U.S. Army Intelligence Operative (Ritchie Boys)
Mr. Walter Schwarz was born in 1921 in Timisoara, Romania, the son of Joseph and Bessy Schwarz. He had two sisters and a brother. His father was in the textile business. His home town formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was ethnically divided between Hungarian, Romanian and German speaking people, but at home his family spoke primarily German. Since his mother was raised in the United States some English was also spoken at his home. He attended Jewish schools and all of his friends were Jewish. After high school his father, a Czech citizen, sent him to Brno, Czechoslovakia, for further education in the textile field.
Mr. Schwarz was in Brno when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia. He could not return to his school so, with difficulty, returned home. Foreseeing what was to become of Romania, his father decided to move the family to the US. This became possible since Mr. Schwarz’s mother had returned to the US, being a US citizen, and had obtained the necessary papers with her sister providing the required affidavit of support, to bring her family to the US. They left for the US in March 1940 from Italy, on the last ship with refugees.
Arriving in the US at age 19, Mr. Schwarz was able to find a job in textiles, but then decided to enlist in the US Army. He was rejected since he was not a citizen, but in 1942 was drafted and received his basic training in Pennsylvania. During that training he was transferred, due to his language capabilities to the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Richie, MD. There he received intensive training in intelligence work and other subjects with a strong emphasis on interrogation methods. He graduated in 1944 after almost two years at Camp Ritchie and was promoted to the rank of Technical Sergeant.
Mr. Schwarz was sent to England in September 1944, for more instructions and was stationed in Birmingham until being sent to France in October 1944. There he was assigned to the 3rd Army and saw combat at the Saar River. In December 1944 he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge where he primarily interrogated civilians until German soldiers were captured. After his unit crossed the Rhine River German prisoners became plentiful and he did a considerable number of interrogations.
Mr. Schwarz did not interrogate German officers since those interrogations were primarily done by US Army officers. He feels that he did not, to the best of his knowledge, find out anything of major importance. A gentle approach was used during his interrogations with intimidations such as being turned over to the Russian Army. The latter was usually very successful. The uniforms of Russian soldiers who had deserted to the US Army were used in the intimidations. His only involvement in trials was when he was required to be a translator during the trial of a US soldier accused of rape.
He was subsequently stationed in Plzen, Bohemia not far from Brno where he had previously gone to school. There he was able to obtain information which enabled him to make contact with surviving relatives and acquaintances. He returned to the US in November 1945 and was discharged in January 1946.
Utilizing the GI Bill, Mr. Schwarz studied at the Lowell Technological Institute (later University of Massachusetts) and graduated in 1949 with a degree in textile studies. He worked in that field first in Vancouver, Canada, and later in Wisconsin. In 1949 he married a woman who managed to live in Switzerland during the war. His wife’s mother is a survivor from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They have five children.
Date of Interview: July 24, 2011
Length of Interview: 1 hour 3 minutes
Interview & synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann