Portrait of four native German speakers in a special unit of the British army.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 54553
Circa 1943 - 1945
- Great Britain?
- Photo Designation
WORLD WAR II: ALLIED WAR EFFORT -- Allied Invasion/Fighting Units -- Refugee Units (Ritchie Boys/X Troop)
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Manfred Gans Estate
Portrait of four native German speakers in a special unit of the British army.
Manfred Gans is on the right.
- Manfred Gans was the son of Mortiz Gans and Else Fraenkel Gans. Moritz Gans grew up in a large family of five boys and five girls of Dutch-Jewish descent Borken, Germany near the Dutch border. Moritz was a decorated veteran of the German army who had lost a leg in World War I. He and his wife Else, who was a full partner in his business, became prosperous textile merchants. Moritz was the first Jew to serve on the city council. Manfred was born on April 27, 1922. He had an older brother Carl (later Gershon Kadar) and a younger brother Theo. The family was orthodox. The three boys attended their first eight grades in the one room Jewish elementary school and then transferred to the public, Catholic high school. In January 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. That summer, Manfred attended a hachshara farm in Gut Neuendorf run by his uncle Alex Moch to train young Jews for agricultural work in Palestine. There, he met another German-Jewish teenager, Anita Lamm, the daughter of his father's friend, Leo Lamm. Manfred continued to attend the hachshara every summer until 1938, and his family stayed in touch with Lamm family. In 1938 Anita and her parents spent a weekend with the Gans family in Borken on her way to the United States. Her father obtained permission to go to Paris on business but secretly planned to go from there to London and then to the United States rather than return to Germany. Moritz helped his friend smuggle his travel papers across the Dutch border by hiding them in his false leg. After this weekend together, Manfred and Anita began a regular correspondence until Anita's parents told her stop.
In 1936, Manfred's older brother Carl moved to Palestine, changing his name to Gershon and joined the Mikve Israel Agricultural Training School. (He later served in the Jewish Brigade and Palmach.) Two years later, in July 1938, Manfred went to England. He originally planned to go only for the summer, but as conditions worsened in Germany, his parents told him not to return home. His brother Theo also came to England, and Manfred's parents fled Germany and went into hiding in Holland. Manfred studied for the entrance exams for technical college and found work in the machine and truck repair department of a factory in Manchester. He hoped to eventually to become an engineer and felt that the work was good preparation for his career. He boarded with Jewish families and maintained his Orthodox lifestyle. In Manchester, Manfred met the Jewish physicians, Leo and Louise Wislicki, who became close friends.
With the outbreak of war, Manfred was classified as an enemy alien. At first this did not matter much. He continued to live in the same home and study for his university entrance exams. However, after the German invasion of Western Europe, the British government imposed a new wave of restrictions on enemy aliens. First Manfred had to sell his bicycle. He then was arrested and sent to an internment camp north of Manchester and later to a tent camp. Finally in late August or early September he was deported to the Isle of Man. The internees were kept in former hotels; Orthodox Jews had their own home with a kosher kitchen. They kept busy with a series of lectures provided by the internees themselves. In December, the British government announced that enemy aliens eighteen or older were permitted to enlist in the army. Manfred immediately registered. He was assigned to the Pioneer Corps - an unarmed labor unit for criminals or the physically unfit. Manfred spent the next two years frustratingly performing manual labor on construction projects.
His luck changed in 1943 when he was asked if he wanted to apply for special duty. He passed the interview and was sent to North Wales for training. There he joined Three Troop of the Tenth Inter-Allied IA Commando organized by Lord Mountbatten, head of British Combined Operations. The troop was a Special Forces unit composed of fluent German speakers, most all of whom were Jewish refugees. Everyone was given a new British identity; Manfred Gans assumed the alias of Fred Gray. Each soldier could assign one person from the outside to forward mail from other friends and family. Manfred chose the Wislickis in Manchester. He also left any private possessions with them that might identify his true identify such as German datebooks and Jewish ritual objects. For the next year, Manfred underwent intensive training in both military science and extreme physical conditioning.
In May 1944 Manfred detailed to 41st Royal Marine Commando. He boarded an invasion craft on June 5th. He participated in the D-Day landings, helped capture a fully manned radar station and participated in the fighting in Belgium and The Netherlands. He also interrogated German prisoners and gathered intelligence. By December he received a field-grade promotion to officer in recognition of his work. The following March he entered his hometown of Borken. His parents' former house was still intact having served as a Gestapo headquarters and later as Allied Military Government headquarters. The Gestapo had used the wine cellar as a torture chamber.
Towards the end of the war, Manfred learned that his parents had been deported to Theresienstadt and were likely still alive. In May 1945 he set out with a driver and truck to find them. When he arrived the registration clerk told him they were alive.. After an emotional overnight reunion, Manfred had to leave because the camp was under quarantine. He left all of his rations of food and cigarettes with his parents and returned with lots of letters written by Dutch survivors eager to be repatriated. These letters included one from the head of the Dutch prisoners who had previously served as a judge in the Peace Court in The Hague. Manfred presented this letter to Princess Juliana, thereby paving the way to the repatriation of the Dutch colony. After their return, his parents were reunited with Manfred's maternal grandmother who had been in hiding on a farm near Leewarden. In the 1950's they moved to Israel.
After the end of the war, Manfred was promoted to captain and became the head of military administration of Gladbeck. He also served as the Deputy Commander of the Intelligence Section of the prisoner of war camp for high ranking Nazis in the Sennelager near Paderborn. He prepared the prisoners for war crimes trials including von Bohlen Krupp and Hans Aumeier. After his demobilization in August 1946, Manfred returned to England, reverted to his true name, enrolled in the College of Technology in Manchester, and finally became a British citizen.
While still in the service, the Wislickis forwarded letters to Manfred from an unknown American girl named Joan. After about a year he discovered that Joan was in fact Anita Lamm, his childhood sweetheart. In 1947 Anita visited him in Europe and they spent Passover together with Manfred's parents in Holland. A few weeks later they became engaged. They married the following year in the Lamm's apartment in New York. Manfred and Anita returned to England for 2 years so that Manfred could complete his undergraduate education. They then came back to the United States and Manfred enrolled in MIT for graduate work. He completed his degree in 1951. Anita and Manfred settled in Bergen County NJ where they had two children Aviva and Daniel. Manfred pursued a successful career as a chemical engineer primarily in charge of start-ups of petro chemical factories.u
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Manfred Gans Estate
Record last modified: 2012-12-06 00:00:00
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