The Stermers

by Arthur from Montreal

The Stermer Family (National Geographic)
The Stermer Family (National Geographic)

What is a hero? To most, a hero is someone famous, rich or powerful, like the president or a great sports legend, but are these people really heroes? To me, a hero is not necessarily someone famous, but an ordinary person who puts him or herself in harm’s way for another individual. We all have a hero in us. We just have to find it. From the peasant to the Harvard graduate, anyone can be a hero. A hero is someone who has the will to survive under the most life-threatening conditions. To me, the perfect example of heroes and heroines are quite simply “The Stermers.”

Priest's Grotto (National Geographic)
Priest's Grotto (National Geographic)

The Stermers lived during a unique time. They were born in Korolowka, Poland in the 20th century. Jews and Gentiles lived there together in peace until Adolph Hitler slowly gained power. A war broke out, a war which was one of the largest, most infamous wars ever known to man. It was a war where a certain race killed all those who were different in order to create one “Utopian” race, the Aryan race.

The Stermers, like many other holocaust survivors, have many incredible stories to tell. October 12, 1942, was the night the Stermers finally dug up their possesions and left. The streets were quiet. Mr. and Mrs. Stermer and their six children left on their journey. They reached a small hole in the ground called Priest’s Grotto, which would be their new home for the next little while. The Stermers miraculously survived under unique conditions. They lived in a cave. Yes, for the majority of the war, they miraculously managed to survive for years, living underground, despite the lack of food and water. They would only go out in the middle of the night and get whatever they could find such as ducks and vegetables, which they would get from farms. Some days they would cry themselves to sleep with empty stomachs.

After the holocaust, when the Stermers were on a boat heading for Canada, they met a young couple, my grandparents. They became good friends because they all spoke Yiddish and had a similar background (my grandparents were also holocaust survivors). When they all got off the boat, they vowed to keep in touch. To this day, although my grandparents are no longer alive, my parents still keep in touch with the Stermers.

My heroes and heroines made a difference by surviving the holocaust and continuing many Jewish traditions and never losing faith. The Stermers are very important to me because they remained strong when many others gave up. They are great role models for me and the rest of the Jewish people in the world because they stayed together as a family and they had the will to survive despite the horrible, deliberate and systematic destruction of the Jewish race.

Page created on 5/24/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/8/2018 11:58:49 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Learn more about the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority - Learn more about the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel.
National Geographic, Off the Face of the Earth - More details about the Stermer's Story on the National Geographic website.
National Geographic, Jews Evaded Nazis by Living in Cave for Nearly 2 Years - More details about the Stermer's Story and Priest Grotto on the National Geographic website.