CITY, ND (NewsDakota.com) – The late Herman Stern of Valley City saved more than 100 lives from certain death in Nazis Germany just before WWII.
Stern was honored in a ceremony on Saturday with a historical marker in Veteran Memorial Park in Valley City to recognize this act of kindness and his efforts to build a better community while he was alive in North Dakota.
Barnes County Historical Society Director Wes Anderson says it’s the first historical marker of this kind sponsored by the Historical Society of North Dakota. He said Jerry Klinger with the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation was instrumental in getting the ball rolling for the marker.
Stern was the subject of a book called: “You Have Been Kind Enough To Assist Me: Herman Stern and the Jewish Refugee Crisis.” The biography details how Stern helped, through legal and political negotiations same more than 100 Jews destined for Hitler’s concentration camps.
In 2005, the North Dakota Legislature authorized the State Historical Society of North Dakota to develop and administer a historical marker program designed to highlight locations that meet one of the following criteria: person of state or national significance; place of state or national significance; or event of state or national significance.
The North Dakota Historical Marker program is administered by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and all costs including production, installation, and maintenance of a historical marker are the responsibility of the applicant or sponsor of the marker.
Although this program was authorized in 2005, the first application was not received until 2015. The marker commemorated the life and work of Herman Stern, a German Jewish emigrant who moved to North Dakota in 1903 and began a successful business career in Carrington, Casselton, and Valley City.
In the 1930s, with the aid of his wife, Adeline, and cooperation from U.S. Senator Gerald Nye, Stern managed to bring more than 125 Jewish refugees from Germany to live in the United States. For his many achievements and contributions to the state, Stern was inducted into the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame in 2014. The award is the highest honor in North Dakota.
The Herman Stern marker is located in Veterans Memorial Park in Valley City and is cosponsored by the Barnes County Historical Society and the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation and the land was don. This marker is entered in the North Dakota Historical Marker Register as marker 001 in 2016.
Barnes County Historical Society Director Wes Anderson said, back in February 2016, the Barnes County Historical Society was contacted by Herman Stern’s grandson, Rick Stern, regarding a proposal by Jerry Klein, President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, to present a historical marker to Valley City, honoring Herman Stern and his actions that saved over 125 lives from certain death at the hands of the Nazis in Germany.
Rick Stern read what author Terry Shoptaugh wrote about Herman Stern in his book: “You Have Been Kind Enough To Assist Me: Herman Stern and the Jewish Refugee Crisis.”
Anderson said along with the Valley City Park and Rec District and Valley City VFW Post 2764 all played a roll in telling this story of selfless action for generations to come as part of the great story of North Dakota.
Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation talked about the example Herman Stern left behind for everyone to live by for upcoming generations.
The following is a letter written by Jerry Klinger:
It with sincere appreciation that the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation wishes to thank the Barnes County Historical Society, the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the community of Valley City for the special privilege of joining with you in recognizing Herman Stern.
Stern was an immigrant to North Dakota. He came seeking opportunity and betterment. What was so very special about Stern’s North Dakota experience as a Jew was that he was not pre-judged because of his ethnicity. Instead, North Dakota gave Stern an opportunity to succeed, to prove his metal. Stern was able to show his energy, his integrity, and his willingness to join with all North Dakotans to build positively together their mutual community as respected neighbors. For that unique, very American open doorway, Stern gave back to his beloved Community, State and Country in every way he could.
In the 1930’s, dark clouds of hatred, bigotry and ignorance filled European skies presaging the Holocaust to come. Stern turned to his friend Senator Gerald Nye and friends in North Dakota for help. The help was given without reservation or question. Over 125 lives were saved from certain death. It was a credit to Stern but it also was a credit to all North Dakotans.
The Herman Stern marker project is the first historical interpretive roadside marker of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. It is the first of many more to come that will proudly tell the story of North Dakota.
Jerry Klinger is the president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.