Former Wayne State Provost and Holocaust Survivor Guy Stern Has Died

The educator and World War II hero died on the 82nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor at 101 years old.
Dr. Stern and his wife. // Photograph courtesy of Wayne State University

Günther “Guy” Stern, Ph.D., holocaust survivor, war hero, and former provost at Wayne State University died on Dec. 7, 2023. He was 101.

Stern, who is Jewish, was born in Hildesheim, Germany on Jan. 14, 1922, and fled Nazi occupation with the help of an uncle, settling in St. Louis at the age of 15.

In 1943 he joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Ritchie Boys, a secret intelligence branch made up mostly of Jewish immigrants gathered more than 60% of the intelligence on the Western Front during World War II, and earned a Bronze Star for his method of mass interrogation.

After the war, he returned to his hometown to find that the city had been devastated by bombs and that his family, who he had tried to emigrate to the United States, had all perished in either the Warsaw Ghetto or Auschwitz concentration camp.

He would go on to become a leading scholar in German literature, joining faculties at Denison University, Colombia University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Maryland, and is credited with co-creating exile studies, which “highlights the contributions of authors, poets, playwright, and others who have been forced to leave the country of their birth.”

He joined the staff at Wayne State University as provost and vice president for academic affairs on Sept. 12, 1978. A year later, he founded the university’s Academy of Scholars, and 12 years later he became a professor in the Department of Romance and Germanic Languages and Literature.

He retired in 2003.

In addition to his academic and wartime achievements, Stern was also awarded honorary doctorate from Hofstra University, the Grand Order of Merit and the Goethe Medal from Germany, and the Knight of the Legion d’Honneur medal from the French Consul General in Detroit.

He was laid to rest during a private service with military honors at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

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