Stark, Werner E.
Stark was born in 1921 in Munich, Germany, one of three children of a Reform Jewish couple in the textile and retail clothing business. He attended the customary public grade school and then the Theresian Gymnasium. A “gymnasium” is an academic junior and senior high school requiring entrance qualifications and tuition payments. Prior to 1933, he recalls being subjected to very little anti-Semitism. However, after the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, he noted quite an increase in these measures.
With reference to anti-Semitism, Stark specifically recalls the closing of public baths and beaches to Jews, refusal of service by a restaurant to him and some non-Jewish friends because of his presence, boycotts of, and anti-Semitic slogans on, his father’s retail store, and his expulsion from the gymnasium in 1936. He was required to complete his education at a private school.
After it became evident that a normal life was no longer possible in Germany, he and his older brother Walter, were able to leave Germany for the United States in October 1938. This was possible because they were registered and qualified on the American quota list for German Jews and had received an affidavit of potential financial support from an American citizen. A former employee of Stark’s father, whom the elder Mr. Stark had helped leave Germany, solicited the affidavit from his employer in Detroit. Subsequently in 1939, the same man also provided the necessary documentation to enable Stark’s parents and younger sister, Lila, to emigrate to Detroit. Stark’s father avoided being arrested during Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938, by hiding away from his home.
In the U. S., Stark found employment but was dismissed in 1942 as a security risk due to his German nationality. His attempts to enlist in the U. S. Army were rejected for the same reason. However, following his rejection for enlistment, he was drafted into the army. Due to his knowledge of the German language and his good education, he was assigned to counter-intelligence school at Fort Richie, Maryland, and served in G-2, the military intelligence branch of the U. S. Army in Europe during World War II.
In his assignment as an counter-intelligence agent, he conducted interrogations of prisoners and civilian personnel, acted as an interpreter, conducted counter-espionage activities, and performed other related tasks. Of specific interest are his involvement as an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials of war criminals, his presence during the hangings of the convicted leaders of Nazism, his interrogation of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, and his surveillance of the former girlfriend of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the German Security Service as related to her associations with American army officers. He expressed regret that the Nazi prisoners were treated with civility, instead of the treatment they deserved.
During his interrogation of Dr. Mengele, Stark was able to obtain an admission of the medical experiments performed, but only to the extent that they were done on criminals and volunteers. Dr. Mengele was not questioned pertaining to the experiments on twins, since this episode was not known to Stark at the time. Stark has no knowledge as to how Dr. Mengele was able to leave Germany and flee to South America. He describes Dr. Mengele as a meek, unassuming person.
Except for his parents and siblings, all other members of his immediate family, i.e., his maternal grandmother, his uncles and aunts, became victims of the Holocaust and perished in Europe.
During recent visits to Germany he found, in general, that the German people are saddened and regret their past behavior, but also that they believe that their financial support to survivors of the Nazi period, as well as their aid to the state of Israel atones for the past. Stark, however, believes that nothing can ever forgive them for their sins.
Date: January 27, 1993
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Format: Video recording