Henry Butler, approx late 1930's - early 1940s
Henry Butler, approx late 1930's - early 1940s

“I had one prisoner who was the valet to the German commander on the Western Front and he gave me some very good information.” - Henry Butler

Henry Butler was born into a tight-knit Jewish family in Germany in 1920. As a kid, he was always athletic. He has good memories of walking to synagogue with his grandfathers.  When Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, the Jewish community of his hometown Wurzburg felt the antisemitism increasingly rise to the surface. His father was forced to sell his business in 1937 and the family moved to Frankfurt, Germany.

At the age of 16, Henry was one of the lucky few Jewish people to leave Germany for the United States. He received an affidavit from a relative living in New York. When he arrived, he got a job in a photo lab. His parents made their way to England.

In January 1943, Henry was drafted into the US Army. Because Henry was a native German speaker, he was selected to be trained at the secret Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, known as Fort Ritchie. The “Ritchie Boys” as he and the others were called, were German-speaking immigrants, often Jews who had fled Nazi persecution. They were used primarily for interrogation of German prisoners on the front lines and counter-intelligence in Europe.

Henry was assigned to a team of six, attached to Headquarters Third Army, General Patton’s Army, and they arrived in England in June, shortly after the invasion of Normandy. Henry recalls that the key to questioning German prisoners was to try to gain their trust by offering them a cigarette first.

After the war, Henry was discharged in October of 1945 and went back to New York, where he continued with his job at Brillo, where he had started working before he was drafted. He was transferred to the West Coast, where he met his wife Olga, and settled in Seattle in 1947.

Henry passed away on Wednesday November 29, at the age of 102. May his memory be a blessing.


More About This Survivor:

Full Testimony - Henry Butler (2017, 1:25:30)

Journeys to Seattle - Henry Butler (1:50)

Changing His Name - Henry Butler (1:08)

Interrogations - Henry Butler (2:14)

Memorial for Henry Butler