New Holocaust Play Captures ‘American Experience’
Arts & CultureTheater

New Holocaust Play Captures ‘American Experience’

“We’ll Meet Again” will be shown at the Classic Center in Athens on Sept. 14.

Sasha Heller is the Web Editor and Copy Editor for the Atlanta Jewish Times

Family photo taken before the Sterns board the ship that would bring them to America.
Family photo taken before the Sterns board the ship that would bring them to America.

A new play about the Holocaust is making its rounds across the Southeast with its next performance set for the Classic Center Theatre in Athens on Sept. 14.

“We’ll Meet Again,” the new play from writer James R. Harris and director Richard Rose, tells the story of Henry (Heinz) Stern, who fled Nazi Germany when he was 5 years old with his family and settled in Opelika, Ala. Stern’s family was welcomed with open arms into the small, rural Southern town.

The show uses humor and contemporary music to tell an uplifting tale that people of all ages, and not just Jewish people, can relate to.

“We knew the show would likely be popular with older audiences, who are more familiar with World War II-era music,” said director Rose. “But it’s success with younger patrons and high school-age audiences was a bit of a surprise.”

Rose credits the playwright, Harris, for the play being so relatable and enjoyable for a wide selection of audiences.

“Jim Harris, in creating this show, stated that he wanted…to capture the essence of what America has meant to the world in our best moments – love of family, love of country, welcoming others into our culture, and striving and succeeding together as a community.”

“We’ll Meet Again” will be staged at the Classic Center Theatre in Athens on Sept. 14.

Stern and his immediate family fled Nazi Germany in 1937 and joined Henry’s great uncle, Julius Hagedorn, who owned a department store in Opelika. Henry and his sister, Lora, attended Opelika schools and Henry lettered in football and basketball. Upon graduating, Henry served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1954, and later attended Alabama Polytechnic University (now Auburn University). After working as a partner in a department store, Stern was named president of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, where he served for the remainder of his career.

Henry later found out that his maternal grandmother, paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins had all been sent to concentration camps where they perished. As such, Stern spent most of his adult life, more than half a century, searching for any surviving family members. And on Nov. 21, 2004, his prayer was answered.

Stern received an email from a friend that included a link to a website that tracks Holocaust victims and their families. So, Stern input his grandmother’s name and was overjoyed with the result – a Fred Hertz in Durham, N.C.

The next morning, Stern sent Hertz a photograph, taken moments before the Stern family boarded the ship that would bring them to America, hoping that Hertz might identify any of the individuals pictured. Hertz, indeed, recognized someone and called Stern to connect.

Hertz had recognized himself, seated in the back row, and the pair realized they were first cousins who hadn’t seen each other in 60 years, having thought the rest of their family members had died. A couple months later, Stern brought his family to Durham to meet Hertz and his family, and the two cousins shared a tearful embrace in the Hertz’s driveway.

Hertz passed away in 2008 and Stern in 2014, but their legacy lives on in Harris’ play.

In an interview with East Alabama Living, Harris said, “It was such a touching story, and it really brought home a connection to Henry Stern as a person. I thought by using Henry’s story as the nucleus of the play, I could personalize the events of that momentous era in a way that was understandable and relatable.”

Ginger Stern, Coach Bruce Pearl, Martha Jo Katz and Julie Golsen

Of note, the production has received financial support from Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and his wife, Brandy. Pearl, who is Jewish, attended a local showing and was blown away by the performance and subject matter.

Pearl told East Alabama Living, “We laughed and cried. We enjoyed the music and the dancing. We were filled with great pride and happiness about the greatest country in the world that we love so dearly.”

Pearl and his wife were so moved that they approached Harris after the show and offered their support to ensure the production continued throughout the South.

Pearl said he and Brandy want as many middle and high school students as possible to be exposed to the play and for families to take in the story together.

“Our young people today are not being taught enough about how good this country is. This production will make them proud to be an American,” Pearl told East Alabama Living.

“We’ll Meet Again” has been scheduled at 14 venues in Alabama and Georgia, including Savannah, Athens, and LaGrange. The producers are currently working on securing a showcase for the play at an Atlanta-area playhouse.

The play is presented in two acts with one 15-minute intermission. The running time of the show is approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes.

“We hope that Jim’s show will serve as a reminder to all of us as to what is good and great about our country when we live up to our ideals,” Rose said. “We hope this story will inspire you, as it has inspired us, to understand all the wonderful things we are capable of discovering together on a daily basis.”

The Sept. 14 performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $36.50 to $50.50, plus applicable fees. For more information, visit

read more: