Holocaust Survivor Speaks at NAVSUP Business Systems Center Days of Remembrance Event – navy.mil

Posted By on May 11, 2024

Stern was born in Nuremberg, Germany in March 1936. From 1941 to 1945, his family lived in various holding, work, and concentration camps throughout Europe and Russia during World War II. Once his family was liberated, they remained in Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1947.

My name is Peter Guenter Stern. My brother's name is Samuel and I'm going to spend a little time talking about why the difference in names, said Stern.

In 1935 in Nuremberg, laws were passed laws that restricted the life of Jews. Restricted in the sense that doctors could no longer practice in a hospital, lawyers could not practice in court, teachers were fired from the public school systems. You could no longer run a business. The ability for Jews to function as citizens, andmembers of the community was taken away. These were called the Nuremberg Laws, he said.

One of those laws was that all Jewish children would be born and given a name that was out of the first book of the Bible. So, if you were a girl, you could have the name of Sarah, Esther, andRuth. Boys could be Abraham, Moses, Israel, or Samuel, he said. And that's what my parents named my brother,who wasborn in 1939.

That law was passed in 1935. I was born in 1936 and yet my name is still what it is, he said. Thething was, theGermans were wise enough to know that this was a real bad publicity thing, so they waited till after the Summer Olympics of 1936 to start enforcement of that law.

Sterns father, Artur, was an auto mechanic and shop owner but had to get rid of his business, so he started to work in a Jewish school, teaching young boys general shop and auto mechanic skills.

We all lived in the same house, and this was a Jew house, he said. What Nuremberg did was to get all the Jews who remained in Nuremberg to live in specific houses. It wasn't a ghetto. It wasn't a fenced-in area and the houses were scattered throughout the city, said Stern as he shared and reflected on a photograph from a childs birthday party.

I don't know whose birthday it was, but I'm the guy with the dark suspenders holding onto the tricycle. The next picture shows my father with some of those students, he said. The hope was that they would have the makings of a trade, so when they got to whatever country they were going to, they would have the ability to make a living.

My father was teaching in that school, but come November 1941, an order was issued saying that 1,000 Jews would come out of the area of southern Germany, and they would be shipped to Riga [Latvia], said Stern.

Of those 1,000 Jews, 520 came from Nuremberg, and Sterns family was deported from Germany to a holding camp in Latvia.

In 1942 they were transferred to the Riga ghetto. Stern noted that the ghetto was a crowded place but was less crowded as the Germans took thousands of people out, walked them into the woods, and executed them.

The concentration camps were designed for killing. People were killed in every concentration camp, I am sure. And there was a pretense for quite a while, hidden by the Germans that some of them were camps thatwe'llwork, he said.

In 1943 Sterns family was transferred to a work camp in Russia. One day his father saved a German officers life during a Russian attack, and the officer sent his family to a Riga prison to be hidden, instead of returning to the ghetto. In January 1944 they were deported back to Germany. His father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he died. Peter, Samuel, and his mother were transferred to Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen concentration campsuntil they were liberated in April 1945.

I want to say how bad Bergen-Belsen was because, by the time that the British came, they'd had stopped feeding [us]. They had stopped burying people, and one of the first things they had to do was dig mass graves, they buried about 20,000 corpses, which the German guards had to put onto trucks, then take and put into the graves, he said.

The stench was horrible. The stench of all the camps was very noticeable. You could not have been near a camp and not known that something was going on that had no validity whatsoever, said Stern.

Stern noted that at the end of the war, there were 17 survivors from the 520 shipped out from Nuremberg, which included his mother, brother, and himself.

Each year, the Navy honors the victims and survivors of the genocide that killed more than six million Jewish people and millions of others during the week that runs from the Sunday before Holocaust Remembrance Day through the following Sunday.

Understanding these lessons from the past and taking responsibility for our future is the key to treating each other with dignity, courtesy, and respect, regardless of our religion, said Capt. DavidD. Carnal, commanding officer, NAVSUP BSC.

Bryant Esendencia, chairman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee at NAVSUP BSC moderated the event.

Listening to a person who wants to share their personal experiences helps us better understand their world and how it fits with ours, said Esendencia. With that knowledge, we can all be more empathetic in the people that come across our life. Its those collective experiences that contributes to our success in protecting our country and allies.

This year, the Navy observes Holocaust Days of Remembrance from May 5-12, with Holocaust Remembrance Day occurring on May 6. This year's observance theme, Behind Every Name A Story: The Courageous, is in honor of the late Adolfo Kaminsky, whose forged identification papers are estimated to have saved 10,000-14,000 Jewish people from concentration camps.

While the number of people that directly survived the Holocaust is dwindling, their legacy continues in the form of their stories, which we must never forget, said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro in a message to all Department of the Navy personnel on April 30.

For more information about the Holocaust and scheduled events to remember survivors and victims, visit the National Archives at https://www.archives.gov/, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at https://www.ushmm.org/, or https://www.defenseculture.mil/Special-Observances/#days-of-remembrance-holocaust-remembrance-day.

For more information about NAVSUP BSC visit, https://www.navsup.navy.mil/NAVSUP-Enterprise/NAVSUP-Business-Systems-Center/.

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Holocaust Survivor Speaks at NAVSUP Business Systems Center Days of Remembrance Event - navy.mil

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