Sons and Soldiers, the new offering from bestselling author Bruce Henderson, is a compelling account of Jewish refugees who came to the U.S., then returned to Germany to fight against Hitler. Nearly 2,000 German-born soldiers of the U.S. Army were sent to the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland. Known as the “Ritchie Boys,” the soldiers were trained to use their language skills as interrogators in the field.
Although nonfiction, the book reads like a novel, as Henderson focuses on six young men, each with a harrowing personal story of escape from Germany. Martin Selling was especially lucky. In November 1938, as part of the violent campaign known as Kristallnacht, he was sent to Dachau for several months. Thanks to the efforts of an aunt, Selling was freed, and eventually made his way to America. Although he had experienced the horrors of Nazi interrogation firsthand, he developed a non-confrontational debriefing technique that uncovered information that saved American lives time and time again.
Getting to know the men as unique individuals adds depth to their later wartime experiences serving in campaigns such as D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect is the young soldiers’ attempts to find friends and family members after the end of hostilities as they—and the world—came to realize the full horror of the Holocaust.
Based on interviews with the veterans and archival materials, Henderson has crafted a fascinating narrative that also serves as a somber reminder, once again, of the devastating personal toll that World War II exacted from innocent, loving families.