In Memoriam: Fritz Stern

416g17VqNULLBI mourns the loss of Fritz Stern, whose probing scholarship on Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries helped explain the rise of National Socialism and the multi-faceted relationship between Germans and Jews. A longtime professor of history at Columbia University, Stern published extensively on topics close to the mission of LBI. Born 1926 in Breslau to a prosperous family that had converted to Lutheranism in the late 19th century, his early experiences with persecution shaped the intellectual project that defined his career. “Though I lived in National Socialist Germany for only five years, that brief period saddled me with the burning question that I have spent my professional life trying to answer: Why and how did the universal potential for evil become an actuality in Germany?” he wrote in the introduction to his 2006 memoir, Five Germanys I Have Known. His expertise on Germany’s national transformations made him a sought after advisor to global leaders, especially as the world came to grips with yet another new Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1993, the late diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke summoned him to serve as an advisor to the US Embassy in Bonn. When Stern was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal in 2004, Holbrooke explained why Stern was so highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic: “a tough, uncompromising intellect, a staggering historical knowledge, an unyielding search for truth no matter where the facts may take you, and a belief that we can learn from the past.”

Works by Fritz Stern in LBI Collections

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