Stern, Fritz Richard

views updated


STERN, FRITZ RICHARD (1926– ), U.S. historian of German-Jewish background. Stern grew up in then German Breslau (Wroclaw) as the son of parents of Jewish background. He was brought up as a Protestant, his godfather being the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Fritz *Haber. His family had to leave Germany, and he settled in the United States in 1938. He received his Ph.D. in history at Columbia University, having studied with another German emigrant, Hajo Holborn. Stern spent most of his teaching career at Columbia University, first as Seth Low Professor, later as University Professor. He retired in 1997. He was a permanent visiting professor at the University of Konstanz and taught at numerous European universities. The main focus in his publications is the prehistory of the rise of National Socialism in Germany, which he analyzed mainly through illiberal tendencies in central European thought. His celebrated book Gold and Iron (1977) centered on the relationship between German Chancellor Bismarck and his Jewish banker Gerson von Bleichroeder. Stern was active in political debates and his voice was heard far beyond the scholarly realm. In Germany, he gave a public speech in the parliament, the Bundestag, in 1987 as the first non-German citizen at the anniversary of the failed East German revolt of 1953. He received numerous prizes, such as the Lionel Trilling Award and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1999), Germany's most renowned literary award. He also served as assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke during the latter's tenure in Germany in 1993/94. Stern always tried to understand the causes of the German catastrophe in the 20th century and draw lessons for a peaceful future for Europe. He was eager to build bridges between Germans and Jews, Europe and the United States.


Who's Who in America 2002, 5092; International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Émigrés 19331944 (1999), 1123–24.

[Michael Brenner (2nd ed.)]