Erwin Max Rivers (E.M. Rothbarth)

Private, The Suffolk Regiment
1st Bn.
Service number: 14441856
Died 25 Nov 1944
Buried Overloon War Cemetery, Netherlands
Age 30

Headstone Inscription

Erwin was born on 16 December 1913 in Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany to German born parents Otto, a lawyer, and Cecille nee Wildberg and he had a younger brother Arthur. Erwin spent his childhood in Frankfurt and studied law at the University of Frankfurt for one term only in 1932. Due to the increasing unfriendliness towards the Jewish population, in the spring of 1933 the Rothbarth family, consisting of father, mother and two sons, decided to emigrate to America, via the ports of Rotterdam and London. Erwin then aged twenty decided to continue his studies at Cambridge University, and stayed behind in London.

Within two years, the intelligent but modest Erwin Max had perfect command of the English language and gradually developed into an unusually gifted student. He lectured in small circles on economic subjects and did not hesitate to defend his ideals.
He had been in England for less than three years and was not yet 23 when, in 1936, he obtained a doctorate in economics with first-class honours. Within one year, he managed to draw the attention of English scholars by winning no less than two scholarships and the famous Gladstone thought prize. One of the professors reports that Erwin Rothbarth “came as close to the concept of genius as he had never met in a doctoral student”.  In 1940, when Erwin was twenty-seven, he received the honourable appointment of Lecturer in Statistics at Cambridge University. In May of 1940, he was interned as an Enemy Alien on the Isle of Man and was released in the August. In September, he married South African born Myfanwy Charles, a graduate of Oxford University. Their son was born a year later.

In 1943, England opened up its army to people of German nationality and Erwin volunteered. After several months of hard training he joined the Suffolk Regiment. At the same time he renounced his German and Jewish sounding surname; in his military pocketbook the name E.M. Rivers appeared.

In June 1944 the Suffolk’s land on the beaches of Normandy, fight in the streets of Caen and arrive via Belgium at the Battle of Overloon. On 21 October 1944 he wrote to his wife: “Compared to the vast majority of soldiers who are here because it is war, I have the inestimable advantage of knowing what I am fighting for. For me it is not killing and suffering without meaning. “It was worth fighting to give humanity another chance to solve its problems, even if one has no exaggerated expectations of what humanity will make of it.” After heavy fighting near Caen and the Belgian Albert canal he was killed near Venray during the assault on the Castle of Geijsteren. His daughter was born two months after his death. Sources & Credits to Tom Rivers and Harry van Loon.

Courtesy Fred at Find a Grave