German Personal Experiences: Stephen Muller (1927- )

Figure 1.--Here we see Steven Muller in a film set in Stalingrad during the height of the NAZI onslaught against Russia. The film was "The Boy From Stalingrad." Here I think Scotty Beckett is the boy with the bayonet (Pavel). Stephen Muller is the boy standing up (Tommy). I'm not sure who the boy with the rifle is. Steven's role of Tommy was an English boy. Ironically Steven was a German boy who was forced to flee his country because he was Jewish.

Steven Muller was born in Hamburg. He remembers a pleant early childhood, but this began to change when the NAZIs came to power. Other boys began calling him rude names. Former friends now in Hitler Youth uniforms beat him up on the way home from school. Hi father was arrested on Kristalnacht, but was later released. As his mother was a genile, authorities told his mother that if Steven and his brother were castrated, they could join the Hitler Youth and lead normal lives in Germany. The family managed to leave Germany only days before World War II began, after which exit was virtually impossible. Once in Britain, Steven and his brother were evacuaed with the other British children. Some of the boys wanted to fight when they found that Steven and his brother were Germans. Once in America, Steven was recruited to make movies, ironically because he had a British accent.

Before the NAZIs

Steven Muller was born in Hamburg. His German name was Stefan Müller. He was quite young, but all his early memoriesremembers a pleant early childhood. He remembers playing with other children in Hamburg's Isepark and boating on the Alster. He remembers a trip to Helgoland.

The NAZIS (1933)

Stephen's pleasant childhood began to change when the NAZIs came to power (January 1933). He remembers the vicious anti-Semetic propaganda in the newspapers and on the radio. Other children no longer wanted to play with him and his brother. Boys began calling them rude names. Two boys with whom he had been friendly with, now in Hitler Youth uniforms, waylaid beat him up on the way home from school and beat him up. He had a scar under his eyebrow for life where one boy kicked him in the head. We have noted other such accounts from German Jewish boys. What we do not have is accounts from the German boys in the Hitler Youth, at least accounts known to us. We wonder if these attacks were spontaneous or if there was any organized effort on the part of the HJ. Certainly the anti-Semitic doctrine they were taught inspired such asaults. We wonder if attacks were disccussed or planned at HJ meetings. Here we just do not know. Almost certainly, German boys with Jewissh friends would be taunted or reprimanded at HJ meetings. Unfortunately we know of no published accounts addressing this subject. Many Jews were leaving Germany. Steven's father was reluctant to leave because his mother was in ill health. By the time he decided, it was increasingly difficult to get the needed visas from America or other countries.

German Jews

We do not have a lot of information on the family's experiences during NAZI rule. Most Germans lost their jobs and were reduced to poverty. They were subjected to a range of indignities. The Nuremnerg Laws took away their German citzenship. Children were asaulted in the schools and finally expelled. They were banned from parks and other public facilities. More detailed information on the experience of German Jews is archived here.

Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938)

When NAZI mobs attacked Synagogues and Jewish shops and homes on Kristallnacht, Stefan and his brother were in a Talmud Torah School. When they got home, they found their father had been arrested. For a few days they had no idea what happened to him, then they learned he was at Oranienburg Concentation Camp. This was a very stressful time. They listed to BBC broadcasts, a crime at the time for which they could have been arrested. Several months later someone, the family never knew who, got his father out of Oranienburg. He was warned to leave Germany as soon as possible and after a brief reunion did so. His mother died of cancer shortly after. He went to work trying to get a visa for hs family still in Germany.

NAZI Eugenics

His mother was raised a Catholic and I assume was a gentile, authorities told his mother that since her Jewish husband was gone, she now qualified for Aryan status. The boys would be Mischlings. She was told that if Steven and his brother were sterilized, they could join the Hitler Youth, attend public schools, and lead normal lives in Germany. The sterilization would of course make sure that they could not pass on Jewish blood. The NAZIs had a major eugenics program. Thosands of handicapped people were subjected to compulsory sterilization. The children of French African soldiers which participated in the occupation of the Saar and other areas were also often sterilized. I do not think that the Heredity Courts often ordered the sterilization of Jews, but apparently some officicials were trying to sterilize Mischings. Here the orders were apparently not compulsory. Stefan was about 12 years old at the time. He and his brother rejected the idea and ther mother agreed. I am not sure just what government agency made the offer and to what extent it was a nationasl policy. Te NAZIs set up racial courts which assessed handicapped children, many of which were sterilized. The offer may have come from one of these courts.

Exit from Germany (August 1939)

The family managed to leave Germany only days before World War II began, after which exit was virtually impossible. The visas arrived in July and the Mullers flew from Hamburg to London (August 12). The NAZIs in 1939 even before the War had begun to limit Jewish immigration. Once the War began (September 1), escape was virtually impossible.

England (1939-40)

Once in Britain, the boys began school (September 2). Two days later Steven and his brother were evacuated with the other British children. The British fearing Luftwaffe attacks caried out once of the largest civilian evacuastions in history. Parents were given te option and most in London and other large cities decided to evacuate the children which was done through the schools. Stefan and his brother at the time still spoke no English. Some of the boys wanted to fight when they found that Steven and his brother were Germans. They were evacuated to Chesham in Buckinghamshre. At that location, the residebnts were able to pick over the children to select who they wanted. Apparenntly no one wanted two German boys who spoke no English. Finally they were given to the German master at the Chesire School. There they quickly learned English complelte with an English accent.

America and Hollywood (1940-48)

There father obtained American visas (April 1940) abnd they were soon in the United States. The Immigraion Offucer on Ellis Island advised Steven's father that the "two little dits" are not used in Ammerica and that Sefan was Steven in English. Thus the family named were changed. Once in America, their father opened a candy store, but this had to be given up after Pearl Harbor when sugar was ratined. Money was tight. The boy's sold magazines. Once screen writer heard Steven's English accent and thought he would be good for the part of a midshioman in a Horatio Hornblower film. Steven was recruited to make movies. He was in seven Hollywood movies, several of which are quite well known and featured major Hollywood stars. . In his first film he was the younger David in "Adam Had Four Sons" (1941) with Ingrid Bergman. He was one of the boys in "How Green Was My Valley" (1941). I'm not sure which boy he played. He was also in "The Tuttles of Tahiti" (194?). Steven had a major role in "The Boy from Stalingrad" (1943) with Skotty Beckett, but unfortunately the film was never released. He played Gerhand in "White Cliffs of Dover" (1944). He played Hellwig in "The Seventh Cross" (1944) which starred. He also played in "Above Suspision" with Joan Crawford. Besides Hollywood film, Steven was in radio prorams like "The Hollywwod Smarty Party" and radio dramas such as Orson Wells and John Houseman's "Mercury Theater of the Air".

Return to Germany (December 1949-January 1950)

Several years after the War, he visited Hamburg during at academic break at Oxford. He was apauled by the devestation. Somehow he managed to finf his childhood teddybear and toy soldiers as well as some family photographs. He cried ver these momentos of his broken childhood. He looked his mother's hairdresser. He had played with her son as a boy. He was there when he visuted. He had been taken as a POW by the Soviets and had jus managed to get back to Germany. He was Seven's age, but his hair had turned white and he was mentally unbalanced. Steven writes that his bitterness toward the Germans disolved during that trip.

Adult Life

Muller graduated from UCLA (1948) and then studied in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar where he earned his degree in politics (1951). He was awarded a Ph.D. by Cornell (1958). He also served in the U.S. Army. He persued an academic career in international studies at Cornell. He was appointed president of John Hopkins University and has received many academic and humanitarian awards.


Muller, Steven. From Hitler's Hamburg to Hollywood: Growing Up in Germany,"


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Created: 3:28 AM 9/22/2004
Last updated: 7:20 PM 9/23/2004