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Journal Article

Fritz Stern (1926–2016)


Ertl,  Gerhard
Physical Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Friedrich,  Bretislav
Molecular Physics, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Ertl, G., & Friedrich, B. (2016). Fritz Stern (1926–2016). Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 55(33), 9470-9471. doi:10.1002/anie.201605519.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-BDF8-C
Well respected in America and beyond, but a household name in Germany, not least because of his published conversations with former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Fritz Stern dedicated his life's work to the study of the cultural history—a blending of intellectual and political history—of modern Germany and Europe. “Why and how did the universal human potential for evil become an actuality in Germany?” was the “burning question” he sought to answer and the “fragility of freedom” was, as he put it, “the simplest and deepest lesson of [his] life.” Apart from studying history, Fritz Stern also made history, when he advised the British Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher) on German reunification, or the American Ambassador to reunified Germany (Richard Holbrook) shortly after the “fifth Germany” that Stern had known came about (unless otherwise noted, the quotes herein are taken from Fritz Stern's autobiography entitled Five Germanys I have Known). Fritz Stern's insights into the workings of both liberalism and illiberalism were based on his profound historical case studies of politics and finance during the “long” 19th century that also encompassed little-known ideologues involved in preparing the soil for the rise of Nazism and its anti-Semitism. Well aware that Germany's rise to preeminence on the world stage following the unification of 1871 was rooted in its scientific-technological culture, Fritz Stern created a portrait gallery of the key protagonists of that “age of genius”: Paul Ehrlich, Albert Einstein, Fritz Haber, Max Planck, Walter Rathenau, Chaim Weizmann. These portraits were drawn with a personal touch, enabled by Fritz Stern's family lineage.