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Foodie Lit:  Kathryn Lang Slattery's Immigrant Soldier

Herman Lang, like many German Jewish families, was assimilated and his family considered itself more German than Jewish. Then the National Socialists (Nazis) party rose to control the country and Jews, even those who never celebrated a single Jewish holiday, found themselves excluded from schools, professions, stores, parks, friendships, all German society and life itself.


So begins the remarkable story of eight years of the life of Herman Lang, written by his niece, Kathryn Lang Slattery. The historical events of The Ritchie Boys are woven into a fabulous, tense and poignant story line. Kathryn shared with me, "One of the things many Ritchie Boys I talked to remember from those years was the loss of friendships. Those that were more assimilated and had German or Austrian friends felt it the most…. From my own family, my father, who was a star student, was expected to attend University until he was refused entry. He became a jobless immigrant who educated himself without attending University. Herman's sister had to flee to England where she worked as a maid in the beginning. All three of these siblings felt culturally "German" all their lives. Several of the Ritchie Boys I spoke to stayed in army intelligence as a career…. Everyone I talked to had experienced massive change to their lives from what they had anticipated.”

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Doors were shut for Jews who wanted to leave both from leaving, by the Germans, and most of the world, from entering.


Travelling from Germany to England to the US, Herman was determined to make a success of his life. His likeable personality aided him in so many circumstances, including his actual escape from Germany. The Muellers were friends of the Langs, Herman and their son were the same age and school pals and Clara Lang was close to Frau Mueller. After the Nazis came to power and  Dachau established, Clara realized that Herman would be deported for slave labor. Heart in her hands, she begged the then Nazi Captain Mueller to help Herman leave. He reluctantly does because his wife urged him to do so, although when Clara starts to thank him, he tells her curtly to leave because he doesn’t have time to spend with Jews. With the scrawled note his lifeline to safety, Herman manages to leave almost certain death in Germany due to past friendships and “the tiny flame of conscience.”


Later, Clara’s friend slips her a note surreptitiously urging her to leave that night, as Frau Mueller found Clara’s name on a deportation list for the next day. Equally important to the warning were the words that even though she couldn’t show her friendship, it was still there.


After immigrating to the US, Herman and other German, Austrian and other German speaking Jewish men, were recruited to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, a secret training site for future members of the US Army Intelligence. These men chose to return to Europe to help fight the Nazi terror and bring it to an end and were trained to analyze Nazi troop movement, listen to important conversations and to interrogate captured Nazi soldiers for critical information which General Patton is credited for a major help to the Allied war effort.


This historical novel is based on the interviews Kathryn did with her uncle, family members, and other Ritchie boys, aside from research into the era to fill in details missing from the memories of those she interviewed. Her uncle went on to live a long life, always remembering the circumstances of his youth. “Herman had experienced first-hand how hatred for a group could lead to hatred for everyone in that group, and he was determined to not make that error himself,” Kathryn told me.


“I wanted to tell this story,” she says, “because it was different from any other Holocaust story I had read. The Jewish hero is not a victim, but a young man who gradually grows from a frightened and frustrated teenager, looking for a place to belong, into a confident US Army intelligence officer who struggles with the conflicting emotions of hate and forgiveness.”


In this season of heroes, from the long ago Maccabees fighting for their freedom from oppression, to the fight of the Ritchie Boys, “secret heroes” of WWII, to our first responders and researchers working to stop the Corona Virus, we have many role models that show us not to give up, not to surrender but to stand up for what is right.


Cobb Salad was the creation of Bob Cobb in 1937 for his restaurant Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles. Herman Lang lived in Los Angeles and grew to love Cobb Salad and anything with avocados! Here is my version of this classic salad, so delicious and as with many salads, with as many varieties as there are cooks!

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Cobb Salad

Serves 6

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup sliced shallot
1 avocado, diced
1 cup sliced cucumber, peeled if not organic
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1 cup, kernels sliced from 1-2 corn cobs
1 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup turkey, chopped
1 cup pastrami, sliced or chopped

Salad Dressing:
2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup light olive oil

1. Layer lettuce on the bottom of a platter. Attractively place rest of salad ingredients on top.
2. Whisk together salad dressing ingredients, adding olive oil last. Mix until ingredients emulsify. Drizzle over salad before serving.


Expandthetable suggestions

Cheesy: Crumble 4 ounces Blue Cheese or Feta over salad
Meat Free: In place of turkey and pastrami, use 1 pound poached, grilled or sautéed salmon, flaked after cooking to bite size pieces. You can also use 1 cup smoked salmon or lox, chopped
Classic Cobb:  Add 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Vegan: Eliminate eggs and meat. Add other veggies such as roasted chickpeas, sliced radishes, steamed asparagus, cooked red beets, cashews raw or roasted, spinach, hearts of palm, and other favorite vegetables. Use maple syrup or sugar in place of honey.
Lessen the sugar: Use a sugar substitute in place of the honey, following conversion measurements on the package

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