Release Date: October 13th, 2006 (Quad Cinema) by Menemsha Films.
Directed by Christian Bauer.
In German and English with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about German Jewish men who fled the Nazis during World War II to be trained at the Military Intelligence Training Center in Camp Ritchie, Maryland.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Ritchie Boys documents the important story of 10,000 men who escaped the Nazis during their youth while being trained in Camp Richie, Maryland only to go back to Germany as U.S. soldiers. They weren’t physically fit to be soldiers, but they were bright enough to understand the psychology of the German enemies back in Europe—especially since they grew up with them. Guy Stern and Fred Howard, for instance, vividly recall their experiences as they revisit the empty classroom at the Military Intelligence Training Center 60 years after training there. In a humorous scene, Fred claims that he would intentionally cause a German official’s uniform to unbutton in order to weaken his self esteem. At the end of the film, Guy and Fred explain their joke about interrogating Hitler’s lackey who informed them about what Hitler’s genitalia looked like and how the joke was added to a book which was circulated to the government. Also listening to other men, such as Si Lewen and Victor Brombert, as they give their own personal accounts is fascinating—i.e. when one of them woos Marlene Dietrich, a popular actress and singer, to visit German troops. It’s particularly riveting when the “Ritchie boys” describe the horrific events that they witnessed as U.S. soldiers when they came back to Germany. They all had to pretend not to know German or else they would get killed—in fact, one of their comrades was shot simply because he spoke German. Through surprisingly humorous, lively interviews and archival footage that has never been seen before, writer/director Christian Baeur does an excellent job of humanizing 10 of these men while keeping you thoroughly engrossed in their very important story.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s equally moving and uplifting to observe how these intelligent and kind men survived World War II and admit that they felt sorry for the German officials once the U.S. army rounded them up in their own concentration camps. Even in their 80’s, none of these men seem bitter, but they are clearly scarred by what they witnessed back in Germany. As one of them wisely states, you’ll never know the true horrors of war until you literally smell the stench of war—then, you will have no choice but to become a pacifist.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Thoroughly engrossing. A lively, fascinating and important film.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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