THE QUIET OF THE EARLY November morning was shattered by loud voices and the screech of brakes. Herman peered through the crack in the stable door. A prickle of fear shot up his neck at the sight of a covered truck, two police motorcycles, and a black sedan in front of the homes across the street. Two brown-shirted SA officers, the Swastika symbols on their armbands blazing, pounded on his cousin’s front door.
Hatred rose in his throat. Nazi Storm Troopers—they were nothing more than thugs, bullies for Hitler and his political party. Two more men in ugly, brown uniforms beat at the door of the neighbor’s home where Herman rented a room from the horse dealer and his wife.
The faces of the SA men contorted with anger and their words polluted the air. “Achtung! Alles’raus! Attention! Everyone out! Get out, you stupid Jews. Wake up! Schnell! Juden! Alles’raus! Schnell! Fast! Jews! Everyone out! Fast!”
The thud of Herman’s heart was palpable. Pain seized his gut. The door of his landlord’s home opened a crack. One of the SA men kicked it wide, and the loud smack of his boot against the wood sent a chill down Herman’s spine. As the Nazis pushed into the house, he heard the confused sounds of loud voices and smashing furniture. An image of the horse-dealer’s wife, beautiful Frau Mannheimer, exploded in his mind, her nightdress ripped, her golden hair gripped in the SA man’s fist. He heard her high-pitched scream leak into the cold morning, and he lurched forward, outside the barn.
He was barely through the stable door when a policeman stepped from behind the black truck. His pistol glinted in the gray morning light, and the sight of the weapon shocked Herman like a jolt of electricity. His wild impulse to be a hero evaporated. He ducked behind the wide doors, angry and ashamed, listening to his heart pound. He pressed both hands against his abdomen and took several deep breaths.
He shook his head to clear it and again put his eye to the crack between the door and the jamb. The policeman must have heard something because he waved his pistol
menacingly. He was poised in a half crouch, as if ready to run, and his gaze swept past the stable, down the street, and back again. Finally, he turned and moved toward the open
door of the Mannheimers’ home.
Herman inched farther back into the shadows and waited. Less than an hour ago, he had walked to his morning job, the feel of the street cobbles solid and familiar under his feet, his breath visible in the cold air. In the stable yard, blades of stubborn, frost-crusted grass pushed through the trampled earth. He had dipped his fingers into
the water trough, breaking the thin film of ice that glistened in the dawn light. The black surface of the water mirrored a reflection of his gray eyes, strong chin, and the curl of dark hair that fell over his forehead. He pushed back the loose hair with his wet fingers and entered the barn.
The warm odor of straw and manure enveloped him. The powerful draft horses moved in their stalls. The soft stamp of their hooves and the bump of their flanks against
the boards comforted him like a morning lullaby.
Title: Immigrant Soldier, The Story of a Ritchie Boy
Author: K. Lang-Slattery
Genre: Historical Fiction
Herman watches in horror as his cousin and a friend are arrested by the SA. As a Jew, he realizes it is past time to flee his homeland, a decision that catapults him from one adventure to another, his life changed forever by the storm of world events. Part coming-of-age story, part immigrant tale, part World War II adventure, Immigrant Soldier, The Story of a Ritchie Boy follows Herman as he evolves from a frightened and frustrated teenager looking for a place to belong into a confident and caring US Army Intelligence officer serving in the Third Army. The reader is swept along as the hero experiences fear, romance, loyalty, disappointment, friendship, and compassion in his quest for an understanding of hate and forgiveness.
Kathryn Lang Slattery is a published author of fiction and non-fiction for youth and has become an expert on many aspects of the Ritchie Boys of WWII.
Born during World War II and raised in 1950s Southern California, she enjoyed a childhood filled with reading, drawing, and long days at the beach. College took her to Los Angeles where she studied art and English at UCLA, earning a BFA. She then travelled to Mexico City where she did graduate work in art and education at the University of the Americas. The years afterward passed, filled with teaching art, English, and cooking, and traveling around the world, including a 2 year car trip through Central America, Europe, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. Later she returned to her hometown, where she raised a daughter and a son and devoted over 20 years to Girl Scouts as a volunteer. Finally she returned to her early love of writing, concentrating first on creating stories and articles for young people. She has been published in several highly rated magazines for the youth market, including Spider, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, Boys’ Life, and Faces.
Immigrant Soldier, The Story of a Ritchie Boy, her first adult novel, is based on her uncle’s World War II experiences. More than a decade spent researching, interviewing Ritchie Boys, and turning a true story into fiction became an odyssey of discovery. “I wanted to tell his story,” she says, “because it was different from any other Holocaust story I had read. The young Jewish hero is not a victim, but a young man who gradually grows from a frightened and frustrated teenager, looking for a place to belong, into a confident US Army Intelligence officer who struggles with the conflicting emotions of hate and forgiveness.”
Kathryn lives in Laguna Beach, California, only steps from her childhood home, where she is surrounded by trees, birds, and her vegetable garden. Besides writing, her main interests are travel to foreign places, creative gourmet cooking, pastel painting, and time with family and friends. She finds tranquillity simply by looking out her large living-room windows to her view of one tall sycamore, her lush garden, and the natural hillsides beyond.