REFLECTING ON THE LEGACY OF DR. STERN
Dr. Guy Stern, the Director of our International Institute of the Righteous, has passed away at age 101.
He would have celebrated his 102nd birthday on January 14. A decorated American war hero, Holocaust survivor, and distinguished scholar, Dr. Stern was instrumental in the intelligence efforts of the Allied powers that ultimately defeated Nazi Germany during World War II.
Dr. Stern was a pillar at The HC. He joined its Board of Directors in 1987, served on advisory committees, and assumed the role of Interim Executive Director following the 2008 passing of Founder Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig. Until his death, Dr. Stern served as our Director of the International Institute of the Righteous and is known to be one of the last surviving members of The Ritchie Boys.
HONORING THE HEROIC RITCHIE BOYS
Born Günther Stern in Hildesheim, Germany in 1922, he was the only member of his family to escape the Nazis. Traveling alone to America at age 15 in hopes of securing sponsorship in the United States for his parents and siblings, Dr. Stern would later learn of their deaths in the Holocaust.
He became a U.S. citizen and was drafted into the Army in 1943 to fight against the Nazis in Germany during World War II. He served as an intelligence noncommissioned officer for the U.S. Intelligence Service. Bilingual and a skilled negotiator, he and a band of other enlisted men known as The Ritchie Boys—so named due to their training at Camp Ritchie in Maryland—interrogated German prisoners of war, gaining their confidence and securing vital information for the allies.
The Ritchie Boys are credited with securing more than half of the actionable intelligence gathered in Europe during World War II. Dr. Stern rose to the rank of Master Sergeant in the Army and was decorated with a bronze star for his innovative methods of extracting information from German POWs.
“Guy’s contribution to the Allied war effort is a well-studied and established fact. He and the other Ritchie Boys were instrumental in the outcome of the war,” said Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of The HC. “He is a hero in every sense of the word. Truly, Guy Stern was a national treasure, and he will be greatly missed.”
SHARING HIS KNOWLEDGE AND STORIES
Dr. Stern also had a distinguished career in education after the war, serving as Senior Vice President and Provost at Wayne State University, and as Graduate Dean for the University of Cincinnati. Additionally, he taught at Denison University and the University of Maryland, and received five guest professorships in Germany. Dr. Stern published numerous papers and books, including his memoir, Invisible Ink, and was an in-demand speaker for conferences and universities around the world.
Writing in Invisible Ink, Dr. Stern said, “The United States, to put it simply, saved my life. Without allowing me to arrive at its shores, I would have been on the train taking me to perdition as was the fate of my immediate and extended family…To put my thankfulness in one sentence: I became an American patriot.”
In 2022, Dr. Stern was featured in The U.S. and the Holocaust, a six-hour documentary series by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein on America’s response during World War II and the Holocaust.
“Guy was such an important part of not just The HC but of the entire understanding we have of the war, what was done to win, its significance, and the importance of education to prevent recurrence,” said Alan Zekelman, Executive Member of The HC’s Board of Directors. “There is no question that his work in this world was important, will be remembered, and that we are all blessed because of him. He will be incredibly missed.”
- Make a tribute in honor of Dr. Stern and his legacy by clicking here
- Purchase a copy of Dr. Guy Stern’s memoir, Invisible Ink, from The HC by clicking here
- Read Dr. Stern’s testimony from our Oral History Department by clicking here
- Read Dr. Stern’s advice for our community during difficult times by clicking here
- Watch Dr. Stern’s interview for a 60 Minutes special about The Ritchie Boys by clicking here