Itzhak Stern

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Itzhak Stern
Itzhak Stern.jpg
Itzhak Stern
Born25 January 1901
Kraków, Grand Duchy of Cracow, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died1969 (aged 68)
Known forAccountant of Oskar Schindler who assisted him in his wartime rescue activities.
Sophia Backenrot (m. 1945)
RelativesNatan Stern (brother)

Itzhak Stern (25 January 1901 – 1969)[1] was a Polish-Israeli Jew who worked for German industrialist Oskar Schindler and assisted him in his rescue activities during the Holocaust.


Early life[edit]

Stern was born 25 January 1901, in Kraków. He was an important leader in the Jewish community, and was the vice president of the Jewish Agency for Western Poland and a member of the Zionist Central Committee.[2][3] In 1938, he was engaged, although the marriage was postponed until after the war.[4]

World War II[edit]

On 18 November 1939, during the early months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, Schindler was first introduced to Stern,[5] then an accountant for Schindler's fellow Abwehr agent Josef "Sepp" Aue, who had taken over Stern's formerly Jewish-owned place of employment as a Treuhander (trustee).[6] Schindler showed Stern the balance sheet of a company he was thinking of acquiring, an enamelware manufacturer called Rekord Ltd owned by a consortium of Jewish businessmen (including Abraham Bankier) that had filed for bankruptcy earlier that year.[7] Stern advised him that rather than running the company as a trusteeship under the auspices of the Haupttreuhandstelle Ost (Main Trustee Office for the East), he should buy or lease the business directly, as that would give him more freedom from the dictates of the Nazis, including the freedom to hire more Jews.[8] Even though Stern was Jewish and Schindler a member of the Nazi Party, Schindler was friendly to Stern. Later, Stern said of the meeting:[9]

I did not know what he wanted and I was frightened... [until] December 1, we Polish Jews had been left more or less alone. They had Aryanized the factories, of course. And if a German asked you a question in the street it was compulsory for you to precede your answer with I am a Jew....' But it was only on December 1 that we had to begin wearing the Star of David. It was just as the situation had begun to grow worse for the Jews, when the Sword of Damocles was already over our heads, that I had this meeting with Oskar Schindler.

In a later meeting, Stern informed Schindler that he could use Jewish slave labour to staff his factory (Deutsche Emaillewarenfabrik) at a lower price than Polish laborers, which would also allow those laborers to be protected from deportations. Schindler followed this suggestion, which began his rescue activities of Jews during the Holocaust.[2]

Kraków's Jews were imprisoned Kraków Ghetto around six months after German troops invaded Kraków. However, the ghetto was fully liquidated in 1943. Those considered useful (to be used as slave labor) were sent to Płaszów, including Schindler's workers and Stern. The rest were sent to various death camps across Poland. In Płaszów, Stern and his brother Natan, along with Mietek Pemper and Joseph Bau, were forced to work in Płaszów's office, where they came into frequent contact with the camp's notorious commandant, Amon Göth. Stern helped Pemper in his efforts to prevent the closure and liquidation of Płaszów, knowing that while condition there were terrible, liquidation likely meant the deaths of every prisoner.[10] Stern kept in contact with Schindler throughout this time and worked to better conditions for the Jews, including transferring workers to Schindler's factory, distributing aid money, and attempting to inform the outside world of their plight.[3]

In 1944, when the closure of Płaszów became inevitable, Schindler decided to open a new factory in Brněnec, Czechoslovakia for his Jewish in order to prevent them from being sent to death camps. Stern and the surviving members of his family were placed on the famous list to be transferred to Brünnlitz by Schindler, although Stern's mother died of illness when she, along with the other female Schindlerjuden, were transferred to Auschwitz before Schindler could arrange their transfer to Brünnlitz. The male Schindlerjuden, including Stern and Natan, were transported to Gross-Rosen before they were sent to relative safety of Brünnlitz, where Stern worked directly with Schindler and became one the leaders of the Jewish workers.[3] Schindler, due to his Nazi Party and the Abwehr membership, was in danger of being arrested after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Stern and the other Jewish leaders wrote a letter attesting to Schindler's rescue of Jews, which they gave to Schindler before he fled to American lines.[3]

Later life[edit]

After the liberation of the Brünnlitz by the Red Army, Stern moved to France and eventually emigrated to Israel.[2] He continued his friendship with Schindler and corresponded with him until his death in 1969. It was reported that Schindler 'cried inconsolably' at his funeral.[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1938, Stern was engaged to Sophia Backenrot, who survived the war due to her Aryan appearance in the Drohobycz ghetto. Their marriage was postponed until the end of the war in 1945. They remained married until Stern's death at age 68.[4]


He was portrayed in the movie Schindler's List by Ben Kingsley. At the end of the film, Stern's widow Sophia appears in a procession of Schindlerjuden and the actors who portrayed them, placing stones on Schindler's grave, which is a Jewish tradition showing respect for the deceased. Stern's brother Natan was also one of the Schindlerjuden in the procession.[9]


  1. ^ List of the Schindlerjuden, with Itzhak listed as "Stern, Isak"
  2. ^ a b c Steinhouse, Herbert (1994). "The Real Oskar Schindler". Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  3. ^ a b c d Crowe, David M. (2007). Oskar Schindler : the untold account of his life, wartime activities, and the true story behind the list. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465002535. OCLC 85829223.
  4. ^ a b O'Neil, Robin (2010). Oskar Schindler : stepping stone to life : a reconstruction of the Schindler story. League City, Texas: ISBN 9780984594313. OCLC 841094409.
  5. ^ "Testimony of Yitzhak Stern: Yitzhak Stern, May 1962, at a meeting of Schindler's survivors with their rescuer in Israel". Yad Vashem. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Crowe 2004, p. 100.
  7. ^ Crowe 2004, pp. 107–108.
  8. ^ Crowe 2004, p. 101.
  9. ^ a b "The Real Oskar Schindler". Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  10. ^ Pemper, Mieczysław (2008). The road to rescue : the untold story of Schindler's list. With: Viktoria Hertling, Marie Elisabeth Müller, David Dollenmayer (First softcover ed.). New York: Other Press. ISBN 9781590514948. OCLC 707968457.