John Stern: Neither "Inglourious" Nor "Basterd"

A filmmaker is exposing the world to the little-told story of Jewish Americans who banded together to fight Nazis during World War II.

No, the filmmaker is not Quentin Tarantino and the story is not the fictional one told in his film Inglourious Basterds, which not only won at the weekend box office but scored the largest debut in the illustrious director's career.

Documentary filmmaker Steven Karras' book The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II, which is scheduled to be released in October by Zenith Press, tells the true story of 27 German and Austrian Jews who really did join the Allies in fighting the Nazi occupation.

Among them was a future Orange County resident, John Stern. Stern, who was born in Marburg, Germany, in 1923, immigrated to the U.S. as World War II broke out and, after finishing high school in Oklahoma, joined the 100th Infantry Division, 397th Battalion, in fighting Nazis all over Europe. He was among those Karras began interviewing in 1999 for his documentary About Face: The Story of the Jewish Refugee Soldiers of WWII.

Now, a decade after his first interviews, Karras is spinning the same project into a book.

Why is that important?

"These stories counter the myth that all Jews went like lambs to the slaughter," Karras answers. "The individuals featured in The Enemy I Knew were without question the lucky few who were given this unprecedented change to exact justice from their former oppressors."

Actually, "a few" may be too modest. Americans counted half a million Jews among its military ranks, and there were thousands in the Great Britain and Soviet Union armies as well. Karras is therefore hopeful more such stories will come to the forefront. "I have always said that even in one of the darkest hours of the Jewish experience there is also triumph that needs to be equally explored."

Maybe ol' Quentin's got a sequel in him!


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