U.S. Army Intelligence Operative (Ritchie Boys)
Mr. Gunter Kosse was born in 1922, in Berlin, Germany, the son of Leonard and Stephanie Kosse. His father was the owner of a textile business and owned apartment buildings. After attending elementary school, he attended a Gymnasium, the combined junior and senior high school, until evicted for being Jewish. He continued his education in a Jewish school. Although his father was an orthodox Jew, the family was very much assimilated into the German way of life with little religious activities. Overall, he felt he had a pleasant youth.
Mr. Kosse’s father avoided being arrested during Kristallnacht by being warned by friends in high political places. Shortly thereafter he purchased a Visa, with the help of relatives, and left for Cuba. Mr. Kosse, then 16, and his mother were able to follow him to Cuba in February, 1939. There he attended a boarding school established and run by American Quakers. He feels he was fully Americanized at that school since instructions were in English. American practices and systems were used, and American holidays were celebrated. He expressed great praise for the Quakers.
The Kosse family left Cuba for the US in December 1940. In New York his parents set up a boarding house using the furniture which had been shipped from Germany. Mr. Kosse went to work for an uncle in the jewelry business and became an apprentice diamond cutter.
Mr. Kosse was drafted into the US Army in January 1943, and took his basic training at Camp Lee, VA. Due to his fluency in the German language, he was sent to Camp Ritchie, the Military Intelligence Training Center. There he received training in interrogations, psychological warfare, military tactics, recognition of German uniforms and equipment, etc., for about ten months. Following that training, he was selected for specialized training to operate behind the enemy lines, similar to the training for Rangers, also known as Commandoes, in what was called Cattle Alert. He was then sent to Northern Ireland and England for even more of this training, including some time at Sandhurst, the British West Point.
Mr. Kosse entered France in September, 1944, initially as a M1 team, but then joined the 1PW (Interrogation Prisoners War) Team #4 in Luxemburg, assigned to the 8th Infantry division, where he interrogated prisoners and civilians. His most interesting assignment was as a translator during the discovery stage prior to the Nuremberg Tribunals of major war criminals. He participated in the interrogations of their top Nazi officials – Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of Security Police and Director of the Reich’s Main Security Office, Fritz Saukel – Plenipotentiery Minister for Manpower, and Wilhelm Frick – Minister of the Interior. Although assigned as a translator to the non-German speaking specialized lawyers conducting the interrogations, Mr. Kosse, due to his knowledge of German culture and his training at Camp Ritchie, often advised the interrogators on the type of questions and how to phrase them to obtain answers, thus in effect not only being the translator, but also the interrogator of these high level Nazis.
He left Nuremberg before the trials actually started for his last assignment, to spy on the Soviets. Acting as a guard for slave laborers being returned to Soviet territory he entered Bialystok, Poland, where he was able to obtain considerable information about Soviet army positions from a Polish lieutenant. He received his discharge from the Army in January, 1946.
Using the GI Bill of Rights, Mr. Kosse studied at the School of Industrial Technology and then got a job at Columbia University in medical research on hearing aids. In 1951 he went back to Germany to investigate what had happened to his family’s properties and to visit some of his former battle sites. There he made contact with a previously known German two-star General and through him found a job with the US Department of Defense.
Assigned back to Germany, he resumed interrogations of German prisoners of war, but now of those who returned from Soviet captivity. The Soviets kept their German prisoners for many years after the end of the war and used them to rebuild the Soviet Union in all areas. He obtained a considerable amount of information from them useful to the Defense Department. After German prisoners from the Soviet Union, interrogations continued on deserters from East Germany. He was the chief Interrogator at the Giessen Refugee camp. Due to his schooling in electronic technology, he expanded his work into communications intelligence. He worked for the Department of defense for 35 years retiring in 1986.
Mr. Kosse is married and has a daughter who is a physician. He attributes much of his successes to the training he received at Camp Ritchie.
Date of Interview: July 22, 2011
Length of Interview: 1 hour
Interview & Synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann