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'Ritchie Boys' to be shown at former fort

December 28, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - Some of the men who trained in psychological warfare at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base during World War II and who are featured in the Oscar-eligible "The Ritchie Boys" documentary have been invited to the film's free screenings next month in Cascade.

Movie spokeswoman Nichola Ellis said Monday she will know after Jan. 1 whether any of the Ritchie "boys" would be present for the Cascade showings.

"We haven't had confirmation at this point," Ellis said. "But we hope that some will be able to show up."

The Cascade Committee recently obtained the rights to show the movie on Sunday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. at the gym at the former base. The screenings are on a first-come, first-served basis, and each showing will seat 150 to 200 people.

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The 2004 documentary, written and directed by German native Christian Bauer, tells the story of a group of Jewish men who fled the Nazis, trained at what was then known as Camp Ritchie and went back to Europe as U.S. soldiers to fight the Germans.

The mission of the men - trained in intelligence and interrogation - was to find and "break the enemy's morale," according to the film's Web site, www.ritchieboys.com.

The documentary has received international acclaim. It is one of 12 films eligible to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category to be presented at the 77th Academy Awards. The final five nominees will be announced Jan. 25.

Cascade Committee Director Karl Weissenbach said Monday he wanted to show the film to honor military personnel who served at Fort Ritchie.

Weissenbach said he also wanted to increase awareness of the base's history and its historic property. The gym is on land known as the parade field, which has been designated as historic by the Maryland Historical Trust.

While Weissenbach has been an outspoken critic of a proposal by a Columbia, Md., developer to build on the parade field, he said that's not the main reason for showing the movie at the base.

Paying tribute


"The prime reason for showing the film is to pay tribute to those who served at Fort Ritchie," Weissenbach said.

He said showing the movie at the base's run-down gym would send a stronger message to those who attend the screenings.

"When people come to the gym, what's being shown in the movie happened right where they're sitting," he said. "If it was shown in Hagerstown or Waynesboro, (Pa.) I don't think it would have the same effect."

PenMar Development Corp. board Chairman George G.B. Griffin said Monday that PenMar hasn't received any official invitations to attend the screenings but that he would like to see the movie. PenMar is the state-created agency in charge of redevelopment efforts at Fort Ritchie.

"I hope it's a good movie," Griffin said.

Weissenbach said he sent a general notice out to the public about the movie screenings.

Two Washington County Commissioners - Vice President William J. Wivell and John C. Munson - said Monday they were considering attending a showing.

"If I don't have a conflict, I'll go," Wivell said.

Munson said the movie sounds interesting, but that he'd have to check his schedule.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he had a prior commitment and would not be able to attend.

Cascade is one of several locations throughout the country where the documentary is to be screened in January. It also is to be shown in places such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but the movie has not yet been released to theaters. The filmmaker is in discussions with a distributor to have the movie shown in theaters in the United States, Ellis said.

"It's a magnificent film," Ellis said. "It has so many messages on so many levels."

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