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Stern, Avraham

STERN, AVRAHAM (underground name, Ya'ir; 1907–1942), leading underground fighter in Palestine, founder of the organization later called *Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel (Leḥi). Born in Suvalki (then Russian Poland), Stern studied at the Hebrew high school there. In 1925 he went to Palestine and continued his studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Active in the *Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi (IẒL) from its formation in 1931, he collaborated with David *Raziel in compiling a Hebrew manual on the use of the revolver and wrote underground poetry, including Ḥayyalim Almonim ("Anonymous Soldiers," 1933), which became the anthem of IẒL and later of Leḥi. When IẒL split in 1937, he did not join the *Haganah, but became a member of the IẒL command. He went to Europe to acquire arms and to establish contact with the Polish authorities for the organization of courses for IẒL instructors in Poland. In August 1939 he was arrested together with the other members of the IẒL command and was imprisoned until June 1940. While in prison, his opposition to a suspension of the anti-British attacks for the duration of World War II caused a new split in IẒL and the formation of a separate group, which, after his death, called itself Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel (and which was also known as the Stern Group). He composed a manifesto for the new organization entitled Ikkarei ha-Teḥiyyah ("The Principles of Revival"). Early in 1942, the authorities offered a reward for his capture, and on February 12 the Palestine Police traced him, forced an entry into the house in Tel Aviv in which he was hiding, and killed him outright. The house now contains an archive in his memory established by ex-Leḥi members.

Stern was notable for his fanaticism in the armed struggle for Jewish independence, which, he contended, could succeed only if conducted by an underground force independent of all "legal" bodies (even that of *Jabotinsky and his movement). Because of his doubts that the Allies would win World War II, he tried to establish contact with the Italians and the Germans and to persuade the Axis to adopt a pro-Jewish policy in Palestine.

The final work by Moshe *Shamir was Ya'ir (2001), a biographical novel.


Jabotinsky Institute in Israel, Avraham Stern (Ya'ir) (Heb., 1956); D. Niv, Ma'arekhot ha-Irgun ha-Ẓeva'i ha-Le'ummi, 3 (1967), index; Loḥamei Ḥerut Yisrael, 1 (1959), passim; I. Eldad, Ma'aser Rishon (1950), passim; J. Banay, Ḥayyalim Almonim, Sefer Mivẓa'ei Leḥi (1958), passim; Yellin-Mor, in: Etgar, no. 23 (1962), 4–5; W.O. von Hentig, Mein Lebeneine Dienstreise (1962), 338–9.