As part of Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge, I came upon a book that was a joy to read. The challenge was to read an immigrant story. I chose the book Immigrant Soldier: The Story of a Ritchie Boy. This is a historical fiction written by Kathryn Lang-Slattery. It is the story of her uncle, who was a Jewish boy escaping Nazi Germany to later return as part of the intelligence corps for General Patton. This book open my eyes to a period of history that I knew very little about.
Immigrant Soldier is 428 pages long and documents the journey of Herman Lang through story narrative. Lang-Slattery covered her story in 31 chapters. She also included a section of the true story of Herman’s American life along with a timeline of actual events.
The story begins with Kristallnacht. This is when the Nazis started their systematic roundup of Jews across Germany. Through captivating storytelling, I was able to get a sense of what it was to live under these conditions. When all your rights were being taken away. As with most people, Herman was looking for ways to protect his family and endure the increasing restrictions. But at one point, he had to leave Germany for his own survival. It was fascinating to watch how friendships changed as the Nazi party became more prominent. Close schoolhouse friends abandon him because he was Jewish. Yet, friends of the family who had an allegiance to the Nazi party helped him leave Germany for England.
Lang-Slattery then followed Herman’s adventure from Germany to England. Even in England as the Nazis invaded country after country, Herman’s rights were also being restricted in England. Again, she shared a behind-the-scenes look of how people were treated and what processes they had to go through to carry on with day-to-day life.
Eventually, Herman migrated to the United States. Lang-Slattery told how Herman managed to find his family and reunite with his brother in California. She also wrote about his desire to get a job to support himself. Herman was an entrepreneur and managed to find successful ways to earn an income. But through missteps, he almost got himself barred from the country because of a suspected alliance with Germany and his lack of documentation while on a trip to Mexico.
During a call-up for able citizens, Herman joined the Army. Although initially assigned to artillery, he managed to get reassigned to the intelligent corps. His training began at a place called Fort Ritchie where he became one of the Ritchie Boys. I was unaware of this fort and its purpose, but this is where the army trained members of its intelligent corps. At this fort, the cadre were able to create realistic scenarios that struck fear into the students. As I read Herman’s adventures, the scenarios took him back to a place and time that struck a nerve with him.
Herman was part of the intelligent corps of the 3rd Army under the command of General George Patton. In this role, he was responsible for interrogating prisoners that they had captured. There were times when he had to go out and captured prisoners. There were also times when Herman ran into people he knew from his village. It was through his work and the work of others that led to key victorious moments such as the capture of Regensburg.
One set of stories that stuck with me was when they came upon a concentration camp. The work Herman performed at that camp made a difference to him and that part of the world. In part, he had to work with an SS officer to achieve success.
If World War II history interests you, then I would recommend Immigrant Soldier. As I watch what’s happening in our country, I can see many similarities that occurred at the beginning of this book. It gives me a reason for concern.
Herman Lang was a real person who ended up having a successful career in America. But before he made it to America, he served as a research analyst for Chief Counsel, Justice Robert Jackson during the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg. During the trials, he interviewed some of the top Nazis that brought about World War II. Herman’s primary career when returning to the states was in TV broadcasting, which was new at the time. He passed away in 2006.
Again, Immigrant Soldier is a fascinating book with a behind-the-scenes look at a different part of World War II told through rich storytelling.
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