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Oral history interview with Harold Stern

Oral History | Accession Number: 1997.A.0441.22 | RG Number: RG-50.462.0022

Harold Stern, born August 31, 1921 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, describes being the only child of middle-class Jewish parents; his father, who came from an Orthodox background, and his mother, who was raised in a non-observant home; belonging to a large liberal congregation, the Westend Synagogue in Frankfurt; the educational system and antisemitism before and after 1933; the Kultusgemeinde, his Jewish education, and his upbringing; his studies at the Philanthropin (a Jewish secondary school), which he attended in 1935 due to increased antisemitic experiences at the public gymnasium; his mother continuing the family business after his father’s death in 1930, but having to give it up in 1937 as a result of the Nuremberg Laws; the “aryanization” of a shoe manufacturing company and other businesses; having an early quota number; how his attempts to immigrate with his mother to the United States were thwarted because their affidavits were not accepted by the American Consulate in Stuttgart; leaving in March 1939 for England through the aid of family friends in England and Bloomsbury House, while his mother remained in Frankfurt; life in London, working as a factory trainee; residing among the British (non-Jewish) working class until June 1940 when he was picked up and interned in Huyton, a camp near Liverpool with other German Jewish refugees; volunteering in July 1940 for transport on the Dunera, a ship supposedly bound for Canada but re-routed to Australia; the desperate conditions at sea, the harsh treatment by British soldiers, and the refugees’ behavior during the 10 week voyage; being transferred from Sidney to a barbed-wire enclosed compound in the Outback, in Hay, New South Wales; the internal camp leadership that emerged and the development of cultural and educational activities; help given by the Australian Christian Student Movement (under Margaret Holmes), the Jewish Welfare Board, and the Jewish people of Melbourne; moving to a camp in Tatura, Victoria that had better conditions; joining the Australian Army after 20 months of internment; being part of the 8th Employment Company, where he did transport of munitions; being discharged in 1946 or 1947, after serving four and a half years in the army; keeping contact with his mother and knowing that she reached the US in late 1941; the fate of his mother’s brother and sister; immigrating to the US in 1947 under the German quota; and moving to Philadelphia, PA in 1959.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Stern, Harold
Levin, Dr. Nora
interview:  1981 September 10
3 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Gratz College Holocaust Oral History Archive
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 20:10:40
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