Sons and Soldiers Cast of Characters
Werner Angress’s escape from the Nazis was to an agricultural farm on the German/Polish border, and from there to the U.S., where he signed on to fight in World War II. Early on he was taunted by his fellow soldiers for being a German Jew, until he saw a sign-up poster for Camp Ritchie, Maryland, a Military Intelligence training camp where he graduated with a specialty in interrogation of German POWs. Werner jumped with the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day (despite never having trained as a paratrooper). He was captured by the Germans and liberated by U.S. forces in Cherbourg 10 days later. He went on to gather key intelligence for Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.
Victor Brombert was born in Berlin to Russian émigrés and spent his first decade in Leipzig, Germany, before his family escaped from the Nazis and settled in France, where he grew up. Victor dreamed of freeing France from German occupation, and was a member of “Hell on Wheels,” the first U.S. armored division to land at Normandy. Victor was also a bit of a romantic: upon hearing of the liberation of Paris, he and a fellow American soldier secretly requisitioned a jeep in the middle of the night and drove into the city to take part in the revelry. Victor played a key role in the campaigns in Normandy, Saint-Lo, and Hürtgen Forest.
Guy Stern was sent out of Nazi Germany by his parents in 1937 to live with his Uncle Benno, a baker in St. Louis. As a reporter for his school newspaper, he interviewed Nobel-winning novelist Thomas Mann. Guy enlisted in the U.S. Army and was trained at Camp Ritchie. During the war, his mettle as an interrogator was tested on many occasions, including having an artillery shell land right next to him as he was conducting his first interrogation; another time he dressed as a Russian commissar to frighten stubborn Germans into talking. After the Battle of the Bulge, he gave Marlene Dietrich a memorable tour of the camp where German POWs were being held.
Stephan Lewy’s mother died when he was a child, and he was sent to a Berlin orphanage. On the evening of Kristallnacht, Stephan was nearly killed when the Nazis locked the boys in a synagogue and it filled with leaking gas. They escaped by smashing the synagogue’s stained-glass windows. Stephan eventually made it to America on a ship filled with Jewish refugees that was stopped and searched in the middle of the ocean by a German U-Boat. Eager to do his part in the war, he registered for the draft on his 18th birthday. He graduated from Camp Ritchie, and went on to gather key intelligence in several campaigns. Stephan was creative in his interrogations, and during one particularly contentious interrogation, he made an uncooperative SS officer dig his own grave and lie in it until the man decided to talk.
Martin Selling grew up in a tranquil agriculture village where his family were the only Jews. On the morning after Kristallnacht, Martin was rounded up and sent to Dachau Concentration Camp. After he was released, he escaped to a Jewish refugee camp in England, and from there, to the U.S., where he enlisted in the military. He graduated from Camp Ritchie in April 1943, and in Europe he obtained tactical intelligence for the decisive Saint-Lo campaign and others that followed. Martin generally maintained the strictest of decorum when interrogating prisoners, recalling from his time in Dachau how it felt to be on the other side.
Manny Steinfeld was a serious child, who always seemed older than his years, earning money as a young age by picking blueberries and selling them. In the mid-1930’s, as life for Jews in his town grew steadily worse, his mother sent him to the U.S., with a $10 bill sewn into his pants. After Pearl Harbor, Manny enlisted, and graduated from Camp Ritchie. Manny played a key role in many of the most significant battles of the war, and was on hand to translate a surrender agreement between German and American generals three days after Hitler’s suicide.