How a special unit heavily consisting of German-born Jews helped topple Nazi Germany

On Sunday, Jon Wertheim from “60 Minutes” examined the U.S. military special unit known as the Ritchie Boys. The unit gathered intelligence on the Nazi empire during World War 2 and was primarily comprised of German-born Jews who fled the anti-Semitic government.

According to historian David Frey, the Ritchie Boys interrogated P.O.W.s and used their knowledge of the country to infiltrate the military and help end the war.

“​​Their work saved lives?” asked Worthiem.

“Absolutely,” Frey said. “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.”

For many of the Ritchie Boys the job was personal. 99-year-old Guy Stern fled Germany as a boy because of religious persecution. He enlisted after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“I had an immediate, visceral response to that, and that was, this is my war for many reasons,” Stern said. “Personal, of course, but also this country -- I was really treated well.”

Video Transcript

JON WERTHEIM: How effective were they at gathering intelligence?

DAVID FREY: They were incredibly effective. 60 plus percent of the actionable intelligence gathered on the battlefield was gathered by Ritchie Boys.

KYLIE MAR: On Sunday, Jon Wertheim from "60 Minutes" examined the US military special unit known as the Ritchie Boys, which gathered intelligence on the Nazi Empire during World War II and was primarily comprised of German born Jews who fled the anti-Semitic government.

JON WERTHEIM: It almost sounds like these were precursors to CIA agents.

DAVID FREY: They were, in fact. Some of them were trained as spies and some of them went on to careers as spies.

KYLIE MAR: According to historian David Frey, the Ritchie Boys interrogated POWs and used their knowledge of the country to infiltrate the military and help end the war.

JON WERTHEIM: Their work saved lives?

DAVID FREY: Absolutely. They certainly saved lives. I think that that's quantifiable. Part of what the Ritchie Boys did was to convince German units to surrender without fighting.

KYLIE MAR: For many of the Ritchie Boys, the job was personal, like 99-year-old Guy Stern who enlisted after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.

GUY 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.

KYLIE MAR: But while many think of the special unit as heroes, Stern believes the real heroes are the soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

JON WERTHEIM: Do you consider yourself a hero?

GUY STERN: God, no. To take those heights against heavy firing, going up those steep cliffs, those were the heroes.

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