WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, praised the announcement today that the Ritchie Boys, a little-known intelligence unit from World War II that included thousands of refugees and immigrants, will receive the 2022 Elie Wiesel Award. This award is the highest honor conferred by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance.”
The recognition follows a Cardin-led, bipartisan resolution approved by the full Senate last year that detailed the bravery and contributions of the Ritchie Boys’ 19,000 troops who served in vital language and intelligence roles in every theater of World War II. The unit gained its name from Camp Ritchie in Maryland, where the members received training. Until recently, much of the information about the unit had been classified.
“Educating the American people about WWII and the Holocaust is a primary mission for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. More Americans should know about the Ritchie Boys and the important role they played across the globe throughout the war,” said Senator Cardin. “These heroes used their language skills, natural talents and knowledge of the countries where American GIs were fighting, to bolster the battle for freedom and democracy. Their bravery and the importance of their work cannot be overstated. As a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, I’m proud to see these courageous men receive the recognition they deserve from an incredible institution.”
Ritchie Boys included individuals of many faiths who were both American- and foreign-born, originating in as many as 70 countries. Approximately 2,800 Ritchie Boys were refugees who fled Nazi persecution in Germany and Austria and came to the United States (as ‘enemy aliens’) prior to our entry into World War II. These men possessed language and skills that prepared them to be specialists, counterintelligence operatives, photo interpreters and psychological warfare experts. Ritchie Boys were assigned to every unit of the U.S. Army, as well as the Marines, along with the OSS and the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II. Their contributions were essential to the Allied war effort; a declassified report records that the Ritchie Boys gathered nearly 60% of the actionable intelligence in Europe.
The full text of S. Res. 349 honoring the Ritchie Boys can be found at this link.