April 18, Max Stern, the youngest child of Julius Stern and Selma Heilbron, is born in München-Gladbach (today Mönchengladbach), Germany. Julius is a prosperous clothing manufacturer in a city centred around the textile industry. Max has two sisters, Hedi and Gerda.
Julius Stern, an art collector since the late 19th century, has contacts and friends in academic and museum circles. He becomes an art dealer, opening the Galerie Julius Stern at 48 Charlottenstrasse, and then at 23 Koenigsallee, Düsseldorf.
In this favourable environment, Max Stern studies art history at the universities in Berlin, Cologne, Bonn and Vienna. In 1928, he obtains a Ph.D. in art history from Bonn University, where he defends his dissertation on the academic German painter Johann Peter von Langer (1756-1824). The majority of his teachers in Bonn are friends and contacts of his father's, including the art historian Karl Koetschau, the mentor who suggested the subject of the young Stern's thesis. His studies complete, Stern works alongside his father at the family gallery in Düsseldorf, which deals mainly in academic painters and Old Masters.