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 Germany.

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."

Mr. 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.

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