Imagine leaving Eastern Europe on the cusp of World War II as a Jewish child headed for America. Now imagine being drafted into the American army a few short years later, only to be sent back to your homeland to help win the war and defeat Hitler. It may sound like the plot of a far-fetched novel, but it’s the true story of the men (and a few women) who are featured in the documentary About Face: The Story of the Jewish Refugee Soldiers of World War II.
Some of these soldiers were combat infantrymen or paratroopers, while others used their knowledge of German toward interrogations, military intelligence, and counterintelligence efforts. Counted among their ranks is Henry Kissinger, who got his start in public service as a rifleman in the US Army after arriving in America as a 15-year-old trying to escape German anti-Semitism.
These soldiers’ missions continued even after the war ended, and some of their experiences brought glimpses of retribution. One man, upon being tasked with de-Nazifying his own hometown, directed one of his first orders to a group of SS prisoners. Their job? To clean up the desecrated Jewish cemetery. An ending fit for a Hollywood movie, even if this isn’t one.