Leo star

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Leo Stern (actually Jonas Leib Stern ; born March 26, 1901 in Woloka near Czernowitz ; † January 2, 1982 in Halle / Saale ) was a communist and one of the most famous historians of the GDR . From 1953 to 1959 he was rector of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg .


From Bukovina to Vienna

Leo Stern was in 1901 in a village near Czernowitz in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire belonging Bukovina born as one of 12 children, including four sons, in a small-scale Jewish family. Two of his brothers, Manfred and Wolf , later also became communists. Manfred became known as General Kléber in the Spanish Civil War . Wolf took on important functions in the GDR.

After attending elementary school and grammar school in Chernivtsi, Stern passed his matriculation examination ( Matura ) in 1921 . While still at school he joined the Socialist Workers' Youth . In 1921 he went to Vienna, where he was registered from October 14 of the same year. There he enrolled as a Romanian citizen under the name Jonas Leib at the law and political science faculty of the Vienna University for the winter semester 1921/22. In the same year he joined the SPÖ . Stern studied law, economics and history. In 1923, Stern became an Austrian citizen. According to Stern, during his studies he was mainly influenced by Carl Grünberg , the founder of the archive for the history of socialism and the labor movement , Max Adler and Hans Kelsen . 1925 doctorate star with the dissertation The socio-economic and political foundations of mercantilism Dr. rer. pole. After receiving his doctorate, he taught at the Vienna Adult Education Center as a lecturer from 1927 to 1934, was an educational advisor for the free trade unions and worked from 1925 to 1932 as a research assistant at Max Adler. From 1925 to 1934, Stern also headed the Marxist Study Group at the social and economic department of Vienna University . Under the pseudonyms F. Schneider, L. Taylor and L. Hofmeister he published historical and political works in the magazines Der Kampf , Arbeit und Wirtschaft , Die Weltbühne and Internationale Rundschau . In 1928, Stern completed his studies with an Absolutorium . During this time he also worked on his habilitation with a thesis on the state theory of Marxism . During this phase of his life, Stern cooperated closely with Ernst Fischer on the left wing of the SPÖ. Stern took part in both the July revolt in 1927 and the Austrian Civil War in 1934, but here already as a member of the KPÖ , to which he had transferred in October 1933. This was preceded by the ideological and political break with Max Adler. As a result of the February fighting, Stern was arrested by the police on February 18, 1934, was initially taken into police custody and was imprisoned in the " Wöllersdorf detention camp " until July 15, 1934 . After his release, Stern worked in the agitation department of the KPÖ, after the party was banned, he worked illegally in the study library of the Vienna Chamber of Labor and was deputy head of the propaganda department of the KPÖ Central Committee.

Emigrant and officer in the Red Army

In October 1935, Stern emigrated to Czechoslovakia by decision of the KPÖ leadership. There he wrote another work on the left opposition in the SPÖ . In May 1936, by party decision, he again emigrated to the Soviet Union, which became his new home for a long time. Initially, Stern did not stay long in the Soviet Union. Residing in the famous Hotel Lux in Moscow , he worked as a lecturer at the International Lenin School and was an employee of the Comintern's press department . After completing basic military training, however, he was soon seconded to the International Brigades in Spain, in whose ranks he was from January 1937 to April 1938. After returning to Moscow, Stern worked until the end of 1939 at the Verlag für Internationale Literatur as editor of the classics of Marxism-Leninism . In June 1940 Stern was appointed professor of modern history at the Moscow University and the Moscow Pedagogical Institute by the director of the International Lenin School, where he worked until October 1941. The habilitation thesis, a work on the Catholicism of the present, could not be proven until today. Shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union began , Stern volunteered for the Red Army on July 7, 1941 . Before he came to the fighting force in Stalingrad in October 1942, Stern wrote a few lesson letters on Austrian history and the history of the Austrian labor movement for the Higher Party School in Kuschnarenkowo . He also participated together with Johann Koplenig in the creation of a committee for the Austrian freedom movement . From October 1942 until the surrender of the German troops on February 2, 1943, Stern took part in the Battle of Stalingrad . Until May 1943 he was assigned to the Southwest Front, in order to carry out special orders in the stage for the Soviet Information Office until September 1944. During this time, Stern was awarded the medal for bravery and promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Back in Austria

From September 1944, Stern joined the fighting force again and, as a member of the 3rd Ukrainian Front under Army General Tolbuchin , took part in the Vienna operation , not least because of his origins . Contrary to the Soviet line, Stern spoke out against reactivating Karl Renner as head of government, whom he had met as a staff officer of the 9th Guard Army. He saw himself in line with leading figures in the KPÖ such as Koplenig. As an officer, Stern obeyed the orders that were enforced by his superior, General Sheltow, and that Renner was charged with forming a government. Stern was demobilized in September 1945, but remained a member of the Soviet Control Commission. He vehemently advocated a union of the SPÖ and KPÖ, which, however, was politically not wanted by leaders of the KPÖ such as Fischer . From the summer semester of 1946, Stern gave guest lectures at the University of Vienna. Due to work overload and increasing criminalization of his person in Austria, along with anti-Semitic abuses and physical attacks, Stern initially ended his lectures in the summer semester of 1947. However, he remained visiting professor at the Vienna University of World Trade and worked on a research assignment from the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. An appointment as a professor in Halle (Saale) changed this situation.

In the DDR

In 1950, Stern followed a call from the state government of Saxony-Anhalt . With effect from March 1, 1950 he was appointed professor for modern history with special consideration of the labor movement at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. At the same time he became director of the Institute for German History at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg . His KPÖ membership was converted into an SED membership. As early as 1951, Stern was initially Vice-Rector, responsible for basic social science studies, but from the end of 1951 he represented the sick Rector. In 1952 he became a co-founder and co-editor of the Zeitschrift für Geschichtswwissenschaft . Finally in 1953 Stern was appointed rector of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg at the suggestion of the SED district leadership in Halle, into which he was co-opted in 1952 , which he remained until 1959. After Stern was proposed as a full member of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in 1952 , but this proposal was rejected, the election proposal of December 29, 1954 was successful. On February 24, 1955, Stern was elected a full member of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR. In 1956, he became head of department in their Institute for History. In 1959, as a result of internal party conflicts, Stern was deposed as rector and, in 1960, removed from the SED district leadership. As a member of the Advisory Council for History at the State Secretariat for Higher Education in the GDR and a member of the Academy of Sciences in the GDR, Stern's life remained busy. From 1963 to 1968 he was vice-president and chairman of the working group of social science institutes and facilities of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR. After that he was director of the Research Center for Academy History at the Academy of Sciences until 1981. In 1982 he died in Halle as one of the most important GDR historians of the 1950s.

Grave of the historian Leo Stern and his wife Alice, Halle (Saale), Gertraudenfriedhof.

In 1952 Conrad Felixmüller created a painting that shows Leo Stern writing at his desk with a fountain pen.

Orders and honors


  • Stern, Leo . In: Collegium Politicum at the University of Hamburg, Historiography Working Group (Hrsg.): Historians in Central Germany . Ferd. Dümmlers Verlag, Bonn / Hanover / Hamburg / Munich 1965, p. 90.
  • Star leo . In: Federal Ministry for All-German Issues (ed.): SBZ biography . Deutscher Bundes-Verlag, Berlin 1964, p. 341.
  • Helmut Meier (Ed.): Leo Stern (1901–1982): Antifascist, historian, university professor and science politician . trafo Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89626-370-6 .
  • Gerhard Oberkofler: The election of Leo Stern to the German Academy of Sciences (1955) . In: Mitteilungen der Alfred Klahr Gesellschaft , No. 1/1999 ( full text ).
  • Stern, Leo . In: Werner Hartkopf:The Berlin Academy of Sciences. Its members and award winners 1700–1990. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1992,ISBN 3-05-002153-5, p. 348.
  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk:  Leo Stern . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk : Legitimation of a new state. Party workers on the historical front. History in the Soviet Zone / GDR 1945 to 1961. Ch. Links, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-86153-130-5 .
  • Gerhard Oberkofler, Manfred Stern: Leo (Joans Leib) Stern. A life for solidarity, freedom and peace. StudienVerlag, Innsbruck 2019, ISBN 978-3-7065-5973-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Admissions letter of the municipal district office for the 9th district dated October 2, 1923, IX - 7333 from 1923 on the basis of the order of the Vienna magistrate, department 50, as a political state authority of September 20, 1923, M.Abt. 50 / III / 15872/1923.
  2. ^ National for the winter semester 1921/22 and doctor book of the Vienna Faculty of Law. Archive of the University of Vienna.
  3. Leo Stern's curriculum vitae from July 5, 1950. Academy Archive Berlin.
  4. Stern wrote to Eduard Rabofsky: Now I will tell you that in Hochwolkersdorf I was one of the political officers of the army staff who consistently and very reasonably took a position against the use of Renner. But after a few days, when a statement came directly from Moscow about my views, General Sheltov, the head of the political department of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, ordered me not to say another word about Renner from me. As a soldier, I have adhered to that to this day.
  5. http://www.klahrgesellschaft.at/Mitteilungen/Oberkofler_1_99.html Letter from Leo Stern to Karl Flanner from September 11, 1967, Academy Archive Berlin: When I came to the Central Committee in Vienna, however, some leading comrades, especially Ernst Fischer, opposed this association and immediately arranged for its dissolution. This with the illusionary expectation that in the upcoming elections the overwhelming majority (perhaps 60–70% of the workers) would vote communist anyway. It is therefore better that the SPÖ appear in all of its nullity in these elections. In reality, things turned out differently and in the end it was the basic mandate in Wiener Neustadt that enabled the KPÖ to enter parliament in the first place .
  6. ^ University archive Halle.
  7. Werner Hartkopf: The Academy of Sciences of the GDR. A contribution to their history. Berlin 1983, 390.