Escape Home: Rebuilding a Life After the Anschluss

Escape Home: Rebuilding a Life After the Anschluss


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"An engrossing saga, profusely illustrated and fully documented, the stuff that makes an intriguing feature film. I heartedly endorse it."
— Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Director, The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives

"One of the more uplifting accounts of European émigré life that I have read in a long time.... It will touch you to tears right away, regardless of how many accounts of similar fates you believe to have studied and understood.... What a book!"
— Volker M. Welter, author of Ernest L. Freud, Architect

Charles Paterson (born Karl Schanzer, 1929) was only nine years old when the Nazis invaded Austria and his father, Stefan, fled with his children to avoid persecution. To assure their continued safety, the children were baptized and adopted by the Paterson family in Australia while Stefan made a harrowing escape through occupied France. It would be eight years, after much sorrow and loss, before Charles and his sister would reunite with Stefan in the United States.

After Charles and Stefan settle in Aspen, Colorado, amidst the snow-capped peaks that remind them of the Austrian Alps, Stefan becomes a high school teacher known for his humor and adventure stories while Charles teaches skiing, serves as a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, and then builds his thesis project, the The Boomerang ski lodge. Charles lives with Stefan at The Boomerang and, as Aspen grows into a world-class ski resort, spends fifty years welcoming thousands of people to the town with Austrian warmth and gemütlichkeit. Based on archival documents and letters, together with the authors’ personal reflections, Escape Home is a family memoir and a meditation on the domestic qualities of architecture, where the bonds of culture and family prove to be the true foundation for rebuilding meaningful lives and finding both security and freedom.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780997003468
Publisher: DoppelHouse Press
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Pages: 570
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Charles Paterson: Charles Paterson was born Karl Schanzer in Vienna, Austria in 1929 and now lives in Aspen, Colorado. As a Jewish child he and his sister were adopted by the Australian Paterson family. An architectural designer, Paterson was one of the last apprentices to train under Frank Lloyd Wright.

Carrie Paterson: Carrie Paterson is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles. She writes for contemporary art journals, lectures at Southern California universities and is Publisher and Editor in chief at DoppelHouse Press.

Hensley Peterson is an editor based in Aspen, Colorado.

Paul Anderson: Paul Anderson is a writer of books and essays. He is a columnist for The Aspen Times.

Read an Excerpt

by Carrie Paterson

In 2005, my father Charles Paterson sold The Boomerang, a ski lodge
in Aspen, Colorado that he began as a small log cabin, built into a
thirty-five unit hotel, and continually managed since he was in his mid-twenties.
Upon retirement from over fifty years in business, he began
writing a memoir on index cards, episodes he had previously recounted
for me in 2002 in a series of video interviews he titled “Short Memories
• f a Long Life.” Our friend Hensley Peterson, after hearing one of his
tales around a campfire, encouraged him to expand his memoir
into a book. She also began asking questions that led us to look
more deeply into the history surrounding his life’s events.

And so it began. He started to go through old trunks, drawers, and
collections of photographs, commencing to catalog his life. One day I
found he had laid out all his hats in an arc by the piano. His efforts were
accompanied by the clarity of my mother Fonda’s bright memories and
research. Over their forty-four years of marriage she has kept her own
files filled with articles and references that give context to his stories and
those of his father, Steve Schanzer, survivor of two world wars.

Steve, my grandfather, was a legendary storyteller who inspired
great affection and was an inspiration to many. When he emigrated to
the United States in 1941, he changed the family name from Schanzer to
Shanzer. He said he wanted to drop the “c” in order to “get the German
• ut,” as if he could banish from sight all the sorrows in his life that had
been brought about by the Anschluss, Hitler’s annexation in 1938 of our
family’s homeland, Austria.

My father Charles and my grandfather Steve are the central characters
• f this book. However, excerpts from the letters of other key figures
help to fill its pages, including those from my father’s sister, my aunt
Doris Schneider, and a few rare memories from my grandmother Eva
Beck Schanzer, who died in 1938.

Midway through writing this book, amongst my grandfather’s
records, we found one dusty red file that had remained unopened for
many years. My father knew the tattered folder contained all the correspondence
between my grandfather and members of our family who
died in Europe during World War II —my great-aunt Claire Beck Loos
and my two great-grandmothers, Olga Feigl Beck and Rosa Schanzer—
but he had never looked closely through it. My mother wanted to read
the letters. My father protested. Despite my father’s misgivings, my
mother arranged for them to be scanned and translated. The letters
were written in my father’s native tongue, German, which he no longer
speaks. Many were difficult to decipher because they were penned in
Kurrentschrift, an old script based on German cursive writing from the
late medieval period. My grandfather had kept them laid neatly together
in chronological order, like a book he had not written but was responsible
for delivering.

With so many contributors to Escape Home, this book has become
a chorus. The principal voices are a father and son separated by war
and reunited, who shared a great love and were lucky to have each other.
Some details of these stories have been challenging to write, and others
to make sense of because even language can hide what has been buried or unspoken over the course of time.

by Charles Paterson

At the time of the German annexation of Austria, the Anschluss, I
was nine years old. Our family lived in Vienna’s thirteenth district.
As I learn about that year and the violent manner in which the country
was transformed almost overnight, I have changed the way I think about
my childhood. I have no memory of the day the Nazis marched onto the
Ringstrasse, but it altered my family’s life forever. We were thrown to
the winds. My father Steve, my uncle Max Beck, my sister Doris, and I
survived to tell this story.

In this book, we must all turn a page on tragedy, nevertheless, and
recognize that vision, intuition, and hope are guides for people in the
most terrible circumstances. I am writing our story to give insight to
what happened to people like us after our dispossession and to tell how
somehow, against all odds, we persevered and even thrived. I believe that
young people today, who see other times and their own difficulties, can
learn from our challenges, as I did from my father, that it takes courage
and tenacity to carry on, while you bring history with you.

When I was born in Vienna in 1929, I was named Karl Schanzer
after my grandfather. I am the eighth generation in my family of Viennese.
Through many twists of fate and the dramatic world influences
that caused them, I became Charles Paterson, a Viennese-Australian-
American. For the last ten years I have been rediscovering my past. As
I recover memories and letters, I have gained a new perspective on the
history I have known, and my life is changing yet again.

Since 1980, I have kept my father’s papers and many of his personal
effects in an old, wooden filing cabinet in the basement of our house in
Aspen, Colorado I designed and built in 1977 for my family. I had rarely
• pened it since my father’s death in 1979.

At the onset of a winter soon after my retirement, I went rummaging
through the cabinet. The memorabilia brought back an intense feeling of
loss as I began looking through the boxes and files that tell of my father’s
life experiences first-hand. Old maps of trips spilled forth, photographs,
and my father’s Masonic vestments. One drawer contained his
favorite grey felt hat and a pair of antique Turkish wooden clogs said to
strengthen the feet. In another was a box of keys. I also found my Ski
Association pins—I was number thirty-one of the first Rocky Mountain
ski instructors to be certified—and mimeographed sheets of my father’s
self-crafted “gourmet” Austrian recipes. Another surprise was the red
silk necktie from the early 1930’s of a famous Czechoslovak-Viennese
architect, Adolf Loos, the husband of my aunt Claire Beck Loos.

Then I found a treasure trove of letters in a stack of old, well-kept
file folders. Like puzzle pieces, these letters, many written in German
and French, have provided the key to remembrances of a lost time that
remain with me still and bring this memoir alive. To my amazement, in
addition to these letters, my father also kept all the correspondence I had
ever sent to him from my first days in Aspen, Colorado starting in 1949,
and from Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where I studied architecture
under Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1950’s. He also diligently kept
copies of all his replies.

The adventures we told each other through the years lay before me
undiluted and unedited by memory. I had never thought of that room
as an archive for our lives and our relationship. Yet I have been living
with it right near my drafting room and my busy life all this time. The
discovery gave me great motivation.

Later my daughter and coauthor Carrie and one of our editors,
Hensley Peterson, delved a little deeper into the files. In what looked to
be a stack of old newspaper clippings, Carrie found my father’s journal
from 1914-1920 when he was made a prisoner in Siberia during the First
World War. Hensley made the important discovery of all the letters sent
by my sister and me from Australia to my father in New York when we
were separated for over eight years. My wife Fonda had always speculated
that since my father kept everything, the letters must be buried,
somewhere. That amazing day, we retrieved my entire teenage years.
Other exchanges with my father emerged, from and to our foster family,
and to advisors who enlightened my father, and now me as well, seventy
years later, about the life and trials of children who escaped Europe
during World War II .

Our stories are part of a larger history. One and a half million children
and teenagers perished in that Holocaust, but thankfully tens of
thousands were like us, sent away and rescued. Collectively we are the
last remaining witnesses of those tribulations. This book is an expression
• f my gratitude and, by proxy, my father’s, to those who looked out
for us and saved our lives.

Chapter 1
Foundations [excerpt]

My father Stefan Schanzer was born in Vienna in 1889—as he used
to say, the same year as Adolf Hitler—in the last generation of
the Habsburg Empire. Vienna, a great mixing ground for ethnicities,
religions, and nationalities, was at that time one of the most culturally
diverse places in the world. As a destitute artist Hitler lived a miserable
life there for five years starting in 1908, and from that experience he
formed his political opinions that would change the face and destiny
• f Europe. But my father never could nor would have blamed Vienna
for what transpired in our lives. People, yes, but not the city. It was
a singularly special place in his memories, the central jewel in all his
stories, and the heart of his identity.

Among my father’s collection of items he felt were important to
take with us when we abandoned the city after the Nazi occupation,
the 1936 phone book demonstrates this fact. An imposing volume with
“Habsburg” in white lettering on its red spine, it is testament to the
smallness of that area of Europe and to its nostalgia, almost part of
the grammar of a city with such historic culture and splendor. After
World War II , when my father would meet people from Vienna, he
would look them up—much could still be told about someone living in
the new world if they used to call his great city home. With such a book
published before tragedies and disasters, Vienna—for him a lost love—
could be frozen in time.

A point of pride for my father was that our relatives were among a
small number of Jewish families, a few hundred people, granted special
permission by the Habsburg Monarchy to live in the city during the
eighteenth century. We trace our ancestry back through one of the
• ldest recorded families, the Sinzheims. My third great-grandfather,
Abraham Löwy, who married Regina Sinzheim, was born in Vienna
circa 1749 and went by the name of Goldstein, as he was a jeweler.
This profession would have uniquely enabled him and his large family
to live year-round in Vienna because jewelers were court-appointed to
evaluate the worth of items being presented as collateral by citizens
who sought loans from the Emperor. This job provided an avenue for
a kind of assimilation, possible in the Empire but eventually exposed
as a lie only decades after the fabric of the monarchy unraveled in the
First World War. When power shifted again in the mid-1930’s, people
like us, who never considered we could be vulnerable to such charges,
were labeled “outsiders.”

Even before then, my father’s family must have felt our origins
were our vulnerability. He never actually mentioned that our direct
Schanzer line originated along the western border of Galicia, now
Poland. Immigrants from that area came to Vienna in waves, along with
the Ostjuden—many desperately poor—who were looking for work and
fleeing pogroms in the Russian Pale. The Schanzers, I was told by my
father, were frequent guarantors for Galician immigrants to Vienna.
That Galicians could have been relatives was unknown to me. But in
2011 we found that in Galicia, hundreds of Schanzers populate the birth
and death records from the turn of the last century.

When our family recently discovered a gravestone in the Vienna
Central Cemetery we learned that my great-grandfather, Bernhard
Baruch Schanzer, was born in Lipnik, Galicia in 1833. I like to entertain
the thought that our family could have also been skiers from that picturesque
region of the Carpathian Mountains; other Schanzers related to us
are from the nearby ski town of Zywiec. My father may not have known—
he never mentioned it—but I think he would have enjoyed the coincidence;
skiing has been a favorite pastime for generations in our family.
A Schanz is a “ski jump,” oddly enough.

Bernhard’s birthplace of Lipnik was famous for its textiles and dye
works in the nineteenth century. Connected by railway to Krakow and
Vienna, it became a major center for the trade. Bernhard started a shipping
company, Schanzer Forwarding Co., which he later sold to Schenker
& Co., now DB Schenker, still one of the largest in the world. This was
an irony for my father, as he liked to point out—a shipping company, and
there we were, having been sent by boat, on trains, and under the cover
• f night in cars, like packages, to fates around the globe.

Table of Contents

Part I
Chapter 1 Foundations
Chapter 2 The Werkbundsiedlung 1932-1938
Chapter 3 Weaving
Chapter 4 Childhood
Chapter 5 Mutti
Chapter 6 A Boy of Ten Is Already Grown
Chapter 7 My Dear Children
Chapter 8 Prisoners Don’t Ride Bicycles
Chapter 9 Sauf Conduit
Chapter 10 Australia
Chapter 11 War Cry
Chapter 12 Resurfacing
Chapter 13 The Goldens
Chapter 14 When War Is Over
Chapter 15 To America
Part II
Chapter 16 Finding Home
Chapter 17 Summer of ‘49
Chapter 18 Manna from Heaven
Chapter 19 Dispossession
Chapter 20 What Traces Are Left
Chapter 21 Stefan and Max 1939–1947
Chapter 22 Aspen, Early 1950’s
Chapter 23 Prisoner of Fortune, Prisoner of War
Chapter 24 At the End of Empire
Chapter 25 Money Matters
Chapter 26 Basic Training
Chapter 27 The Tachinierer
Part III
Chapter 28 Breaking Ground
Chapter 29 Taliesin
Chapter 30 A Critical Mix
Chapter 31 A Sympathetic Chord
Chapter 32 Architecture in Evolution
Chapter 33 Building
Chapter 34 Pencil to Paper
Chapter 35 Silversmithing
Chapter 36 Still Escaping
Chapter 37 Adaptations
Chapter 38 A Philosophy of Life
Chapter 39 A Cabin Is A Castle
Appendix I Recipes
Appendix II Map of Escape from Nazi-Occupied France
Appendix III Family Trees
Selected Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This jewel should not be called a book but a museum.

– Will Semler, author (Melbourne, Australia)

An engrossing saga, profusely illustrated and fully documented, the stuff that makes an intriguing feature film. I heartedly endorse it.

– Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Director, The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives

One of the more uplifting accounts of European émigré life that I have read in a long time. At the same time, it is a deeply nostalgic book about the domestic qualities of architecture … about making for oneself a home, even under the most adverse circumstances. What else is architecture about, if not that? … If you consider architecture primarily as an art form, a monetary investment, or some abstract political act, then you will miss the relevance of this book. If, however, you think and feel architecture is about making a home for man — us, humans — on earth, then you will appreciate these tours de force of father and son…. It will touch you to tears right away, regardless of how many accounts of similar fates you believe to have studied and understood…. What a book!"

– Volker M. Welter, author of Ernest L. Freud, Architect

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