Anyone familiar with Helen Fry’s work on German and Austrian Jews in British Military Intelligence services in the Second World War (https://www.helen-fry.com/churchills-german-army; https://www.helen-fry.com/denazification) will be interested to read about Camp Ritchie in the USA.
Nine Kitchener men who successfully transmigrated to the US from Kitchener ended up at Camp Ritchie doing vital intelligence work as part of the US forces contribution to the Allied war effort.
Kitchener men in the US Military during the Second World War
Our review of ships’ manifests from 1939 and 1940 indicates that at least 500 Kitchener men departed England for the United States.
As a condition to obtaining the required visa, each man was linked to a sponsor who vouched to provide support as necessary to prevent the émigré from becoming a public charge. The men entered the United States either in New York, another American port, or by way of Montreal or Quebec, Canada. They then proceeded to the areas where their sponsors or, if lucky, their relatives and friends, resided.
When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Kitchener men were subject to the draft. Unlike in England where separate Alien Battalions were established in the unarmed Pioneer Corps, there were no separate units for aliens. Also unlike England, the United States expedited the granting of citizenship to refugees who were in the armed forces rather than deferring citizenship until the end of the war.
Overall, some 550,000 Jewish men served in the American military during the war.
Through the work of an American, Dan Gross, we have identified nine Kitchener men whose names appear on both the 1939 Register for Kitchener camp and on the list of men who were part of what became known as “The Ritchie Boys.”
The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 15,200 servicemen who were trained for U.S. Army Intelligence during WWII at the secret Camp Ritchie training facility.
Approximately 14%, or 2,200, of them were Jewish refugees born in Germany and Austria. They had been drafted into or volunteered to join the United States Army and when their ability to speak the languages of the enemy were discovered, they were sent to Camp Ritchie on secret orders.
They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation, and psychological warfare.
The Jewish refugees were suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly the German mentality and behavior, better than most American-born soldiers. The role of these soldiers was therefore to work on the front lines (or even behind them), at strategic corps and army levels, at interrogation, analyzing German forces and plans, and also to study and demoralize the enemy. The majority of them went on to work as members of the US Counter Intelligence Corps.
Descendants of these and other Kitchener men who served in the US armed forces during WWII are invited to contact us with information so that we can add to our information about this significant part of Kitchener history.
Note: The nine men at both Kitchener camp and Camp Ritchie are:
See the Complete Roster at Dan Gross’s excellent website:
Source for this article
“Ritchie Boys,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ritchie_Boys&oldid=891860712 (accessed July 6, 2019).
Research and article by a Kitchener descendant