Monday, 23 November 2009

Peter Zander, born Berlin July 1922, emigrated to England 5 October 1933....


I was brought up a German. I was brought up a Berliner. I was not circumcised. I was baptised with Spree water. I went to the local primary school. My best friend was a working class boy Rosentraeger. Herr Kastner, my wonderful teacher, hoped that he would learn high German from me. I learnt Berlinsh from him. We went skating together on the tennis courts, tobogganing in the parks. When I changed to the Goethe Schule, the Gymnasium, and we moved from Friedenau to Wilmersdorf, two local boys or more joined me in games digging caves in the unbuilt-on plot of land opposite our flat, which belonged to my grandmother. Kurt Sureth taught me to eat Matzos and butter and honey. Uve Brandt wore khaki shorts and shirt and a leather belt and a strap across his chest. Weekends I spent in Wannsee, at my parents' sailing club, Verein Seglerhaus am Wansee, where I learnt about sailing, rowing, and looking through the huge binoculars fitted on the balustrade of the terrace, where we drank Berliner Weisse mit! My father shared a 22 Quadratmeter Schaerenkreuzer racing yacht with Adolf Hain. At weekend picnics aboard, the Hains would have wide-necked thermos flasks with hot food in them, and we ate cold pork chops. I was jealous! Their son Peter was a friend of mine, though he was sometimes reluctant to let me control his electric trains, assembled in the loft of their big villa in Schlachtensee on top of the biliard table. No talk of Jews. My parents had left the Juedische Gemeinde in the 20s.

Spring 33 a man came to the door of our flat in Ravensbergerstrasse, sold swastika emblems from a suitcase. I bought a lapel badge, rather like the black white red - schwarz weiss rot - pennant on the lapel badge of the sailing club. I was 10. I learnt from my mother that I could not wear that badge. That I was Jewish. I was 10. Six months later I arrived in Welwyn Garden City. Peter Erich Fritz Georg Zander. Embarrassing.

1934 we went, my mother and I, to Berlin for Christmas. Stayed at my uncle Otto's, my favourite, marvellous uncle, and Lottchen, his aryan wife. I'd started chemistry at school. At the sight of the blackshirts I wanted to squirt sulphuric acid into their faces with a water pistol.

Dr Wegner taught French at school, there was no German on the curriculum. He offered Irene Kaufmann and me free German lessons. Wonderful. We came on Saturday mornings to his lodgings, and did Goethe and Schiller. My mother tongue. The language I learnt from my mother. When I visit Berlin now, and see some of the street names round the Kurfuerstendamm, I can hear my mother saying them, her voice. I now stay in the Mommsenstrasse in a block of flats built 1903, beautiful Art Nouveau.... Her school was round the corner in Schlueterstrasse... Heimat.

1946 I went back to Germany as a Relief Officer with the Save the Children Fund. The first year we looked after refugee children from the Baltic countries housed in requisitioned private villas in Klingberg, in the Schleswig Holstein forest. I went to evening classes about Gerhard Hauptmann in the Waldschaenke. Of course the locals all new I was a German in British Uniform. They invited me to join them in a play, Schiller's little known Der Neffe Als Onkel. We performed in 3 or 4 villages, and got beautiful baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers. The British Relief Officer in a German costume. Only many years later did I realise the significance of that. The London Berliner, now the Berlin Londoner.

The following year I worked with the women and children, German refugees from East Prussia, housed in the Bunkers in Brunswick, the huge air raid shelters, with walls a meter thick, no windows. Electric light bulbs and toys from the Qakers. Outings to the Asse. Met Arno Keil, character actor at the Staatstheater, friend of Charlotte's, Brunswick / Welwyn Garden City. Told him he needed a black-edged handkerchief for the last act of the Importance of Being Earnest. Am still in touch with Peter Nikolai, then a student with the Lutheran church welfare. We worked through them, and the Catholic welfare and Arbeiter Wohlfahrt, the workers welfare, organisations.

And every three months I took the whole, or part, of my leave in Berlin. Visited my uncle Otto, who survived with his aryan wife Lottchen. Just. This wizened thin frail old man, who had been my portly Edwardian friend, with his moustache, whose ends he twirled in front of the mirror in his dressing room with a little spit on each forefinger. Heard of the hounding of the Jews. Huddled together in Jewish flats, suitcases at the ready. The terror when the bell rang. The low rations. Of the Jews hidden by friends, neighbours. And I saw the city of my birth bombed to smithereens. After my first visit my colleagues said I was destroyed.

I found Herr Kastner again. He was not allowed to teach any more, failed his denazification, as he had been an early member of the party. This wonderful teacher, who played such an important part in my first four years of school, the decimal system with matches, singing, art, Suetterlin Schrift. And I knew I was his favourite pupil. I was allowed to carry his satchel on school outings, into the old city, out into the outskirts. His son, composer and cembalist, is one of my intimate friends. So are his daughters, architect and jewellery maker, and their families. Connection from 1928, when he was born, and I entered his father's class.

And Pitt married Dada. She and her younger sister Ussi were childhood friends. My mother first saw the little girls in the back seat of their cabriolet in the sailing club car park. I always said I'd known Dada all my life, but Pitt only 35 years. My best friend in Berlin. Invited me at Christmas for two weeks' membership of his sportsclub, and we went swimming 4 mornings, followed by breakfast in his flat.

I visited the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee one year to check on the dates of my father's mother. The young official asked me whether Hans Loewi was any relation of mine. I said that was Hansemann, Onkel Hans. Cellist in Berlin's amateur orchestra, der Symphonieverein. Went to his concerts as a nipper. He said he was buried in his father's grave, and gave me directions how to find it. When I got to it, his name wasnt on the gravestone. I was shattered. I am not a great enthusiast for cemeteries. For my marvellous mother I was able to arrange for a bench to be put up in her memory in Welwyn Garden City. But I felt this was insulting to my uncle's memory. So I arranged for an inscription to be engraved on the stone.

HANS LOEWI, 7 Januar 1867 - 16 Januar 1939.
Onkel Hans musste unbenannt bleiben als er hier beerdigt wurde. Mai 2005.

Uncle Hans had to remain unnamed when he was buried here.

For me there are two Berlins. They connect in me. The one full of memories and nostalgia. My life and the people in it 1922-1933. The other the courageous new, visible and in spirit. My friends there now. But perhaps it is Libeskind's great Jewish Museum that connects the two most typically, and bridges the years of terror.

Thursday, 19 November 2009




In my long life I cannot say that I have had A career. But I have had the great luck to have collected the most enormous and wide practical professional experience in the performing arts. I have been, in turn: actor; stage manager; director and producer of plays, including my own companies in London and on tour, Brecht, Fassbinder; director and producer of opera, including my own chamber opera company in London, 'Central London Opera', Mozart, Cimarosa; I was City Arts Administrator of the City of Portsmouth, and inaugurated a series of orchestral concerts and recitals, ‘Music in Portsmouth’, as well as engaging theatre companies in the King’s Theatre and in other venues, and nurturing the Southampton/Portsmouth community theatre company; I was Administrator and Director of the City of Portsmouth Arts Festival; I inaugurated the City of Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition, and involved Yehudi Menuhin, who became its Artistic Director and Chairman of the Jury. It is now the City of London International String Quartet Competition.


I have twice presented the distinguished Flamenco guitarist Ian Davies, whom I managed, at London’s famous Wigmore Hall, and arranged for a free glass of sponsored sherry for each member of the audience. I have been Sponsorship Manager of the Piccadilly Festival in London. I directed the Richmond Arts Festival, and was responsible for the sponsorship of the events.


On my travelling fellowship in Opera Production and Administration, awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 1969, I spent six rich months ‘living-in’ at the great European, and also the smaller, opera houses from Hamburg and Berlin to Salzburg and Prague, gathering insights on both sides of the footlights.


I have directed, and have taught Speech and Drama, at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Rose Bruford College, the East 15 Theatre School, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, and at evening courses of the City Literary Institute, and at other institutes of the Inner London Education Authority. I was a Foyles Speaker in Interpersonal Communication. As correspondent of the Welwyn Times in 1951 I organised a child (3-18) art competition and exhibition involving 30 schools in Hertfordshire. As well as the London arts scene I have an insider’s knowledge of the arts scene of Berlin, the city of my birth.


My long-standing hobby is the study of contemporary architecture in situ. Childhood influences: Berlin’s Jugenstil, Bauhaus, neoclassical and baroque; 1933 onwards Louis de Soissons, Town and Country Planning and Welwyn Garden City in neo-Georgian; 1951 my stealing into the Royal Festival Hall in London before it opened, and inspecting it from attic to cellars; 1952 Le Corbusier in Marseilles, and later his wondrous chapel at Ronchamp; Rogers, Foster, Libeskind, Gehry, Hadid, Pei, and recently, spending a night in the hotel of the Zitadelle in Magdeburg created by Hundertwasser. Today Renzo Piano, responsible for the new Potsdamer Platz city centre of my Berlin, is building a huge colourful development up the road from my Soho flat by Tottenham Court Road Corner...




In my life I have twice functioned as catalyst in matters of musical significance involving Yehudi Menuhin, and which had important public consequences. In 1976, when I was City Arts Administrator of Portsmouth, and Director of its Arts Festival, the Leader of the City Council, Richard Sotnick, wanted to promote a music competition ending in a prestigious gala symphony concert in the Guildhall to be held when he became Lord Mayor. Now my predecessor as Festival Director, Gavin Henderson, had invited Menuhin to conduct a symphony concert in Portsmouth, with his sister Hephzibah as solo pianist. So I suggested to the Leader that we should wait till Menuhin’s visit, and take that opportunity of inviting him to a reception after the concert, at which the city fathers could ask him to give them his advice on how to prepare and handle such a competition. I had warned Menuhin of this plan, to which he had agreed, and in the interval of the concert I also reminded him in the dressing room to come to the reception after the concert. This introduction led to Menuhin becoming the Artistic Adviser of the competition, and also the Chairman of the Jury. Menuhin suggested the form that the competition should take, and so it became the City of Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition, a competition of world class. It is now the City of London International String Quartet Competition.

In the case of Gstaad my catalytic function worked in the opposite direction. Around 1989 Menuhin had had the idea, originally actually not of a concert hall, but of an opera house for his festival, built in a cave inside a mountain, and had involved the great architect I.M.Pei in the project. The scheme had collapsed for lack of funds. But the idea was picked up by the Swiss architect Professor Alfred Grazioli, who gave it as a student project to Wieka Muthesius in Berlin. And here on a Christmas visit in Berlin I met Wieka, actually the step granddaughter of my marvellous, but Nazi, schoolmaster in Berlin 1928-1932, and she showed me the project, a concert hall inside a mountain, which made an indelible impression on me. Sadly the project remained a student project until, many years later, I had the idea of suggesting to my businessman friend in Gstaad ,Markus Kappeler, to take action. While Markus was at first dubious about the validity of such an ambitious scheme, over the years, with his leadership, the idea became the Gstaad project Les Arts Gstaad, and that project now promises to become reality.

So by a series of extraordinary coincidences I was twice able to act as a catalyst for significant musical projects that involved Menuhin. In Portsmouth I took an idea from Richard Sotnick to Menuhin, and in Gstaad I took an idea from Menuhin to Markus Kappeler. A catalyst in two opposite directions...

Perhaps these two actions were the most significant of my professional life in the performing arts.

LES ARTS GSTAAD. A flexible Stage for the Concert Hall


This report, in German, went to the various authorities in Gstaad, to Les Arts Gstaad, to the local media, to the Menuhin Festival, etc.

The gist of it is that:
I had a meeting with the technical director of London's Royal Festival Hall, Eddy Smith, on site, and looked at its newly installed stage, part of an enormous renovation programme. The stage now consists of 11 lifts, and extends hydraulically in the front by 1 meter when needed for theatre, opera or ballet, when it is also raised by a meter, and the front 5 rows of seats are removed, thus forming an orchestra pit. The Choir stalls are rolled away hydraulically for a completely flat space. The Technical Director thought flexibility of the stage was ESSENTIAL, it needed 'stretchability'!!! I have passed his valuable information, and highly experienced view, on to the various people concerned in Gstaad, as it is such valuable input for their project...


Gestern hatte ich eine Besprechung in der Royal Festival Hall mit dem Technical Director of the Southbank Centre, der mir die neue Buehne zeigte, und sie mir erklaerte. Er fasste seine Einstellung zur Flexibilitaet der Buehne des Konzertsaals in einem Wort zusammen: Sie muesse stretchability haben, ein erfundenes Wort, ungefaehr Dehnbarkeit: sie muesse also unglaublich flexibel sein. Und das ist ein Mann mit einmaliger Erfahrung. Er beklagte sich zum Beispiel ueber die Kleine Philharmonie in Berlin, die Probleme aufbringt, das Orchester unterzubringen. Er haette auch gerne noch ein fahrbares Element mehr in der Festival Hall Buehne gehabt, um die Blaeser hoeher fahren zu koennen, muss jetzt fuer sie Podeste aufbauen. !

Wie ich schon vom Internet gelernte hatte, besteht die Buehne aus 11 fahrbaren Elementen. Ausserdem wird, wie z B fuer die Ballettsaison, die Buehne hydraulisch einen Meter nach vorne erweitert, die ganze Buehne einen Meter hochgefahren, und die ersten 5 Reihen Plaetze entfernt, um so einen Orchestergraben zu formen. Es war unmoeglich in dem 1951 gebauten Haus den Orchestergraben nach unten auszubauen, da das die Decke des Chlore Saals, Teil des Foyers, ist. Die Chorsitze werden hydraulisch weggefahren, um eine ebene Flaeche fuer dramatische und Tanzveranstaltungen zur Verfuegung zu haben.

Mein Besuch in der Festival Hall, und meine Besprechung mit dem Technical Director, hat mir eindeutig bewiesen, dass der Konzertsaal von Les Arts Gstaad von Anfang an eine Buehne planen muss, die diese 'Dehnbarkeit' hat. Umsomehr, als Gstaad, im Gegensatz zu der Grossstadt, doch nur den einen grossen, nach Mass gearbeiteten, Raum fuer Vorstellungen aller Art zur Verfuegung haben wird.

Ich habe Markus Kappeler, Les Arts Gstaad, diese wesentlichen Informationen auch gegeben:

Eddy Smith
Technical Director
Southbank Centre
Belvedere ~Road
London SE1 8XX
00 44 (0) 20 7921 0766
M: 00 44 (0) 7931 730005

Die Firma, die die neue Buehne eingebaut hat, ist:
The company who installed the new stage in the Royal Festival Hall, London:

Ken Golding
Homefield Road
Tel: +44 (0)1440 762518 +44 (0)1440 762518
Fax:+44 (0)1440 703820
Registered Office as above. Registered in England No.1345698
VAT No. 299 8387 68
ABTT Gold Member Industry Supporters Group
© Delstar Engineering Ltd. 2008

Die Architekten verantwortlich fuer die Erneuering der Royal Festival Hall sind:
The architects responsible for the complete renovation of the Royal Festival Hall, London

Allies & Morrison
85 Southwark St
London, SE1 0HX
00 44 20 7921 0100
Fax: 00 44 7921 0101