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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  January 2, 2022 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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and ford. we go further, so you can. >> wertheim: on this special edition of "60 minutes presents:" the ritchie boys. think you know all about world war ii's greatest heroes? ( explosion ) think again. tonight, you'll meet four surviving members of a secret group called the ritchie boys-- 11,000 american soldiers, many of them jews, who had fled nazi germany and were trained in espionage and psychological warfare. how effective were they at gathering intelligence? >> they were incredibly effective. 60%-plus of the actionable intelligence gathered on the battlefield was gathered by ritchie boys. they made a massive contribution
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>> wertheirm: good evening. i'm jon wertheim. welcome to "60 minutes presents." for as casually as we often toss around the word "hero," sometimes, no lesser term applies. tonight, we'll introduce you to members of a secret american intelligence unit who fought in world war ii.
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what's most extraordinary about this group? many of them were german-born jews who fled their homeland, came to america, and then joined the u.s. army. their mission: to use their knowledge of the german language and culture to return to europe and fight nazism. the ritchie boys, as they were known, trained in espionage and frontline interrogation. and, incredibly, they were responsible for most of the combat intelligence gathered on the western front. for decades, they didn't discuss their work. fortunately, some of the ritchie boys are still around to tell their tales, and that includes the life-force that is guy stern, age 99. you work six days a week, you swim every morning, you lecture. any signs of slowing down? >> guy stern: well, i think not. ( laughs ) but i don't run as fast, i don't swim as fast. but i feel happy with my tasks. >> wertheim: just two weeks shy
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of turning 100, guy stern drips with vitality. he still works six days a week-- and if you get up early enough, you might catch him working out at his local park in the detroit suburbs. but, ask him about his most formative experience, and he doesn't hesitate. it was his service in the military during world war ii. what was it like for you, leaving nazi germany, escaping as a jew, and the next time you go back to europe, it's to fight those guys? what was that like? >> stern: i was a soldier, doing my job, and that precluded any concern that i was going back to a country i once was very attached to. i had a war to fight, and i did it. >> wertheim: this is guy stern 80 years ago. he is among the last surviving ritchie boys-- a group of young men, many of them german jews, who played an outsized role in helping the allies win world war
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ii. they took their name from the place they trained: camp ritchie, maryland, a secret american military intelligence center during the war. starting in 1942, more than 11,000 soldiers went through the rigorous training at what was the army's first centralized school for intelligence and psychological warfare. >> david frey: the purpose of the facility was to train interrogators. that was the biggest weakness that the army recognized that it had, which was battlefield intelligence, and the interrogation needed to talk to, sometimes civilians, most of the time prisoners of war, in order to glean information from them. >> wertheim: david frey is a professor of history and director of the center for holocaust studies at the u.s. military academy at west point. how effective were they at gathering intelligence? >> frey: they were incredibly effective. 60%-plus of the actionable intelligence gathered on the
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battlefield was gathered by ritchie boys. >> wertheim: 60% of the actionable intelligence? >> frey: yes. they made a massive contribution to essentially every battle that the americans fought. the entire sets of battles on the western front. >> wertheim: recruits were chosen based on their knowledge of european language and culture, as well as their high i.q.s. essentially, they were intellectuals. the largest set of graduates were 2,000 german-born jews. >> frey: if we take camp ritchie in microcosm, it was almost the ideal of an american melting pot. you had people coming from all over, uniting for a particular cause. >> wertheim: all in service of winning the war? >> frey: all in service of winning the war. and there's nothing that forges unity better than having a common enemy. you had a whole load of immigrants who really wanted to get back into the fight. >> wertheim: immigrants like guy stern. he grew up in a close-knit family in the town of hildesheim, germany.
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when hitler took power in 1933, stern says the climate grew increasingly hostile. >> stern: my fellow students-- it was an all-male school-- withdrew from you. >> wertheim: because you were jewish, you were ostracized? >> stern: that is correct. i went to my father one day and i said, "classes are becoming a torture chamber." >> wertheim: by 1937, violence against jews was escalating. sensing danger, stern's father tried to get the family out-- but the sterns could only send one of their own to the u.s. they chose their eldest son. do you remember saying goodbye to your family? >> stern: yes. >> wertheim: what do you remember from that? >> stern: handkerchiefs. i couldn't know at that point that i would never see my siblings or my parents again, nor my grandmother, and so forth and so on. >> wertheim: guy stern arrived in the u.s. alone at age 15,
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settling with an uncle in st. louis. when the japanese bombed pearl harbor in 1941, stern, by then a college student, raced to enlist. >> stern: i had an immediate, visceral response to that, and that was, this is my war for many reasons. personal, of course, but also this country-- i was really treated well. >> wertheim: in new york, paul fairbrook had a similar impulse. now 98, fairbrook is the former dean of the culinary institute of america. his jewish family left germany in 1933 when he was 10. why did you want to enlist, initially? >> paul fairbrook: look, i'm a german jew, and there's nothing that i wanted more, is to get some revenge on hitler, who killed my uncles, and my aunts, and my cousins. and there was no question in my mind, and neither of all the men in camp ritchie.
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so many of them were jewih. we were all on the same wavelength. we were delighted to get a chance to do something for the united states. >> wertheim: at the time, though, the military wouldn't take volunteers who weren't born in the u.s. but, within a few months, the government realized these so- called enemy aliens could be a valuable resource in the war. why were the ritchie boys so successful? >> fairbrook: well, because it was an unusual part of the united states army. you can learn to shoot a rifle in six months, but you can't learn fluent german in six months. and that's what the key to the success was. >> wertheirm: was it your knowledge of the language or your knowledge of the psychology and the german culture? >> fairbrook: oh, that is a very good question. that is the key to being a good interrogator. you really know an awful lot of the subtleties when you're having a conversation with another german, and we were able to find out things in their answers that enabled us to ask
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more questions. you really have to understand, it helps to have been born in germany in order to-- in order to do a good job. >> wertheim: both refugees like fairbrook and stern, as well as a number of american-born recruits with requisite language skills, were drafted into the army and sent to camp ritchie. how did you find out you were going to go to camp ritchie? >> stern: i was called to the company office and told, "you're shipping out." and i said, "may i know where i'm going?" and he said "no, military secret." >> wertheim: they swore you to secrecy? >> stern: yes >> wertheim: originally a resort, camp ritchie was a curiously idyllic setting to prepare for the harshness and brutality of war. nestled in the blue ridge mountains of maryland, it was away from prying eyes-- and prying spies- but close enough to decision makers at the pentagon. give us a sense of the kinds of courses they took.
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>> frey: well, the most important part of the training was that they learned to do interrogation, and in particular of prisoners of war. techniques where you want to get people to talk to you. you want to convince them that you're trustworthy. you want to give them that feeling that you know who they are, they know who you are. you know a lot about them already. so, whatever information they're giving you is information that you probably already know. but they also did terrain analysis, they also did photo analysis, and aerial reconnaissance analysis. they did counterintelligence training. >> wertheim: this was really a broad range of intelligence activities. >> frey: it was a very broad range and they did it all generally in eight weeks. >> wertheim: what you describe, it almost sounds like these were precursors to c.i.a. agents. >> frey: they were, in fact. some of them were trained as spies and some of them went on to careers as spies. >> victor brombert: my parents were pacifists, so the idea of my going to war was for them
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calamitous, however they realized that it was a necessary war, especially for us.icombert now 98-years-old, is a former professor of romance languages and literature at yale, and then princeton. he was born in berlin to a russian jewish family. when hitler came to power, the bromberts fled to france, and then to the u.s. eager to fight the nazis, he, too, joined the army. after recruiters found out he spoke four languages, they dispatched him to camp ritchie, where strenuous classroom instruction was coupled with strenuous field exercises. >> brombert: there were long and demanding exercises and close combat training. "how to kill a sentry from behind." i thought, "i'm never going to do that," but i was shown how to do it. >> wertheim: so physical combat training as well as intelligence? >> brombert: yes, well, with a stick. you sort of swing it around the
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neck from behind and then pull. >> wertheim: among the unusual sights at ritchie: a team of u.s. soldiers dressed in german uniforms. the ritchie boys trained for war against these fake germans with fake german tanks made out of wood. another unusual sight: towering over recruits, frank leavitt, a world war i veteran and pro wrestling star at the time, was among the instructors. training was designed to be as realistic as possible. the ritchie boys practiced street fighting in life-size replicas of german villages, and questioned mock civilians in full scale german homes. some of the prisoners were actual german p.o.w.s brought to camp ritchie so the ritchie boys could practice their interrogation techniques. i understand you, you had sparring partners. you playacted-- >> brombert: one had to playact with some of the people were acting as prisoners and some of them were real prisoners. >> wertheim: by the spring of 1944, the ritchie boys were
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ready to return to western europe, this time as naturalized americans in american uniforms. still, if they were captured, they knew what the nazis would do to them. some of them requested new dog tags, with very good reason. this dog tag says hebrew. did your dog tag identify you as jewish? >> stern: i preferred not having it. i asked them to leave it off >> wertheim: you didn't want to be identified as jewish going back to western europe. >> stern: no because i knew that the contact with germans might not be very nice. >> wertheim: on june 6, 1944, d- day, the allies launched one of the most sweeping military operations in history. a mighty onslaught of more than 160,000 men, 13,000 aircraft, and 5,000 vessels. >> stern: we were on a p.t. boat taking off from southampton. and we all were scared.
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we were briefed that the germans were not going to welcome us greatly. as a jew, i knew i might not be treated exactly by the geneva rules. >> wertheim: divided into six- man teams, the ritchie boys were attached to different army units. their job: to provide battlefield intelligence. when they landed on the beaches of normandy, wehrmacht troops were waiting for them, well- armed and well prepared. victor brombert was with the first american armored division to land on omaha beach. he is still haunted by what he experienced that day. >> brombert: i saw immense debris. wounded people. dead people. i remember being up on a cliff the first night over omaha beach. and we were strafed and i said to myself, uh, "now, it's the end," because i could- you could
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feel the machine gun bullets. >> wertheim: is that when you first realize- i'm- i'm in a war here? >> brombert: yes, i realized that i was afraid. i never calculated that there is such a thing as terror, fear. so, i experienced viscerally, fear. >> wertheim: on the front lines from normandy onwards, the ritchie boys fought in every major battle in europe, collecting tactical intelligence, interrogating prisoners and civilians, all in service of winning the war. when we come back, we'll hear about some of the surprising ways they forged connections with the enemy in order to extract strategic information. ( ticking )
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>> wertheim: in 1944, the ritchie boys headed to europe to fight in a war that was for them, intensely personal. they were members of a secret group whose mastery of the german language and culture helped them provide battlefield intelligence that proved pivotal to the allies' victory. the ritchie boys landed on the beaches of normandy on d-day, and helped liberate paris. they crossed into germany with the allied armies and witnessed the horrors of the nazi concentration camps. all the while, they tracked down evidence and interrogated nazi criminals, later tried at nuremberg. it was also in europe that some of them, like guy stern, learned what had happened to the families they left behind. >> this is it. they're on the beach. >> wertheim: by the summer of 1944, german troops in normandy were outnumbered and
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overpowered. the allies liberated paris in august. >> the date was august 25. >> wertheim: and drove nazi troops out of france. but hitler was determined to continue the war. in the ardennes region of belgium, the germans mounted a massive counteroffensive, which became known as "the battle of the bulge." i see a tent in the background of that photo right in front of yu. >> stern: yes, that's my interrogation tent. >> wertheim: so, this is you on the job. you're in belgium? >> stern: yes, doing my job interrogating. right. >> wertheim: amid the chaos of war, guy stern and the other ritchie boys had a job to do. embedded in every army unit, they interrogated tens of thousands of captured nazi soldiers as well as civilians, extracting key strategic information on enemy strength, troop movements, and defensive positions. they then typed up their daily reports in the field to be passed up the chain of command. >> brombert: our interrogations,
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it had to do with tactical immediate concerns. and that's why civilians could be useful and soldiers could be useful. "where is the minefield?" very important because you save life if you know where the mine. "where is the machine gun nest?" "how many machine guns do you have there?" "where are your reserve units?" and if you don't get it from one prisoner, you might get it from the other. >> wertheim: 98-year-old victor brombert says theyrelied on their camp ritchie training to get people to open up. >> brombert: we improvised according to the situation, according to the kind of unit, according to the kind of person we were interrogating. but certainly what did not work was violence or threat of violence. never. what did work is complicity. >> wertheim: what-- what do you mean? >> brombert: by complicity i
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mean, "oh, we are together in this war. you on one side and we on this side. isn't it a miserable thing? aren't we all, sort of, tired of it?" >> wertheim: the shared experience? >> brombert: the shared experience, exactly. giving out some cigarettes also helps a lot. a friendly approach. trying to be human. >> wertheim: the ritchie boys connected with prisoners on subjects as varied as food and soccer rivalries, but they weren't above using deception on difficult targets. the ritchie boys discovered that the nazis were terrified of ending up in russian captivity, and they used that to great effect. if a german p.o.w. wouldn't talk, he might face guy stern dressed up as a russian officer. >> stern: i had my whole uniform with medals, russian medals, and i gave myself the name "commissar krukov." >> wertheim: that's what you called yourself?
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>> stern: that was my pseudonym. >> wertheim: how did you do commissar? >> stern: thank you for asking. ( laughs ) i gave myself all the accouterments of looking like a fierce russian commissar. and some we didn't break, but 80% were so darned scared of the russians and what they would do. >> wertheim: so, there's a real element of costumes and deception and accents. >> stern: yes, and it's theatrics in a way, yes. >> wertheim: their subjects ranged from low level german soldiers to high ranking nazi officers, including hans goebbels, brother of hitler's chief propogandist, joseph goebbels. another bit of indispensable ritchie boy handiwork: the order of battle of the german army. paul fairbrook helped write this compact manual, known as "the
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red book," which outlined in great detail the makeup of virtually every nazi unit, information every ritchie boy committed to memory. >> fairbrook: when the soldiers said, "i'm not going to talk," they could say, "wait a minute. i know all about you. look, i got a book here and it tells me that you were here and you went there and your boss was this." and they were impressed with that >> wertheim: so, it sounds like this gave the officers in the field a guide to the german army so they could then interrogate the german p.o.w.s more efficiently. >> fairbrook: that's exactly right. >> wertheim: the ritchie boys earned a reputation for delivering important tactical information fast, making a major contribution to every battle on the western front. >> frey: the work they do in the field, being able to glean information simply by, from the uniform that a captured p.o.w. is wearing or the type of weapon that they have or the unit that they've just captured. that information is of critical importance because it tells you
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where certain units are, and if you know where certain units are, you know where the weak spots are. you know where the strong points are, and you know you what to avoid and what to attack. >> wertheim: david frey teaches history to cadets at the u.s. military academy at west point. >> frey: this is where the having an intelligence officer from camp ritchie was of critical importance, because they would know this information. your average commander in the field might not. >> wertheim: their work saved lives? >> frey: absolutely. they certainly saved lives. i think that's quantifiable. part of what the ritchie boys did was to convince german units to surrender without fighting. >> wertheim: and you're saying that some of that originated at camp ritchie? >> frey: much of it originated at camp ritchie because it had never- it hadn't been done before. how do you appeal to people in their own language? knowing how to shape that appeal was pretty critical to the success of the mobile broadcast units. >> wertheim: in trucks equipped with loudspeakers, ritchie boys
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went to the front lines under heavy fire, and tried, in german, to persuade their nazi counterparts to surrender. they also drafted and dropped leaflets from airplanes behind enemy lines. >> wertheim: this was one of the leaflets that was dropped out. >> stern: out of a plane. i have some that were shot. this one was our most effective leaflet. and why was that? because eisenhower had signed it and the germans had an incredibly naiiïve approach to everything that was signed and sealed. >> wertheim: and you think because it had that signature, somehow that certified it. >> stern: yes, that carried weight, and the belief in the printed matter was very great. >> wertheim: that's the kind of thing you would know. >> stern: yes. >> wertheim: as a former german who understood the psychology and the mentality. >> stern: that's correct. >> wertheim: apart from the fighting, there were other threats confronting the ritchie
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boys. given their foreign accents, they were in particular danger of being mistaken for the enemy by their own troops, who instituted passwords at checkpoints. >> brombert: what happened to one of the ritchie boys-- at night on the way to the latrine, he was asked for a password and he gave the name, the word for the password, but with a german accent. he was shot right away and killed. >> wertheim: did you ever worry your accent might get you killed? >> brombert: yes, of course. you know, i don't talk like an alabama person or a texan. >> wertheim: some ritchie boys were recruited to go on secret missions during the war. 97-year-old max lerner, an austrian jew fluent in german and french, served as a special agent with the counterintelligence corps, passing information to french underground resistance groups. you were trained as a spy? >> max lerner: yes. >> wertheim: what were you trained to do? >> lerner: wear civilian clothes, pass messages, kill. >> wertheim: this is going behind enemy lines.
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i mean, this is you're taking your life in your hands here. >> lerner: well, it was a war. >> wertheim: that's how you looked at it. >> lerner: it was my war. and i needed to get my own back. i wanted desperately to do something. >> wertheim: at one point, max lerner disguised himself as a german officer and snuck behind enemy lines, leading a team of american soldiers into a german depot at night and destroying the equipment. did you worry what might happen if you were captured? >> lerner: i wasn't smart enough. >> wertheim: what do you suspect might have happened? >> lerner: oh, i would have been killed. >> wertheim: by the spring of 1945, allied forces neared berlin and hitler took his life in his underground bunker. germany surrendered on may 8 of that year. what do you remember feeling that day? >> stern: elated. it was absolutely, "we won, kid!" ( laughs ) >> wertheim: and those are your, those are your comrades?
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>> stern: yes. >> wertheim: those are your guys. >> stern: yes. >> wertheim: but joy turned to horror as allied soldiers and the world learned the full scale of the nazi mass extermination. guy stern recalls arriving at buchenwald concentration camp three days after its liberation, alongside a fellow american sergeant. >> stern: we were walking along and you saw these emaciated, horribly looking, close to death people. and so, i fell back behind, because i didn't want to be seen crying to a hardened soldier, and then he looked around to look where i was, how i was delayed, and he, this good fellow from middle of ohio, was bawling just as i was. >> wertheim: a few days later,
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stern returned to the place of his birth, hoping to reunite with his family. but hildesheim was now in ruins. a childhood friend described to stern how his parents, younger brother and sister had been forced from their home and deported. >> stern: they were killed either in warsaw or in auschwitz. none of my family survived. i was the only one to get out. >> wertheim: did you ever ask yourself, "why me?" why were you the one that made it to the united states? >> stern: yes, even last night. and i said "well, huh, in slang, there ain't nothing special about you, but if you were saved, you got to show that you were worthy of it. and that has been the driving force in my life.
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>> wertheim: as a way to honor your family that perished. >> stern: yeah. >> wertheim: after the german army's surrender, guy stern and the other ritchie boys took on a new assignment: hunting down top nazi officers responsible for the atrocities that killed so many, including many of their loved ones. when we come back, we'll hear about some of the surprising ways guy stern and the other ritchie boys were able to identify suspected nazi war criminals, many of whom later stood trial for crimes against humanity at nuremberg. ( ticking ) >> welcome to cbssportshq, presented by progressive insurance. >> i'm james brown with theer scores from the envelope. germar to the north, and just
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( ticking ) >> wertheim: the ritchie boys were members of a secret american intelligence group whose mastery of the german language and culture proved critical to the allies' victory over hitler. many of them were jewish refugees from europe, who fled their homeland, came to america and joined the u.s. army. after hitler's defeat, many of them took on a challenging new assignment: using their language and interrogation skills to find and arrest top nazi wa criminals. what do you think is the greatest contribution of the ritchie boys? >> stern: i think it was the continuous flow of reliable information that really helped expedite the end of the war. >> wertheim: this had a real material impact on world war ii. >> stern: yes
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>> wertheim: for 99-year-old guy stern, a german jew whose entire family was killed by the nazis, the allies' victory over hitler was the culmination of a public crusade an a private one as well. >> stern: defeating the wehrmacht and the waffen s.s. and all the fancy troops they had was a satisfaction both as a team member and as a personal satisfaction. the very aspect of these s.o.b.s now being at my command-- ( laughs ) gave me also some personal satisfaction. >> wertheim: after germany's surrender, the ritchie boys took on the difficult task of identifying and tracking down nazi criminals. longtime yale and princeton professor victor brombert helped enact the official allied policy
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of removing nazi influence from german public life, known as de- nazification. so, in may of 1945, germany surrenders, and you're assigned to the de-nazification process. what- what did that entail? >> brombert: we were supposed to arrest important nazi officials, not just any nazi party member. it was very, very hard, very difficult and very rare to have a german denounce another german at that point. now is it because they were afraid that the nazis might come back, that it's not over? or is it just a habit or habit of obedience or dignity? i don't know. and at great effort we found people, we arrested them, we were proud of doing that. >> wertheim: as part of de- nazification, photos of nazi atrocities were posted in german shop windows and ritchie boys led the country's citizens on
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tours of the concentration camps to educate the local population about the evil hitler had perpetrated. sometimes entire german towns were forced to pay respects to the dead. max lerner was assigned to interview german civilians to help gauge the degree to which they had served the nazi cause and determine which ones should be punished. i imagine all of a sudden no one wants to admit to being a nazi >> lerner: there were no nazis. they were all forced to do it >> wertheim: that's what you were told. "i'm denouncing this and i was forced to do it." >> lerner: yes. they were all justifying themselves. "it was a terrible situation. and i had no choice." "i had no choice." that was the mantra. "i would have been killed if i hadn't gone along." >> wertheim: did you ever confront a nazi who said "this was morally reprehensible? >> lerner: no. >> wertheim: unprincipled and dishonorable and i'm sorry? >> lerner: no. >> wertheim: never? >> lerner: never.
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>> wertheim: one of the ways they identified subjects wanted for interrogation was by consulting this book, "the central registry of war criminals and security suspects," which listed enemy nationals suspected of committing tens of thousands of war crimes in europe- everyone from low ranking members of the armed forces to top nazi officials. to allied investigators it became a sort of nazi hunter's bible. did you enjoy hunting nazis? did it give you any satisfaction? >> lerner: it gave me a great deal of satisfaction. "enjoy" is perhaps not the right word, but it gave me great deal of satisfaction. >> wertheim: why specifically? >> lerner: because i remembered my parents. my father was 49-years-old and, and my mother was 48, and they left everything they had built up behind, and arrived in the united states penniless. >> wertheim: and you were able to confront the people that had caused this, this trauma.
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>> lerner: yes. >> wertheim: all s.s. members re to tomati itleled by heinrich himmler, the s.s. was responsible for security and intelligence collection in germany. the s.s. controlled the german police forces and concentration camps, and directed the so- called "final solution" to kill all european jews. max lerner recalls that in one respect at least, identifying most s.s. members was easy. >> lerner: you know how to tell an s.s. man? >> wertheim: how? >> lerner: they have a tattoo of their blood group under their left arms. >> wertheim: s.s. men, you're saying, have a tattoo under their left arm with their blood type? >> lerner: yes. or they had an effort to erase it. >> wertheim: the purpose of the tattoo was to identify a soldier's blood type in case a transfusion was needed or if his dog tags went missing.
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max lerner recalls being put in charge of one prominent captured german prisoner at a jail in weisbaden, germany. that was julius streicher, the founder and editor of the nazi paper "der stuermer" and one of the country's leading anti- semites. >> lerner: he spent several days in my jail. and i made sure he knew that it was a jew who controlled him. >> wertheim: you let him know you were jewish? >> lerner: oh, yes. >> wertheim: striecher was later tried and convicted at the international military tribunal at nuremberg, where concentration camp survivors who bore witness to the mass murder azrmentors.the dozens of ritchie boys worked at the nuremberg trials as prosecutors, interrogators and translators. ritchie boys also collected evidence which led to the prosecution of many high ranking nazis including hermann goering, head of the luftwaffe; rudolph hess, deputy furher to adolf
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hitler; and wilhelm keitel, chief of the wehrmacht, germany's armed forces. >> the evidence relating to war crimes has been overwhelming in its volume and its detail. >> wertheim: all were convicted for their crimes, and many were executed. after the war, guy stern and the other ritchie boys were celebrated for their achievements. >> stern: the bronze star was given to me right at the end of hostilities. this is the good conduct medal, which i'm not really entitled to. ( laughs ) and this here is the european theatre of operations medal with five battles in which i participated. >> wertheim: do you consider yourself a hero? >> stern: god, no. i tell you, when we landed on omaha beach, there were the
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whole heights had been occupied by the german artillery. and i looked up on those heights and there were our american soldiers in full occupation on the day-d plus three, and i said to myself, "that can't be done." and to take those heights against heavy firing, going up those steep cliffs, and of course, it had been done. the evidence was before us. those were the heroes. >> wertheim: guy stern returned to normandy in 2016 to pay his respects to the more than 9,300 men buried in the american cemetery there, on the bluff overlooking the hallowed beach. did the ritchie boys redefine what it means to be a soldier and contribute to a military?
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>> frey: i think they did. because they served in so many different capacities. >> wertheim: history professor david frey runs the center for holocaust and genocide studies at the u.s. military academy at west point. >> frey: there were ritchie boys that were in the first wave on the first day at d-day. there were ritchie boys who were in p.o.w. camps embedded and gathering information in the united states. some didn't even go over to- to europe. there were ritchie boys who were in virtually every battle that you can think of, and some actually suffered the worst fate. there were two who were actually captured at the battle of the bulge. and when their identity was discovered, they were summarily executed by the germans that had captured them. >> wertheim: because they were jewish? >> frey: because they were jewish. >> wertheim: wehrmacht captain curt bruns, convicted by a military tribunal of ordering the murder of those two ritchie boys, was executed by a firing squad in june, 1945. after the war, the ritchie boys
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continued their work. 98-year-old paul fairbrook helped set up the german military documents section at camp ritchie, a vast catalog of more than 20,000 captured german documents. >> fairbrook: they sent us back to camp ritchie and they created something that i call the equivalent of the library of congress. we had to- we got a lot of german prisoners who were willing to help us catalog all those documents. >> wertheim: the project detailed every aspect of the german army's operations during the war, including how they were structured, how they mobilized and how they used intelligence. the u.s. war department used this collection of german documents to study germany's battles with the soviets on the eastern front, in order to be better prepared for any future conflict with russia. >> wertheim: so, there's all sorts of impact years and years and years after the war from this, this camp in maryland? >> frey: right. it was not only that short term impact on the battlefield.
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it was an impact on war crimes. then shaping the cold war era, they really played a significant role. >> wertheim: after the war, guy stern, victor brombert, paul fairbrook and max lerner came home, married, and went to ivy league schools on the g.i. bill. guy stern became a professor and taught for almost 50 years. they all rose to the top of their fields, as did a number of other ritchie boys. i understand there are some ritchie boys, became fairly prominent figures. >> frey: there are a whole variety of prominent ritchie boys. >> wertheim: it turns out that author j.d. salinger was a ritchie boy. so was archibald roosevelt, grandson of theodore roosevelt. as was philanthropist david rockefeller, and media baron and billionaire john kluge. >> frey: some became ambassadors. others were actually really important in american science. >> wertheim: and notably, professor frey says, more than 250 ritchie boys continued to work in the field of
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intelligence after the war, becoming professional spies. >> frey: many of those who trained at camp ritchie actually did go on to the o.s.s., the precursor to the c.i.a., that meant that the people who learned their craft at camp ritchie played a significant role in setting up what eventually became the c.i.a. >> wertheim: how do you think we should be recalling the ritchie boys? >> frey: i think we look at this group and we see true heroes. we see those who are the greatest of the greatest generation. these are people who made massive contributions, who helped shape what it meant to be american and who, in some cases, gave their lives in service to this country. >> wertheim: this-- this is a remarkable story. why do so few americans know about this? >> frey: because it involves military intelligence, much of it was actually kept secret until the, the 1990s. a lot of what was learned and the method used are important
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to keep secret. and only in the early 2000s did we begin to see reunions of the ritchie boys. >> wertheim: now in their late 90s, these humble warriors still keep in touch, swapping stories about a chapter in american history now finally being told. what is it like when you get together and reflect on this experience going on 80 years ago? >> stern: we always find another anecdote to tell. ( laughs ) >> wertheim: you have a smile on your face when you think back. >> stern: yes, this is what happens. >> wertheim: it was hard for us not to notice that beyond the ories a deesense >> frbrook: you bet ife i'm proud of the ritchie boys. it was wonderful to be part of them! i was proud to be in the american army and we were able to do what we had to do. i don't think we're heroes, but the opportunity to help fight and win the war was a wonderful
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way. i can look anybody straight in their eye and say i think i've earned the right to be an american. and that's what, that's what it did for me. ( ticking ) >> more from ritchie boy guy stern. >> stern: that is the french legion of honor. >> at sponsored by cologuard. fries or salad? salad! good choice! it is. so is screening for colon cancer. when caught in early stages, it's more treatable. hey, cologuard! hi, i'm noninvasive and i detect altered dna in your stool to find 92% of colon cancers even in early stages. early stages. it's for people 45 plus at average risk for colon cancer, not high risk. false positive and negative results may occur. ask your provider if cologuard is right for you. (all) to screening!
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>> wertheim: i'm jon wertheim. thanks for joining us. we'll be back next week with a brand new edition of "60 minutes." happy new year. ( ticking ) why does walgreens offer prescription copays as low as zero dollars? ♪ ♪ so you won't have a medicare in the world. ♪ ♪ plus, 90-day refills and same day delivery. larry? that's even less to medicare about. fill your medicare prescriptions with walgreens and save.
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captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. captioned by media access group at wgbh
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robyn: i serve as an equalizer. i'm the one you call when you can't call 911. previously on the equalizer... someone's hit my personal server with a cyberattack. harry: if bishop's top guys couldn't crack it, who did you tell him you were bringing this to? his son's life is at stake. i can't use my usual team. no. you're in enough trouble as it is. harry: he's like family to rob. which means he's basically our family. are you saying you want him to hack into the cia? ♪ ♪ i'm in. we got a hit. go! get out of there. federal agents! don't move! go, go, go! agent: you should have never breached the servers of the cia. let me talk to him. harry! mel, i love you. harry! it's gonna be all right. harry... i love you. (whispering): okay. (speaking spanish)


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