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Dr Hans Schneider talks about his life and favorite books

Hans Schneider talks about his interesting life, and lists some of his favourite books…

Hans Schneider’s life has overlapped some of the most significant times in 20th century history.
Dr Schneider has studied and taught geography at universities in Chile and Australia.
These days he maintains computer facilities at a medium-sized manufacturing company.

Also he studies Chinese (Mandarin), but said he had no great hope of ever mastering the language.
In this interview Dr Schneider talks about his earlier years, too, and in the interview he covers some terrible times.

Plus he lists some interesting favorite books.
READERSVOICE.COM: Where were you born, and can you talk a bit about your family?
HANS SCHNEIDER: I was born (1925) in Berlin-Charlottenburg, a couple of blocks from the Kurfuerstendamm, the main artery of West Berlin.
My father was a commodity trader, working from an office not far from home.

I went to the public school on my street – it is still standing.
Shortly after the Nazis took power in1933, all Jewish kids – in my class 6 or 8 out of 40 – were expelled and had to attend schools set up by the Jewish community.
After finishing primary school and a failed attempt to find a high school in my area, I went to the only Jewish high school in Berlin-Moabit, a long way from were I lived; I left the school in 1939 to emigrate.
I know almost nothing about my mother, she died shortly after I was born and I had almost no contact with her family except for a visit to her brother who had a Men’s apparel store in nearby Brandenburg.
My father remarried but also died young in 1934 at only 44 years of age, leaving my stepmother in a precarious financial situation.
Although she had not much trouble finding a job – she had worked in a bank before marriage – work and looking after me was too much so I ended up living with foster families for the next few years till she remarried.
For me, this was a time of great personal freedom as I only had to show up for meals and could do after school whatever I wanted.
It helped that I had a rail pass and a bicycle; in summer I cycled to school across the city.

Weekends I often spent with my mother who had found a new circle of friends through her employer and his family.
In the summer, I would take the train to Erkner, a lakeside village east of Berlin, and stay with her at a boating and sailing club.
Until 1937/8 mixed (gentile and Jewish) membership was still possible.
RV: What sort of problems did you face daily in your home town in Germany?
HS: Despite many exclusions and prohibitions, I did not feel personally very affected by the Nazi regime until the ‘Kristallnacht” of 1938 when I opened the door to the Gestapo agent who came to arrest my stepfather.
From then on, how to get out of Germany became an obsession for all the Jewish people.
By the end of that year, very few countries would accept refugees, amongst those who did was Chile where a Popular Front (centre-left) government had just been elected; a large number of refugees from the Spanish civil war and from Germany and central Europe were allowed to immigrate.
For the grown-ups, all this was tragic but I felt it was a great adventure and I had decided that if I could not go with my family, I would join my comrades from the Zionist youth movement to which I belonged to escape to Palestine through Eastern Europe.