From German-Jewish Child to American Intelligence Officer

Born in the town of Hildesheim in 1922, Guy (né Günther) Stern had a fairly typical middle-class German Jewish upbringing. His family was lucky enough to relocate to St. Louis after the Nazis seized power, and Stern eventually joined the U.S. Army, which put him and other refugees to work interrogating Germans. He recounts his experiences in an interview with Jeffrey Gedmin and Sean Keeley:

[U]ntil the Nazis came to power, [my family and I] were under the impression that [Hildesheim] was an . . . ecumenical living environment. . . . I felt in those first years, [even in] 1932 or 1933, absolutely no antagonism. . . . And then either that illusion was crushed, or people became unable or unwilling to continue contact with their Jewish neighbors, . . . when the Nazis came to power at the end of January 1933. . . . [E]ven close friends who were non-Jews made a sort of retreat from us. The parents of my fellow students in Hildesheim sometimes . . . told their children that it would be dangerous or would hurt their careers if they continued to be good friends to us. . . .

[After coming to the U.S. and joining the army], I had my basic training in Camp Barkley, Texas. Then I was suddenly transferred to Camp Ritchie, Maryland—hence the “Ritchie Boys” nickname [given to the unit]. There we had intensive training for about nine weeks in all aspects of intelligence work. [Then] many of my fellow Ritchie Boys and I were shipped to England, where we awaited the invasion [of France]. I was assigned to be one of the early arrivals at Normandy three days after D-Day. Ten minutes after our arrival, I had my first prisoner. At that time, staying close to the shore, we were asked to provide tactical information. Where were artillery units stationed? What were their guns? What was the immediate plan of the enemy? . . .

I was absolutely devoted to my duties in the Army, with whatever strength I could supply. So there was no real conflict in fulfilling my duties as an American. I was absolutely convinced of the superiority of the American democratic system, and I still hold to that.

Stern, now ninety-seven, had a long career as a professor of German literature after the war.

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More about: German Jewry, Jews in the military, Nazi Germany, World War II

Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics