Former Freeport dignitary was there the ‘Night of the Broken Glass'

photos provided Freeport native Robert Harlan, a career diplomat for the U.S. Foreign Service, returned to the community with his wife, Lois, in 1979, and was known in the area for his activism in the community.

By Harriett Gustason

The Journal-Standard

Part One

Bob Harlan's 30-year career in the diplomatic branch of the U.S. Foreign Service may have had its incentive in a youthful experience. A very dramatic story a young Harlan wrote about his connections with a Jewish family in Germany just prior to World War II presents a first-person perspective of the way things were.

Bob's widow, Lois Harlan of Freeport, despite her late husband's contention that his story was nothing of great value, has kept the story, believing in its humanitarian and historic merit.

Lois wondered if it might be anything we might want for this column. But she asked that I read it all before I decided. I did, and there was no question in my mind. It is an unusual story of the plight of a Jewish couple who offered hospitality to this American college student, and how he reciprocated when they faced danger and crisis. It is a lengthy story, so it will be offered in several consecutive parts. Lois Harlan introduced her husband's story as follows:

Bob was an exchange student in Germany just before World War II, in 1938-'39. He went over by freighter. It sailed from a little village along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. In Hamburg he bought a bike and youth-hostelled down to Munich, where he and other exchange students had six weeks of orientation and German language training before they went off to their various universities.

Bob was in Marburg, Germany, at Philipps-Universitat, in November of 1938 when Kristallnacht took place on Nov. 10.”

Kristallnacht, translated “night of the broken glass,” took place over the night of Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, and marks the outbreak of violence and destruction by the Nazis against the Jews. Synagogues, homes and businesses were destroyed.

Bob Harlan decided not to write home about that event and his experience in connection with it, Lois says, because letters were often opened. But the next summer, after he had returned to the USA, he wrote an account of it.

Lois said her husband hadn't thought his story worth keeping, but she disagreed. And so here it is; see what you think.

By Robert Harlan


This story is not written with any pretense of literary artistry. It is intended as the setting forth of the true story of a couple I chanced to meet when, by the grace of God ... I spent some months in Germany as an exchange student.

My first meeting with them was intended as a passing call - an afternoon's visit - but it ended as a ten-day stay. With the help of a German lad, a Youth Hostel acquaintance, I had sent them a card some days before, telling them when I expected to be passing through Wurzburg, and explaining that I was writing at the behest of their son, whom I had known in America and who wanted me to look them up.

It was on Tuesday I expected to see them, and on Monday I found myself in Frankfurt, sixty-five miles away. I had been warned that the Frankfurt, Wurzburg route, was an arduous one, but I - by then quite smug about my six days' cycling experience - felt myself equal to anything the contour of central Germany might have to offer, and thought little of it. I didn't know that I'd be struggling to the point of exhaustion with hills, and mud, and rain, and hills, and mud, and rain, and road repairs and repairers all over the place, and an agonizing amount of that horrible Gegenwind which blasts into your face until you feel like giving up in utter despair, or radically changing your plans so that you can get where you want to go with the wind instead of eternally against it. I didn't know - but I soon learned!

As a result I wobbled into Wurzburg some three or four hours behind schedule, mud-bespattered and wearing a fetching pair of ragged, striped seersucker pants thoroughly drenched. (I wore them for bad weather and later discovered they attracted so much attention because of their striking similarity to the model worn in German prisons.) And very tired! Tired far beyond the point of lucidity, so that when I couldn't find the Youth Hostel where I'd meant to clean up, I decided, ‘What the Hell ? I'll go and see these people now and get it over with, and then find a good hotel.'

So you can imagine what a figure I must have cut when I finally staggered soggily up with my well soaked bike and pack to the garden gate of their little summer home high on a hill (it would be) above the river Main. I jangled the bell. In a moment Frau Stern appeared, bustling down the garden path. When she saw me she sort of p-a-u-s-e-d, smiled bewilderedly, and asked if I really were who she thought I might be.

I admitted my identity. Then, without so much as blinking, she summed up the situation, led me into the yard, showed me where to dump my stuff, took me into the house and straight into the bathroom where my eyes fell upon the most beautiful tub imaginable. It was actually the first real bathtub I'd seen since leaving Montreal. Frau Stern even started the hot water. Its delightfully steamy splash was the music of angels to my tired grimy ears. Then she ushered me upstairs and showed me a little room containing a soft bed with nice clean sheets and with a view looking out across the river valley. It was to be my room, she said.

Maybe, had I not been so utterly weary, I'd have objected - although I doubt it. As it was I just stood there, dumbly - completely flabbergasted, not having the slightest idea what to say. So I guess I just didn't say anything, and Frau Stern trotted off, leaving me to myself, which was about all I could handle for the time being.

The next half hour or so I soaked in that wonderful hot water, and scrubbed, and finally emerged feeling halfway respectable. I even shaved. Then slipping into my semi-clean clothes which I kept neatly wadded in my Rucksack for just such emergencies, I rather sheepishly wandered into the livingroom, where I found my hostess and a friend (her English teacher, Miss Schwartz) having late afternoon coffee and cake.

Not having consumed anything substantial since breakfast in the dim dark past, I must have been slightly on the ravenous side. But I thought I handled myself with admirable restraint when they invited me to join them. (Some time later, however, Frau Stern confessed to me that she had never seen so rapid a disappearance of so many cakes all at the hands of one person. Hence it may be that my delicacy was not all I had thought it to be.) Between my bites we chatted haltingly about my trip from America to Wurzburg. My German was extremely tottery, but I could blurt out things like Montreal, Canada - freighter - fourteen days - Hamburg, and all the names of the towns between Hamburg and Wurzburg. Besides their English was fluent.

In no time at all it was dinner time, and there I made my first acquaintance with Herr Doktor Stern. He was a tall, powerful man in his sixties, apparently in the pink of condition. Partner in an excellent law firm, at one time a prominent member of the city council, he must have been even then a highly respected member of his community. Almost as soon as we met he said to me, almost defiantly, proudly, and with a simplicity of language that even I could understand, ‘Herr Harlan, we are Jews. The present government is not friendly to the Jewish people. Perhaps it would be better if you went on. We would like very much for you to stay, but we will understand perfectly if you wish to leave.' I didn't hesitate, I won't pretend I was heroic about it, but I stayed. Who was I to pass up such a chance for free room and board par excellence, to say nothing of an unequalled opportunity to see and hear and learn how this internal situation in Germany appeared when viewed from the other side?

The dinner that evening was delicious - one of a series of similarly delicious dinners. Fraulein, their cook and general housekeeper, could really turn out the meals. She, of the purest of ‘Aryan' strains, was devoted beyond reason to this family of hers with whom she'd been some thirty-odd years. (Her name was Anna Weingartner, and she had been the children's nanny.) As a result of this deep devotion, nearly all of the eight months I knew her she spent in the depths of sorrow and despair. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

Shortly after dinner, I headed upstairs to bed, at the kind suggestion of the head of the house, to which I gratefully acquiesced; and probably the last thing I did that night after crawling between those cool clean sheets was to sigh a tremendous sigh of contentment, scrawl in that day's journal, ‘It's wonderful', switch out the light, and sink into the arms of Morpheus, so to remain for some twelve hours or so.'”

As the story continues next week, we'll see how this young man from Freeport dealt with the danger facing this Jewish family in 1938 Germany.

1938: Freeport man caught in Nazi intrigue

photos provided Wurzburg, Germany, was a bustling city in 1938 when Robert “Bob” Harlan went there to visit the parents of a friend he'd made in the United States. His 10-day stay with the couple was at their summer home which was in the section of the city in the photo's foreground. The couple spent winters in an apartment in the inner city seen at the top of the photo.

By Harriett Gustason

The Journal-Standard

Part II

This is a story the late Robert Harlan wrote about the winter of 1938-'39 which he spent as a university student in Marburg, Germany, when the Nazi party was charging into its reign of terror. Harlan wrote the story the next summer after returning home to Freeport. His wife, Lois Harlan, said Bob spent the summer “shoveling peas” at Freeport's Keene Canning Co. Robert Harlan's life took him on to a 30-year career in diplomacy for the United States government.

Part I was Harlan's account of meeting the Jewish parents of a friend he had in the United States, and of his learning of the couple's precarious situation. As the episode continues, the 20-year-old Harlan is exposed to the horrors of Kristallnacht, the Nazi storm troopers' raging “night of the broken glass.” On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi troops went about Germany destroying Jewish temples, businesses and homes. All night long, the shattering of glass was heard in cities throughout the land.

Herr Doktor and Frau Stern opened their home in Wurzburg, Germany, to the young Harlan, who had pedaled miles to their home intending only to spend an afternoon with them delivering greetings from their son in the United States. Harlan stayed with the Sterns for 10 days. His story continues:

Then followed ten days of unmitigated loafing, made more pleasurable by dashes of desultory sight-seeing and leisurely hiking and biking out into the countryside. My companion during these days was more often than not Bruno, a cousin of Frau Stern. He was a man of about forty, owner of a once thriving factory which, however, at that time was confined wholly to the manufacture of so-called ‘family boxes.' These were tremendous piano-case-like things, used to transport all the worldly possessions of those Jewish families then fortunate enough to be able to emigrate. Bruno had served in the German army and had spent some time in an English prison camp, so every now and then he'd blurt out some cockney phrase. Once he told me that after his release by the English he had returned to Germany to serve some more, ‘like a bloody fool' - because now all that was forgotten.

During the daytime when I wasn't sleeping or eating or meandering around in some out-of-the-way place, I was studying German with the help of Frau Stern. Under her tutelage I even translated a simple little English book into German. And in the evenings there were long and interesting conversations with Herr Doktor Stern, who, in addition to knowing his law, seemed to be well informed in most other fields. He always had an apt quotation of Goethe to fit the occasion, whatever it might be. His knowledge of French was excellent, and whenever he'd try to speak English, it would always come out in French. so I had an opportunity to not understand French as well as German. One night we celebrated Bruno's birthday with a bottle of wine that had been collecting cobwebs in the cellar ever since a wedding anniversary years before. That, too, was most pleasant.

But on the last day of my stay all this pleasantness was marred by a communication received by Herr Doktor Stern at his office. Let me refer to my diary for Wednesday, September 7, 1938. It runs: ‘These are the contents, roughly translated and approximately remembered, of a note I read this morning.'

You must sell your house. As you know, the name of the purchaser and the purchase price must be reported to me. Since I already have a possible buyer in mind, you will report at my office in the near future. If you do not do as I ask, I may be forced to take further steps.

The sender, some petty official. The recipient, a prominent lawyer, once regarded as a leading citizen, formerly holder of several important and honored municipal positions, winner of numerous military honors during the war, and extremely able, educated and cultured gentleman. It was with the contents of that foreboding note ringing in my ears that I pedalled away next morning, heading south for Munich and Gemutlichkeit.

Both of which I found - and found to be far beyond even my expectations. What a time! But that's another story. During my stay in Munich I saw the Sterns only once, one weekend when they came to Munich to see a specialist concerning the advisability of an operation. They had been in the mountains ‘roughing it' when Doktor Stern fell victim to some sort of an attack and suffered for ten hours or more before medical aid could be obtained. However, the Munich diagnostician found an operation inexpedient, prescribing only rest and a special diet. But that did not prevent us from having a luscious dinner in the Schwarzwald, then one of Munich's finer wine restaurants, and a pleasant evening together afterwords.

A month later I saw them again - this time on my way from Munich to Marburg to settle down for the winter semester. They treated me to a gay luncheon in their apartment, which was downtown and connected to Herr Doktor's suite of offices. Then I accompanied Frau Stern on a shopping tour. There I made a ‘pleasant' discovery as to the tax placed on all purchases by Jews. Its computation was simple: Just double the regular price! The shopping finished, we returned for coffee and cake before I continued on my way. (They wanted me to stay for dinner and overnight too!) As the last tasty morsels of our afternoon snack disappeared, Frau Stern told me, rather grimly, that they had not sold their house as requested, but that on Monday (this was Friday) they had been informed that the price and buyer had been determined, and on Tuesday their lovely home had left their hands! And Doktor Stern had been notified -- as were all other Jewish members of the legal profession, I later discovered - to attend to any unfinished business he might have in contemplation of the closing of his office on December 1st. (It was then early October.) And yet they could still smile!

Well, feeling anything but happy about the plight of my friends, but not knowing what, if anything, I could do about it I took my leave and journeyed on to Marburg, not knowing when I would see them again.

Just a month later, on Friday, November 11th, a telegram from Wurzburg shocked me from my complacency. It was written in the - to me - illegible German script of the Marburg telegraph operator, and I needed the assistance of my landlady even to understand its content in German. Translated into English it read: ‘Please come at once to William's mother.' (William being the family son I'd known in America.) Neither of us, my landlady or myself, knew what it meant, completely uninformed as we were. I only knew something terrible must have happened. The day before, the Marburg synagogue had burned down, but the general feeling in Marburg seemed to be that it was an accident. It was not even in the paper. And the day before that, von Rath, a member of the German Embassy in Paris who had been shot by a Jewish refugee, had died. For some reason I failed at that time to connect these three events - the death, the fire, and the telegram - or if I did it was only hazily.

But, knowing something must be very wrong, I boarded the first train for Wurzburg and spent the next three or four hours brooding and wondering desperately what action I could possibly take, confronted as I should be with the various uncomfortable but very real problems which might have arisen. I reached my destination with no possible plan of action in mind.

It was about ten in the evening. As I stood there, blinking uncertainly into the platform lights, a stranger stepped out of the shadows and asked me, in English if I were Mr. Harlan. My identity determined, she began to speak to me rapidly, in a very low voice in something like English, little of which I understood. I was supposed to go with her and ‘everything was gone, everything was ruined.' More than this the poor overwrought girl could not tell me, try as she would. With this enlightening bit of information to mull over, I hurried along with her. Suddenly we ducked into a dark courtyard, and then into a darkened building. We entered a second-floor apartment. There I found Frau Doktor Stern, weeping, almost at wit's end, but still struggling desperately to plan ahead. Her relief at seeing me, her ‘Schultz,' her protection, by reason of my invaluable American citizenship, was pathetically obvious. Her husband had been taken away the night before, she sobbed, and their home ransacked. After the first plundering she had slipped out and over to this apartment of a relative, but Fraulein (their cook and housekeeper) had remained, and ‘they' had come again.

But (Frau Stern's) husband was gone! Her home was gone! What was she to do? What could I do? Feeling helpless but knowing that something must be done, if only to calm this frantic woman, I began to formulate telegrams and cables with her. She had three sons in America, one of them about to become a citizen. There was her ray of hope. If definite evidence as to Doktor and Frau Stern's certain departure from Germany could be secured the treatment accorded them would doubtless be less harsh. Cables followed and even a transatlantic telephone call. Poor Bill in Chicago must have suffered - knowing only that his parents were in dire trouble, but he knew not what! Of course nothing substantial resulted that night, nothing except a very important lessening of nervous tension. Enough so that exhausted Frau Dr. finally fell asleep.”

What happens next to Doktor and Frau Stern? Next week we'll once again take up Robert Harlan's suspenseful story.

Family escapes with Harlan's help

photos provided The university which the late Robert “Bob” Harlan attended in Germany in 1938-'39 was located in Marburg pictured above. The inset shows the home of Dr. H. Wiedemann, where Harlan rented a room.

By Harriett Gustason

The Journal-Standard

Part III

Here is the conclusion of a story, written in 1939 by the late Robert Harlan of his befriending a German Jewish couple at the onset of the Holocaust. Harlan, a Freeport native, went to Marburg, Germany, in 1938 as an exchange student at the university there. He wrote the story in 1939 after returning home to Freeport. Harlan went on to spend 30 years in the diplomatic corps of the U.S. Foreign Service.

We left Dr. Bruno and Frau Stern fearfully seeking escape to the United States. The young Harlan was helping them contact their son in America by “cables and transatlantic telephone calls.”

Next morning, in the comforting protection of the light of day, we went to the Sterns' apartment. Fraulein met us at the door, still dumb with terror. Her ensuing exhausted relief at seeing me was anguishing in that I was again fully aware of how utterly helpless and powerless I was to do anything beyond trying to buck them up. Maybe that was enough. Anyway, as might have been expected, the two women on seeing each other broke down again and fell weeping into each other's arms. As they had their cry I wandered from room to room, surveying the desolate scene, noting the damage that had been done.

Never had I seen such methodic diabolic destruction. Every door was smashed, the furniture splintered to nothing, each picture ripped from the wall and torn from its frame; books emptied out of bookcases, torn and despoiled; dishes tossed and crashed in all directions; mirrors shattered systematically; the wonderful grandfather's clock, generations old, crushed upon its face; only the kitchen and Fraulein's room left intact. Subsequently we found three of the 'mord' instruments - instruments of death - thick iron rods with heavy knobs on one end, admirably designed for their purpose of destruction.

Later, when the eyes were drier, we began to try to restore the place to some semblance of order. Frau Dr.'s indomitable spirit began to rise. Once, when I was off in another room, I heard a sudden cry, ‘Bob, come here quick!' and hurried to find her wrestling with a table she'd bumped against and remarking with dry humor (but damp eyes - I didn't see a dry one all week-end), ‘I am not yet accustomed to tables with only three legs!' Soon other people began to appear, some of them idle curiosity hunters, empty-headed thrill seekers, but most of them friends. Some volunteer ‘Aryan' helpers who - for double pay, to be sure - helped clean up, prepared things for shipping away, and repaired those things still repairable; delivery boys from stores which, forbidden to sell to Jews who came in, would send supplies around; a little

12-year-old girl still in Hitler-Jugend uniform, sobbing she'd never belong again; and all day long other Jewish women in similar straits - all the men were gone - coming to Frau Stern for advice and getting it. And their gloom and tearful reports, disheartening as they were, did succeed in somewhat keeping her mind away from her own plight. In the evening a common acquaintance of ours came in with the comparatively glad tidings (this man had just been released) that the men were all right and their only sorrow was for their wives at home.

When Frau Stern left, I decided for some reason or other to remain overnight in the ransacked rooms. Maybe I wanted to save my hotel bill - or to see ‘what manner of men were these' - or to - well, anyway, nothing happened outside my getting nine hours of good sleep, jittery or not. I was awakened by Frau Stern with a paper containing the news of the ‘punishment' that had been placed on the Jews of Germany for the murder of von Rath. The fine of a billion marks - and all the rest of the ‘laws'. The paper also contained reports of the ‘spontaneous uprisings' of the people in their ‘righteous wrath' all over the country, against the Jews. God! How revolting it was to read that! Those drunken marauders who had twice entered the Sterns' apartment to plunder and destroy had not even known the name of the owner at that address - knew only that it was one of ‘the addresses'. The S.A. (Brown Shirts) men who had been in the street outside and whose duty it supposedly was to forbid such things at the most had merely held in order the people down in the street who had been watching, laughing.

The only visitors we had that next day while I was there were two old Jewish spinsters who had been hunted from their village and had spent the night huddled together in a cellar. They were terrified. Frau Stern quieted their fears and made some provision for their immediate welfare. (She had been head of the German Red Cross in Wurzburg.)

Meanwhile I hurried over to see Dr. Stern's law partner, a much older man than he, who had been left unmolested. But the poor old fellow was utterly demoralized, not knowing which way to turn. ‘At least,' he sighed ‘the Sterns have hopes of getting to America - but what have I?' Such was the spirit of utter hopelessness so common to the Jews of Germany in those dreadful days. And subsequently, when their spirits rose and they proceeded to make the best of what they had left, they would rise only to be beaten down again by some shattering and merciless blow.

But there were a fortunate few! Hoping against hope that the Sterns, by reason of their son's approaching American citizenship, might join these, I left Frau Stern with the advice to keep in touch with the nearest American Consulate and the promise that I would write the consulate myself. Empty words, I thought, but some small consolation and cheer, perhaps. I left because I felt that what little I could do had been done and because I wished to avoid the personal registration with the police, necessary for a stay of more than three days in any German city, town or village.

Less than two weeks had passed, however, before I was on the go again - this time to Stuttgart for a visit to the American Consulate there. A visit which I expected to be futile but educational. It was. This Consulate at that time handled - or, better, tried to handle - all of the applications for emigration to America from the greater part of Germany. The sight that met my eyes that morning as I entered the building, from the second story of which Old Glory was so proudly waving, was far from encouraging. The stairway, from top to bottom, was filled with faces, patient, waiting faces, eager yet despairing, hopeful yet distrustful, waiting, hoping, waiting. And I knew even then that for most of them, with very few exceptions, America was at least four years distant. There were simply too many thousands of applications ahead of them. By virtue of my American passport, which I flashed to the first official I could catch hurrying by, I was allowed to struggle in his wake, with the aproach of those many eyes uncomfortably on my back, until finally I burst into the office proper. There again - a large room, filled with people, waiting, waiting! Eventually through the good graces of one of the office workers I happened to know, I was able to see one of the harassed over-worked vice-consuls. He told me what I already knew: there was naught the Sterns could do for the time being but wait their turn. However, as soon as their son received his final papers they could get a visa. And that was that!

Just to be thorough about the whole thing I decided to wander past the English Consulate and see what was doing there. I found an empty office - they were not accepting many if any applications at that time. And I found the consul's secretary. The consul himself was apparently enjoying an English weekend. The secretary brought to light an as yet unconsidered means of escape. It would be perfectly possible for the Sterns to get a transit visa to England if they could show convincing proof that they would be proceeding elsewhere in a few months and that they would not be public charges while there. Since the Sterns had friends in England this looked like a mighty good bet to me, and I rushed to telephone Frau Dr. the good news. She was not at home, however, but I imparted to Herr Justizrat Haas, her husband's partner, as much as I could and told him I'd be there on the morrow.

Next day I reached Wurzburg without difficulty and there found an exceedingly happy Frau Stern. For good reason. That very day her husband had been released. I found him painfully aware of his cropped head and prison pallor, still bewildered and struggling, trying to realize what he had believed impossible - that a man who had fought for his Fatherland, who had spent much of his life in its service, could be so cruelly treated by that same Fatherland. The cruelty in his case had consisted mainly of that most excruciating type of torture which is purely mental. He and the men in his group, over half of them professional men, had not been tortured or otherwise violently mistreated. But there were 2,000 men in a barracks - no beds, no soap, seldom any water, no linens, and meager food rations (on Sundays only coffee, not even a piece of bread!). The latrine conditions were indescribable. They had received no news from the outside world and had had no idea what had happened to their families. That very day he had suddenly been informed that he was to go home. He did not know how long he would be allowed to remain free. It was only during this period, I believe, that he finally resolved to make serious plans to leave his beloved native land, home of all he cared for most, and to try to establish a new home and life thousands of miles away in a strange country, speaking a strange language, among a strange people.

My good news about England was of course dwarfed into temporary insignificance by the dramatic return of Dr. Stern, but it was not forgotten. It was only a matter of days before the Sterns received word from the British Consulate that a visa was available for them. This promptness was due in part to the very kind and generous efforts of the parents of a young English girl the Sterns had entertained one summer. Then followed weeks of packing and shipping off as many of their worldly possessions as possible. (Permission to send these things could be obtained at a price and could be sent at a still greater price, subject to additional steep taxes. But as they could take only a nominal sum with them in any case, it was probably just as well that they got something for their money.) One day late in December I received a card mailed as they were departing for England, safe and sound. On the card was a sought-after stamp bearing the godlike features of that man of the people, Adolf Hitler.”

Harlan's story ends with a sigh of relief, but there is something more you should know. Next week we'll include a short, but touching postscript, added by the wife of this Freeport man to her husband's first-person brush with history.

A story ends well, and some military memories

photos provided Bob Harlan, left, poses with Frau Frida and Dr. Bruno Stern when in April 1946, Harlan and his wife, Lois, visited the Sterns at their home in State College, Pa. Bob had assisted the Sterns in their escape from Germany as the Nazi seige of the Jews was gaining momentum. Harlan was in the process of being discharged from the Army. The two couples were sight-seeing in the mountains near the Sterns' home.

By Harriett Gustason

The Journal-Standard

Last week we concluded the story the late Robert Harlan wrote in 1939 after his return to Freeport from Germany where he'd been a university exchange student. Harlan's story told of his interactions with a Jewish couple who were victim's of Adolph Hitler's Gestapo raids. He had helped them leave German for England. Many responses from interested readers have been received by both me and Harlan's widow, Lois Harlan of Freeport. Mrs. Harlan added the following heartwarming postscript to her husband's story.

Dr. Bruno and Frau Frida Stern, after a stay in England did finally reach the United States and were reunited with their sons. The couple settled down in State College, Pa., where their youngest son was completing his Ph.D. Dr. Stern found it very difficult to adjust to his new circumstances, for he still could not accept the fact that his beloved native country had rejected him.”

Stern had been a highly respected attorney and public official in the city of Wurzburg, Germany.

Frau Stern rallied, though,” Lois continues, “and decided they must make a new life for themselves. In a letter written to Bob by Dr. Stern in 1941, less than two years after their arrival in America, Frau Stern added a note. One of her sentences reads,

Ich versuche die Heimat zu vergessen und geniesse das Leben hier' (translated, ‘I am trying to forget my native homeland and finding great pleasure in the life here').

Frau Stern started what proved to be a successful small business, baking fine pastries, using many of the recipes their devoted Fraulein had used for them in their Wurzburg home.”

Lois Harlan said each Christmas Bob's mother anxiously awaited arrival of some of Frau Stern's delicious German Christmas cookies.

In 1946,” Lois says, “Bob and I drove to State College, Pa., to see them.” Lois has a snapshot taken of Bob and the Sterns on the day they took a drive through the mountains near the Sterns' home.

After World War II was over,” she said, “they both immersed themselves in helping friends back in Germany who were hungry and in difficult circumstances.”

These were non-Jewish friends, Lois emphasizes, as their Jewish friends were all gone. They sent help for many, including their former cook and her family, a clerk in Dr. Stern's law office and his boys, and Frau Stern's teacher of English, the Miss Schwartz mentioned in Bob's story.

Both Dr. Stern and his wife died in 1957, after 18 years in their new country.”

Lois Harlan said she and Bob were married in 1942, just before he was drafted into the Army and the Sterns sent them something “very special” as a wedding gift. It was “a charming small bronze figure of a little boy playing a flute, while lizards crawl at his feet.” It was engraved with the words, “‘Charmeur de Lizards, par Lavergne.' A lizard and part of the flute is missing,” Lois noted.

The precious bronze plaque, she says, “was one of the art pieces Bob had rescued from the living room floor after their apartment had suffered the terrible destruction of Kristallnacht. They knew he would remember it. As you can guess, I cherish it.”