Shortly before his death, Walter Wolff handed his daughter, Nina Wolff Feld, a green metal file box. In it was a treasure trove of wartime letters written by him during his time as a U.S. Army Intelligence officer to his family. Feld, a writer and artist born and bred in New York, translated the letters into a new book, “Someday You Will Understand: My Father’s Private World War II” (Arcade Publishing).
Walter Wolff, who was fluent in five languages and went on to found and run the home furnishings company Bon Marché in New York, was born in Germany in 1924. As Hitler rose to power, Wolff and his family, which included his sister and parents, were forced to keep moving until they settled in neutral Belgium. But on the eve of the Nazi invasion in 1940 they began a harrowing 16-month escape through occupied Europe, arriving in New York in September 1941, just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In his letters, Wolff wrote endlessly, documenting both his training and experience as one of the well-known Ritchie Boys, an elite group of U.S. Intelligence officers known for their expertise in psychological warfare and interrogation. Wolff’s niche was vetting war criminals during the early postwar period. Many soldiers, like Wolff, were Jewish and had escaped from countries occupied by the Nazis. They enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. Army, where they became staunch defenders of American democracy shortly after running for their lives.
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