emotional, but that was because of given-emotion tied to the circumstances. At the end of the day, I wanted more out of this subject matter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    Author Bruce Henderson has once again created a fascinating narrative – in this volume, the story of young German Jewish men who, having escaped Germany, served in the U.S. Army interrogating German POWs to gather intelligence. He follows several of them as they cross Europe, often on the front lines, and describes their successful efforts to collect vital information for the war effort – as well as their efforts to find their own families after the war. A sobering story and an excellent tribute Author Bruce Henderson has once again created a fascinating narrative – in this volume, the story of young German Jewish men who, having escaped Germany, served in the U.S. Army interrogating German POWs to gather intelligence. He follows several of them as they cross Europe, often on the front lines, and describes their successful efforts to collect vital information for the war effort – as well as their efforts to find their own families after the war. A sobering story and an excellent tribute to these heroic veterans. (Pub. date is July 17.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I’m a sucker for books like this. Best of all, I wasn’t familiar with this aspect of the war (the subtitle sums it up), so it was a new adventure. Remarkable stories, remarkable men.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    This is indeed an untold story. The Richie Boys portrayed in this book are German-Jews who escaped from Germany in their youth and came across to America. When we entered the war these same boys wanted to help their adopted country fight Hitler. The US Army were signing up men who could speak fluent German to join the US troops and help interrogate captured German soldiers. At first I thought that's all they would do, interrogate, but they did so much more. Besides parachuting down on D-day, dri This is indeed an untold story. The Richie Boys portrayed in this book are German-Jews who escaped from Germany in their youth and came across to America. When we entered the war these same boys wanted to help their adopted country fight Hitler. The US Army were signing up men who could speak fluent German to join the US troops and help interrogate captured German soldiers. At first I thought that's all they would do, interrogate, but they did so much more. Besides parachuting down on D-day, driving tanks through Normandy, locating and disarming German mines, and helping to write and distribute German propaganda leaflets, the Richie boys saw a horrible number of casualties on the front lines and some suffered in POW camps. Some incidents with the Richie boys were unreal, others funny. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a different aspect of WWII.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Myla

    Love when I read a WWII book from a new perspective I’ve never read before! Loved these boys and their stories. It taught me new things about those trying to immigrate in the 30’s and about the poor German soldiers who didn’t want to be there. Great read, great narrator. It tells the story of many different boys and so keeping them all straight did prove slightly difficult just because I was listening, but in the end it didn’t really matter and he actually did a great job of giving you a little Love when I read a WWII book from a new perspective I’ve never read before! Loved these boys and their stories. It taught me new things about those trying to immigrate in the 30’s and about the poor German soldiers who didn’t want to be there. Great read, great narrator. It tells the story of many different boys and so keeping them all straight did prove slightly difficult just because I was listening, but in the end it didn’t really matter and he actually did a great job of giving you a little reminder of who they were when he switched characters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Vincent

    A must read. Pure and simple. To truly comprehend what happened during WWII, this book really shows the personal side of the Jewish people in pre-war Germany, and the changes that took place thanks to the Nazi regime. Men who were once war heroes for Germany during WWI were suddenly considered to be enemies of the Reich. Escaping the oncoming horror was nearly impossible, and people did what they could to at least get a son out before the worst of it hit. And for those sons, knowing they'd left A must read. Pure and simple. To truly comprehend what happened during WWII, this book really shows the personal side of the Jewish people in pre-war Germany, and the changes that took place thanks to the Nazi regime. Men who were once war heroes for Germany during WWI were suddenly considered to be enemies of the Reich. Escaping the oncoming horror was nearly impossible, and people did what they could to at least get a son out before the worst of it hit. And for those sons, knowing they'd left family behind and yet not knowing what was happening to them was one of the most heartbreaking things of all. But then those boys had the chance to fight on the side of the Allies, which was both redemptive and dangerous, especially considering they were German Jews going back to a fascist controlled territory, where Jews were being exterminated. The bravery of these young men leaves me in awe. I especially liked the soldier who jumped behind enemy lines with only fifteen minutes of training, and the firsthand account of traveling with Patton. There were just so many personal details that, not only did I learn so much, but I gained an even greater respect for those labeled "The Greatest Generation." Overall, I think it's important to read books like this, because the more we know about history, the less likely we are to repeat it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nissa

    This is such a powerful story that was both engaging and fascinating. The book is quite long, but it didn't feel that way. Immediately, I felt like I belonged in the world of the Ritchie Boys, and I could connect with them right away. The story is at times raw and painful, at times inspiring and thought-provoking. The writing makes the characters and plot shine, and ultimately, it is an excellent historical read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading WWII American-Jewish h This is such a powerful story that was both engaging and fascinating. The book is quite long, but it didn't feel that way. Immediately, I felt like I belonged in the world of the Ritchie Boys, and I could connect with them right away. The story is at times raw and painful, at times inspiring and thought-provoking. The writing makes the characters and plot shine, and ultimately, it is an excellent historical read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading WWII American-Jewish history and the principle of fighting against tyranny and oppression. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bahramo

    Incredible story. Inspiring & occaisionally frightening. There are sections that transport the reader to a place where you may break out in a cold sweat... a must read for all history lovers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue Holmes

    An interesting story but the author's style is dry and this reduces the emotional impact on the reader. An interesting story but the author's style is dry and this reduces the emotional impact on the reader.

  23. 4 out of 5

    NinaB

    The stories of the men featured in this book deserve to be told. This book is a fascinating account of the life of the German Jews who fled Nazi Germany as boys, then returned to fight the Nazis as American soldiers in World War 2. They were part of the Ritchie Boys, a special US military intelligence group, many of which were native German speakers, trained at Camp Ritchie as interrogators and as counter-intelligence front-liners in World War 2. For these men, the war was personal. Persecuted b The stories of the men featured in this book deserve to be told. This book is a fascinating account of the life of the German Jews who fled Nazi Germany as boys, then returned to fight the Nazis as American soldiers in World War 2. They were part of the Ritchie Boys, a special US military intelligence group, many of which were native German speakers, trained at Camp Ritchie as interrogators and as counter-intelligence front-liners in World War 2. For these men, the war was personal. Persecuted by the evil anti-Semites, they risked their lives, with their family’s support and sacrifice, in order for them to escape to freedom. As the Nazi regime expanded and eventually declared war against America, these German Jews eagerly enlisted to fight Hitler. They initially were treated suspiciously by fellow American soldiers because of their German accent, but were later highly valued as necessary allies in the fight. They not only spoke German fluently and could worked as translators, but were also knowledgeable in the culture of their enemy. They became an invaluable tool working in interrogation and counter-intelligence. The last chapters were heartbreaking to read as these men started finding out the horror of the Holocaust as the war was coming to an end. While the other soldiers could breathe a sigh of relief when the Nazis surrendered, these German Jewish soldiers just began their desperate search for family members they had to leave behind. In the end, despite their hardships and lack of privilege, these men became successful authors, professors, engineers, businessmen, and other respectable professions. They didn’t allow their horrible past and challenges to defeat them. They didn’t wallow in despair and stay as victims (and they truly were by the Nazis). The young people of today could learn a great deal from these noble and courageous men.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    A fascinating book about a handful of young Jewish men who escaped Nazi Germany, signed up with the U.S. army, and returned to Europe during WW2 to help interrogate German prisoners. This was definitely a worthwhile read. True, there were some sobering and stomach-churning scenes in which the atrocities of Nazi cruelty to Jews were detailed. But I need to be reminded of just how horrible the Third Reich was. At other points, the book was filled with interesting stories and adventures and chance A fascinating book about a handful of young Jewish men who escaped Nazi Germany, signed up with the U.S. army, and returned to Europe during WW2 to help interrogate German prisoners. This was definitely a worthwhile read. True, there were some sobering and stomach-churning scenes in which the atrocities of Nazi cruelty to Jews were detailed. But I need to be reminded of just how horrible the Third Reich was. At other points, the book was filled with interesting stories and adventures and chance encounters that were lots of fun to read about. Glad I read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Johnson

    Didn’t know this story of Jewish boys who escaped Nazi Germany but returned as American soldiers in WW2. Loved it!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jackaline Rutter

    This just might be the best book I’ve read. Had me in tears. Scary this was not that log ago.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judie

    When Gunther Stern was in school in Germany, the students were assigned to cut out pages from their books and replace them with new pages. He realized the pages being taken out of the books all dealt with major accomplishments by Jews. Later on, while he was in college in the United States and was called “Guy,” he had the opportunity to interview German novelist Thomas Mann, winner of the1929 Nobel Prize in literature , who told him "dictators can never be appeased because they will never be sa When Gunther Stern was in school in Germany, the students were assigned to cut out pages from their books and replace them with new pages. He realized the pages being taken out of the books all dealt with major accomplishments by Jews. Later on, while he was in college in the United States and was called “Guy,” he had the opportunity to interview German novelist Thomas Mann, winner of the1929 Nobel Prize in literature , who told him "dictators can never be appeased because they will never be satisfied with the territorial gains." Mann also discussed advocacy for national health insurance in the United States: “A democracy is only strong if every citizen is guaranteed his own social well-being, which must include affordable medical treatment, a chance for an education, and a pension...I wish for young people like you to have a tuition-free college education.” While still in Europe, Martin Selling was incarcerated at Dachau. The camp was a hierarchy of violence: the young German soldiers were subject to such harsh treatment by their leaders that they were quick to vent their pent-up anger on inmates. The process reminded Martin of training attack dogs. After he was able to leave Dachau, he went to England awaiting a visa to come to the US. He was placed in a refugee camp there. Two months later, England was at war. He and the other thousands of the German Jews of the camp were classified as "enemy aliens." A British army unit came to the camp and set up a special radio monitoring system. There were problems with the system, but the British refused to listen to suggestions from the young men and the operation was ended. Victor Brombert, while attending a Pennsylvania boarding school in early 1941, was invited to a women’s club luncheon. When he answered their questions about Europe, the women were polite but didn’t believe him. They liked his comments about how grateful he was that he and his family were safely in America but when he said he hoped the US would get into the war and help defeat Hitler their attitude changed. They felt that he was misinformed or exaggerating. He then began to understand isolationism. After Pearl Harbor, when he gave the valedictorian speech at his graduation, he said the same things but the audience of students, parents, and instructors wildly applauded him even though he had said hardly anything about Japan. After arriving in the United States in 1939, Werner Angress volunteered for the Army and was inducted in 1941. During training at Fort Mead, no one in the division seemed bothered by his German accent. In June 1942 the company moved to another camp near Jacksonville, Florida. Since he hadn't become a naturalized citizen, he automatically became an enemy alien. The men in his division were treated like menial workers and insulted by the other soldiers. They were transferred to Ft. Richie, Maryland. where they secretly trained and then sent in groups of two or three to join European-based units where they would serve in the front lines to interview German prisoners soon after capture. Because of the demand, those who graduated from the course were usually promoted to one of four lower ranks. But at the completion of his two courses, Brombert, at age twenty, went from private to Master Sergeant, a promotion usually attained by career soldiers after years in the Army. In early May 1944, he was tapped to speak to a large group of officers about what they might find in France as they moved inland after the invasion. The area for the mythical town for the practice was Calais where the distance across the channel is the narrowest and where many, including Hitler and his army generals, thought was most likely place for the Allied landings. Brombert was not familiar with that area, so he chose a region he knew well: Normandy. The area he had chosen was Omaha Beach. While being interviewed, a former concentration camp guard said, with no discernible emotion, he frequently volunteered for the execution squad. Stern asked him why he volunteered. The former guard shrugged and said. “If I hadn't, someone else would have." He explained that there was a bonus for volunteering. “ I would get a pass to go to Berlin where the great concert halls are still open. I love concerts, especially Beethoven and Mozart.” Stern was shaken by the prisoner’s admissions, especially by his matter-of-fact demeanor – so conversational, with little prodding, no apparent guilt. Because he was so immersed in Nazism, the German was unable to recognize the enormity of his own actions. The teams often had the freedom to operate independently. One night Angress decided to join one of the regiments battalions in the hope that they would take some new prisoners he could interrogate. When he found no new prisoners waiting at the command post he moved even closer to the front lines. Shortly after midnight he witnessed his first nighttime German infantry attack by the light of rocket launchers. Cheering and shouting encouragement to one another, SS soldiers charged uphill, straight into the machine gunfire of the paratroopers. Even as the German bodies began to stack up, the SS kept coming, trying frantically to reach the crest and overwhelm the US company. Suddenly, two Americans ran past. Angress headed to the rear. He recognized them as the captain, who was the company commander, and his top sergeant. They were fleeing to safety! This meant the machine-gun company was now leaderless. The young Jewish lieutenant ran to lead the company yelling, “I have command.” He issued all the right commands. None of the Americans broke their positions in the attack was thwarted. Angress crept from one dead German to the next, searching their pockets for documents that might contain important information. On December 15, 1944, Brombert and another member of the group made a special trip to Army Headquarter in Bastogne about a large buildup of German troops in the area. The colonel in charge discounted the information and said, “Our lines are thin. We'll just have to sit and wait. Anyhow, it's probably a diversionary action. Forget it.” The next morning around 5:30 AM they heard and saw what he thought was thunder accompany by flashes of lightning. It was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. After the end of hostilities, the Ritchie Boys were present at the liberation of the concentration camps. At Buchenwald, Stephan Lewy and a group of soldiers took several empty trucks to Weimar and told the mayor he needed 100 men a day to come to the camps with him, clean the camps, and bury the dead. When the townspeople saw the surroundings, they immediately began denying responsibility. Some went so far as to complain about the smell, the result of blind obedience to authority. Stern arrived three days after its liberation. When he had interviewed individual Third Reich soldiers, they were unwilling or unable to see the enormity of what they had done or accept any responsibility. They all claim to have been lowly functionaries only following orders. Residents of Ludwigslust, especially those who held some official position or been members of the Nazi party, were required to dig 200 graves in the manicured gardens of the Ottoman palace located there. Furthermore the entire adult population had to attend the mass funeral service after which they would walk between the rows of graves paying their respects to the victims. Each of the deceased lay next to his or her grave, the bodies wrapped in white sheets locals were required to provide from home, with their faces uncovered. Dozens of captured German officers, including five generals, were also made to attend. The end of the book is a brief account of the lives of the six Ritchie Boys included in the book after the war. It also includes a roster of all those who served in the unit including a list of those who died during the war. I bought this book after hearing the author speak about it. In the audience that night were two Richie boys who comments supported and added to the story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Campbell Ackroyd

    Meticulously researched, compulsive war memoirs I would not have chosen to read this book myself as I am not one for reading soldiers’ memoirs. I find them too heart rending and have always leaned toward pacifism since reading Vera Brittain;s searing “Testament of Youth” about World War I. This book was chosen by my book club and as I started reading it I was so completely taken in by the stories of five (I think?) young Jewish German boys who escaped to the US shortly before World War II, then v Meticulously researched, compulsive war memoirs I would not have chosen to read this book myself as I am not one for reading soldiers’ memoirs. I find them too heart rending and have always leaned toward pacifism since reading Vera Brittain;s searing “Testament of Youth” about World War I. This book was chosen by my book club and as I started reading it I was so completely taken in by the stories of five (I think?) young Jewish German boys who escaped to the US shortly before World War II, then volunteered for the US military to return to Europe, were trained as Military Intelligence interrogators and fought their way across Europe with the US Army. I read the book in two days. There is so much detail in the book about life in Germany for Jews in the early days of Hitler. I think most of us, my generation who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, have read about it, heard about it, studied it. Still, the individual stories have the power to once again make me wonder how a nation could have allowed such terrible things to happen—allowed neighbors to be arrested, to just disappear. And then the detailed description of the fight to liberate Europe, the battles, the hand-to-hand, the desperate about-turns that people made, for example in France, once they realized that their daily lives were changing with the defeat of the Germans. Denials made in Germany as to knowledge about the concentration camps. I skipped over a lot of the descriptions of the concentration camps, I can’t take that anymore. I would recommend this book certainly to military historians and to anyone who is interested in what drives men to enlist, not as career soldiers (none of the young men in the book remained in the military after the war), but to fight for a very personal cause. And it also chronicles what the reaction is for men (there are no women profiled in this book) who experience the reality of war and man’s inhumanity to man. And we still make war....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I hadn’t heard of this unputdownable narrative nonfiction work or the Ritchie Boys, until I saw this was on the new shelf at my public library. (My dad rarely talked about his service in World War II. He was drafted, because as a German Jew he was an “enemy alien,” and would not have been allowed to enlist. As a German, French, Dutch and more speaker, I remember him telling me he was asked to join a program. But he didn’t want to, except that’s not how the Army worked or works.) The book is abou I hadn’t heard of this unputdownable narrative nonfiction work or the Ritchie Boys, until I saw this was on the new shelf at my public library. (My dad rarely talked about his service in World War II. He was drafted, because as a German Jew he was an “enemy alien,” and would not have been allowed to enlist. As a German, French, Dutch and more speaker, I remember him telling me he was asked to join a program. But he didn’t want to, except that’s not how the Army worked or works.) The book is about five men of the 1,985 who were trained at Camp Ritchie, to translate, to interrogate, to spy on the Germans, as German Jews, returning to Europe with the American Army. As German Jews, they not only knew the language, many of them were also multilingual, but they knew the German culture and people. They were also there after the war, discovering concentration camps, translating for internees and catching camp commandants and “doctors,” and turning their information over to the Nuremburg Trials. There is a 2004 documentary on this topic called “The Ritchie Boys,” that’s supposed to be good. This book certainly is. I borrowed this from my public library.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Okay, wow. There are so many points of view and facets to WWII and this one had me riveted. Admittedly, I mixed up the men until I drew pictures in my head, but it didn’t matter as much as the overall picture. Essentially, there were quite a number of German Jews that immigrated to the US, joined the military, then were trained as interrogators. Nobody knew the nuances, the culture, the psychology better than a former German rejected by his own country? The author tells each story in different se Okay, wow. There are so many points of view and facets to WWII and this one had me riveted. Admittedly, I mixed up the men until I drew pictures in my head, but it didn’t matter as much as the overall picture. Essentially, there were quite a number of German Jews that immigrated to the US, joined the military, then were trained as interrogators. Nobody knew the nuances, the culture, the psychology better than a former German rejected by his own country? The author tells each story in different sections. All of the boys highlighted in this book arrive at Camp Ritchie with different experiences. Many were the only members of their family to leave Nazi Germany. One had already spent 2 years in Dachau which broke my heart early on. Some escaped before war broke out. Regardless of how they got there, they were each unique and more than willing to get in the war. They knew better than others what they were fighting for. Even though I sometimes mixed up the boys, some were crystal clear in my mind. The book is told in chunks of time and somehow makes a readable book of facts while using great novelistic strategies. I really enjoyed this book and could not put it down.

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