SARATOGA SPRINGS– The Jewish Community Arts is partnering with Temple Sinai and the Skidmore Office of Student Life to present a tale of Holocaust escapees who returned to Europe in WWII with the screening of the film, “The Ritchie Boys,” Sunday, March 25, at 7 p.m., at the Skidmore College Davis Auditorium (Palamountain Hall), 815 North Broadway, Saratoga.
They were young, and as teenagers they escaped the Nazis. They trained in the United States in intelligence work and psychological warfare, and returned to Europe as United States soldiers. They had motivation. They were Jewish. They called themselves “The Ritchie Boys.”
“The Ritchie Boys,” by German filmmaker Christian Bauer, tells a story that began at Camp Ritchie, Md., the birthplace of modern psychological warfare, and it ends with the defeat of Germany in May of 1945. After D-Day, the “Ritchie Boys” became a decisive force in the war. Nobody knew the enemy — culture and language —better than they.
As men in their 80s and 90s in the documentary, they tell about a war of words. On the front lines from the beaches of Normandy onwards, where they interrogated German prisoners, defectors, and civilians. They also collected information of tactical and strategic importance about troop size and movements, about the psychological situation of the enemy, and the inner workings of the Nazi regime. They drafted leaflets, produced radio broadcasts, and even published a German newspaper dropped behind enemy lines. In trucks equipped with amplifiers and loudspeakers, they went to the frontlines and under heavy fire, tried to persuade their German opponents to surrender. Their contributions are considered to have shortened the war and saved many lives on both sides. However, the story of their heroism, their achievements, and their long-term impact on military tactics remained forgotten for many years.
When the war was over, they never met for reunions; they did not join veteran associations. Their German accents and unusual histories did not make them welcome in the usual veterans circles. The “Ritchie Boys” left the war behind them and went on to enjoy careers in arts and politics, in business, and academia. They never forgot the war. They just never spoke about it.
Following the film there will be a dessert reception and panel discussion with U.S. Army Col. Rich Goldenberg, retired Army Lt. Col. Lance Allen Wang, Deborah Rausch, whose uncle was a Ritchie Boy and whose father was at Dachau, and Art Ruben, whose father was a Ritchie Boy.