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April 19th, 2002
Former Milwaukeean Ernst Herf died April 1 in Tucson, Ariz. He was 92.
He was born in Wehrstadt, a small town in Germany. He worked at a bank in Stuttgart until 1937 when he was forced to leave as a result of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws. He, his brother Adolf and sister-in-law Margaret came to Milwaukee that year. Their mother Clara joined them in 1939, having taken one of the last ships available to German Jews before the outbreak of World War II.
Herf served in the U.S. Army in World War II as an intelligence officer from 1941-45 dealing with German prisoners of war held in Camp Walters in Texas. The experience left him with a belief both that Nazi ideology had indeed diffused into the German army, but also that a minority of German soldiers had become disillusioned with the regime and its beliefs, said his son Jeffrey Herf of Silver Spring, Md., and Chicago.
After his discharge, he lived briefly in New York, and then returned to Milwaukee. In the 1950s he became an employee of Aldrich Chemical Company and stayed with the firms accounting and bookkeeping department until he retired in the mid 1970s.
In retirement his great passions were his family and friends, classical music and opera, literature and art. A man of taste and refinement, his son added, he remained attached to the humanist culture of German Jewry and its legacies in American immigration. He raised the memory of the Holocaust long before it was common to do so.
In addition to his son, he is survived by daughter Ellen Sibbles of Tucson, and two grandchildren.
Funeral services were held April 5 in Milwaukee.