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Stern, star German-American historian, is dead

May 18, 2016

Fritz Stern, who advised an ambassador and taught German history to international audiences, has died. He passed away at age 90 in New York, the city where his family had lived since leaving Nazi Germany.

Fritz Stern
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Burgi

On Wednesday, the Munich-based publisher CH Beck announced that the German-American historian Fritz Stern had died in his adopted hometown of New York at the age of 90. He was born in 1926 in Breslau, now the city of Wroclaw in Poland, to a formerly Jewish family that had converted to Protestantism at the end of the 19th century and was baptized as a Lutheran. Still, his family fled anti-Semitic Nazi Germany and ultimately landed in the vibrant Jackson Heights neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City.

Fritz Stern
Chancellor Angela Merkel had the honor of meeting Stern in 2009Image: Getty Images/H. Schacht

Stern received his bachelor's, master's and PhD from Columbia, a top-flight Ivy League university in Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood, and went on to write and edit a dozen books of German history that were published on both sides of the Atlantic. He taught at Columbia from 1953 to 1997 and filled the provost role for a short period, as well.

The historian's most important books include "The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology," "Five Germanies I Have Known" and "Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History." His primary themes were the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and especially in Germany, to where he would often return over the course of his life.

Stern advised the great American statesman Richard Holbrooke for a year when the diplomat served as the US ambassador to Germany.

Journal Interview - With Historian Fritz Stern

mkg/bw (dpa, kna)