For a list of German Jewish families
who immigrated to the United States, and their stories, click on text below.
Herman Stern likely had a professional photographer in Mainz make this
portrait in 1902-3, before he left Germany for North Dakota.
When Morris Straus asked Hermann Stern
if he would like to come to America and go into the clothing business, he
told the young man he wanted a good reliable member of the family to help
him as he opened more stores. But the Stern family lore has it that Straus
selected Stern not only as a potential manager for a second store, but that
he also had taken his measure as a potential husband for his sister-in-law,
who was living in his home. Whether this story is true or not, Stern did later
marry Adeline Roth, the girl.
Anxious to get to the United States,
young Stern asked his Mainz employer to let him out of his apprenticeship.
The man refused to release him, but Stern left anyway, going to Hamburg and
taking passage there on a ship for New York City. Arriving in New York, he
was met by David Roth, Straus's brother-in-law, who gave him sixteen dollars
for a train ticket to North Dakota. Stern quickly learned that the United
States had different customs from Germany. During his train ride he couldn't
think why the train porters acted so stiff, even cold, with him. Only after
arriving in Casselton and telling Straus about his experience did he discover
the problem: he never realized he was supposed to tip them!
In Casselton, Herman (who quickly dropped
the second 'n' in his name) settled down to learn the business of men's clothing.
He worked for Straus at the Casselton store until 1907, when Straus bought
another store in Valley City. Moving to valley City to take charge of the
new store, Straus made Herman manager of the Casselton shop. This arrangement
lasted until 1910, when Straus, who was getting on in years, returned to Casselton,
and Stern moved to valley City to take charge of the larger store.
Two years later, Stern married Adeline
Roth, Morris Straus's sister-in-law. By that time, he was well on his way
to becoming a full partner with Straus.
Herman Stern, on a return visit to his family
in Germany, 1920s. Left to right, front row: Herman and brother Sallie;
middle row: Dora, Mina and Samuel, Jettchen; last row: Adolph, Moses,
Julius, Gustav. Dora Stern died of natural causes in 1934, and another
brother, Salli had died in the 1919 flu epidemic.
Appeals for help from Germany
In 1933 Adolf Hitler became the chancellor
of Germany. At First, Herman Stern was not very worried about what effect
HItler's anti-Semitic ideology might have on his relatives in the old country.
Like many German-Americans, he thought the stories of Nazi persecution of
the Jews were exaggerated. Back in Germany, however, Herman's brother Gustav
took the matter more seriously, and had already encouraged his son Erich and
his daughter Klara to try and go to live in the United States. Klara had written
to her uncle Herman in 1932, expressing a desire to come to America. She renewed
her wish again in mid-1934, adding that her brother Erich also wished to leave
Stern readily obliged, assuming that,
in these first cases, his brothers' children were simply seeking better opportunities.
It was only after Klara and Erich arrived in America late in 1934 and told
him how Jews were being treated in Germany that he became more aware of the
full extent of the Nazi persecution.
By 1936, Herman Stern had aided many
of his nieces and nephews. His sister Jettchen had also come to the United
States with her family, and Stern had also begun to urge his brothers to leave
Germany as well. While Adolf, Julius, and Moses resisted the idea, Herman's
brother Gustav expressed his willingness to leave. By 1937, Stern was receiving
appeals for help from more distant relatives, many of whom he had never met.
He tried to help all those he could, pledging the assets of his business,
his personal savings and even his home to satisfy the State Department's requirements
for sponsoring "one more relative."
Stern found a surprising ally in his efforts to help German Jews get to America:
North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye. Nye (pictured at right) was an ardent exponent
of American neutrality, and would in 1941 be accused of anti-Semitism because
of his criticism of Hollywood's pro-British and anti-Nazi motion pictures.
But in the 1930s he regularly helped Stern cut paths through the State Department's
bureaucratic obstacles. On at least two occasions Nye addressed letters personally
to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, asking him to intervene in visa applications
for people Stern wanted to sponsor.
By the time of Pearl Harbor in December
1941, Herman Stern had sposored over 120 men, women and children for entry
visas. Most of them, including his brothers Adolf and Gustav, were able to
use these to get to America. But before the cases of his brothers Moses and
Julius could be completed, America had entered the war and they were trapped
in Europe. Both died in the Holocaust.
To see the stories of some of who came
to the United States through Stern's sponsorship, click the mouse and select
from the pop-up menu.