Refugee from Nazi Germany who served under Patton awarded Purple Heart posthumously
By WENDY RHODES | The Palm Beach Post, Fla. | Published: August 10, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Ludwig Stein was born on June 29, 1924.
That date is significant because had he been born two days later, he would never have been drafted into the U.S. Army.
He would never have served under Gen. George S. Patton, and he would have never been one of only 50 survivors — albeit impaled with shrapnel — of his initial 1,200-man battalion at the Battle of the Bulge,
Ten years after his death, Stein on Thursday posthumously received the Purple Heart, for which he was passed over in the confusion of the aftermath of World War II.
Congresswoman Lois Frankel presented the Purple Heart to Stein's wife, Anita, who was flanked by daughters Linda Solon, along with family members and friends, at an intimate ceremony at Anita Stein's Palm Beach home. It was a celebration that was a long time coming.
"This ceremony is indeed an honor for my late husband Larry, for me, for our family, and for the servicemen who fought for our country and made the extreme sacrifice," Anita Stein said through tears.
Her husband's story began in Germany, where his family suffered under Nazi rule.
Stein was 11 when Hitler first enacted anti-Jewish laws, and he was 14 when his father was almost beaten to death on Kristallnacht — a horrific night of widespread Nazi attacks on Jewish families and property.
Stein's family had applied for entry into the United States the year before Kristallnacht, but fearful of remaining in Germany after that pogrom, fled to Holland, Belgium and England before finally making their way to New York in 1940.
Stein was one year into college when he was drafted. He joined the 20th Army Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division as an intelligence specialist.
When he returned to New York from the Army in 1946, he married, completed his civil engineering degree and went on to oversee the repair and restoration of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Jacob Javits Convention Center, among other projects.
A fast-moving brain tumor took Stein's life in 2009, but not before he had a chance to write the National Personnel Records Center and request the seven medals he had been awarded.
All were sent to him except one: the Purple Heart.
After Stein's death, his daughter Michelle took up the cause. Collecting documentation of his eligibility was a difficult process, but with perseverance and the help of several archivists, she finally got her father the Purple Heart.
Palm Beach Synagogue Rabbi Moshe Scheiner remembers Stein as a beloved temple member who dedicated a Torah scroll from Germany that is still cherished and studied from today.
"It brings back very fond memories of the type of American hero we need more of today," Scheiner said at the ceremony. "This is the spirit that makes America great. ... We are still recipients of their sacrifices 75 years later."
For Stein's daughter Michelle, watching Frankel pin the Purple Heart onto her mother's white lace dress one day after national Purple Heart Day was particularly satisfying.
"When she was wearing it, it just was so meaningful, so emotional to her," she said. "Like having my father there in a way."
And, medal or no medal, Michelle Stein says she will always remember her father for the wonderful man he was.
"I always saw him as a hero anyway," she said.
Larry Stein fled Nazi Germany for the US at just 16. He was a true hero, who fought in WWII & was injured in 1944. I was honored to present his wife, Anita, with a posthumous Purple Heart. We're so grateful for Mr. Stein's selfless service to our country! https://t.co/ixSFKINv2a— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) August 9, 2019