Avraham Stern (Hebrew: אברהם שטרן Avraham Shtern), alias Yair (יאיר) (December 23, 1907 – February 12, 1942) was the founder and leader of the Zionist organization later known as Lehi (also called the "Stern Gang" by the British colonial authorities).
Stern was born in Suwałki, Russian Empire, immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1925, and studied in the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jerusalem, and afterwards in the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He specialized in Classical languages and literature (Greek and Latin). He went to Florence on a scholarship in the late twenties.
He founded Lehi in 1940 (though it did not adopt that name until after his death), by splitting from the Irgun, when the latter joined forces with Haganah to support the British in their fight against the Nazis.
Stern rejected collaboration with the British, and claimed that only a continuing struggle against them would lead eventually to an independent Jewish State and resolve the Jewish situation in the Diaspora. British restrictions after 1939 on Jewish immigration (Aliyah) to Palestine, strengthened his convictions in this regard.
Stern was unpopular with many of the other Jewish Underground leaders. He struck an odd figure in the environment of the Underground, which was largely based on the kibbutz movement, by appearing as a fastidious and formal intellectual, who always insisted on wearing a necktie and jacket, even in the blazing Middle East summer. His movement drew an eclectic crew of individuals, from both ends of the political spectrum, including prominent right-wing activists such as Yitzhak Shamir (later becoming Israeli prime minister).
In January 1941, Stern attempted to make an agreement with the German Nazi authorities, through contact with their representatives in Vichy-controlled Beirut, offering to 'actively take part in the war on Germany's side' in return for helping Jewish refugees to come to Palestine, as part of a future Jewish State. Another attempt to contact the Germans was made in late 1941, but there is no record of a German response in either case.
Stern was killed in February 12, 1942 by British police. During his arrest in a Tel Aviv apartment where he had been hiding, Stern was shot from behind, having already been handcuffed. He was executed without trial for his role as leader of the Lehi.
Stern was also a poet. As early as 1934 he prepared his first book of poetry for publishing. He wrote, inter alia, Lehi's anthem, "Anonymous Soldiers." Stern was an admirer of the Polish romantic poet, Juliusz Slowacki who wrote about the suffering of the Poles in the long years of struggle for national independence.
His poetic legacy, consisting of 53 short poems, is characterised by Moshe Hazani as expressing the eroticism of death together with de-eroticism of women.
Avraham Stern's memorial day is attended every year by Israeli political and government officials. In 1978, a postage stamp was issued in his honor. His son, Yair, born a few months after Stern's murder, is a veteran broadcast journalist and TV news anchor who currently heads Israel Television.
In 1981 the town Kochav Yair (Yair's star) was founded and named after Stern's nickname.