MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — The Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies at Penn State Harrisburg will welcome Holocaust survivor Peter Stern for a virtual presentation of his story at noon on Thursday, Dec. 1. The event is co-sponsored by the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia.
Stern was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in March 1936. His father, Artur, was an auto mechanic and a vocational school instructor. One of his first vivid memories is walking home with his father and having stones thrown at them by a group of young boys not much older than himself. Peter couldn’t understand why this was happening, nor why people stood by and watched it happen.
In 1941, his family was deported from Germany to a holding camp in Latvia. They were then transferred to the Riga ghetto in the spring of 1942. His father continued to work as an auto mechanic for the Germans though he was not paid.
In 1943, they were transferred to a work camp deeper in Russia. One day, the Russian army attacked the camp and Artur saved a German officer’s life. The officer arranged for the Stern family to be hidden in the Riga prison, rather than be returned to the ghetto.
In January 1944, the family was once again put on a truck and sent back to Germany, where Artur was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Peter, along with his mother, Karolina, and brother, Sam, was transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp and then, in the face of an Allied advance, moved to Bergen-Belsen.
They were liberated by the British on April 15, 1945 and were moved to buildings previously occupied by German soldiers. On January 7, 1947, they were able to immigrate to America with the help of distant relatives. In 1954, Peter graduated from high school, then attended the University of Missouri. He is married and has two sons and grandchildren. Peter and his wife, Julie, recently moved to the Philadelphia area.