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.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at American Interest

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

 

Only a Clear Message to Iran Can Restore Israel’s Deterrence

Aug. 19 2019

Currently the greatest threat facing the Jewish state is an attack on three fronts, in which Hizballah and other Iranian forces launch tens of thousands of missiles simultaneously from both Lebanon and Syria, while Hamas—now also taking orders from Tehran—does the same from Gaza. Such a barrage would likely overwhelm Israel’s storied missile-defense systems, severely disrupt civilian life and possible result in high casualties, and gravely interfere with the IDF’s ability to counterattack. Noting that the Islamic Republic could unleash this mayhem at the time of its choosing, Benny Morris suggests a straightforward preventative measure. (Free registration required.)

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Syria