Tuesday, 1 December 2009



Suddenly over an early morning cup of tea in bed, in the summer of 2007, I had this yen to celebrate my 85th in Berlin, lunch on the terrace of my parents' sailing club in Wannsee, which had played such a significant role in their lives. It was not only my father’s sporting passion. There are photographs in the family albums of both my parents, then young, sailing together in a series of dinghies named Anita I to Anita V. There are later ones of my father and his friend and sailing partner Adolf Hain in the yacht they shared, a 22 Quadratmeter Schaerenkreuzer, then the fastest racing yachts built, participating in serious sailing regattas, winning silver prizes which littered our Berlin flat. The boat was christened ‘Elan’, a pun, as it was a combination of the first letters of the names of Adolf Hain’s wife Elisabeth and my mother Anita. The club was also the centre of my parents’ social lives. Here they met fellow Berliners like the dictionary publishing family Langenscheidt, whose dictum was that they sold the good German, and spoke the bad German. I can hear Anita’s voice, impersonating them in their Berlinsh ‘cockney’ And here one day my mother saw two little girls sitting in the dicky seat of a cabriolet, in the car park of the club. And the older one, Gerda, Dada, became Pitt’s wife, and that’s how I inherited my best friend in Berlin. And he me!

The club were delighted when I approached them, and Herr Nowak arranged a most elegant meal, with typical down-to-earth Berlin food. Snippets of Matjes-Hering, Kohlrouladen, followed by Rote Gruetze mit Vanilliensauce, of course! Delicate floral arrangements on white table cloth; glasses and silver glistening in the sunlight – during a fortnight’s drizzle – and the white sails of a regatta, image of memory. We were twenty, from Ferrara, Brussels, Montpellier, Essex, Sussex, Hamburg, the Black Forest, Lugano, Brunswick, Berlin and London Soho.

Later that year Herr Nowak sent me an email inviting me to book a goose dinner at Christmas, and an entire crisp goose was wheeled along to our table for us. My birthday lunch was repeated last year, with a lighter diet by special request from my guests, and on a rather smaller scale. For our goose feast last Christmas we were given a table, not in the intimate modern dining room, but in the great hall. This made me very uneasy. This is where the Kaiser’s picture had hung in my father’s time. But this is also where Hitler’s portrait had hung during the short-lived Thousand Year Reich, and where the club at its conferences made those fateful decisions, about which I had just been reading. So while I forgot my unease in the company of my lovely Berlin friends, and with that wondrous view over the lake, with its scattering of winter yachts, my memory of that meal was overcast for some months by the dark, hideous shadows of the past. Studying their details, and writing them down here now, has helped me in dispelling them, or at least in lightening them.

When I was in Berlin last November for Gerhard’s 80th, I took the opportunity of going out to the club in Wannsee to buy the history book of the club, which Stephan had wanted to give me the previous Christmas, but had been unable to get in the shops: ‘Das Seglerhaus. 125 Jahre VSaW’, published by the Delius Klasig Verlag. ‘The Sailing Club. 125 years of the Verein Seglerhaus am Wansee’, that magic lake and the river Havel on the beautiful outskirts of Berlin. Until I got back to London I had time only to look at the pictures, and to read, on the inside of the cover, a certain Anita Freifrau von Hochstetter’s mentioning, first in a list of members she remembered from happy times long ago on the terrace of the club, and figuring in the book, the name of Adolf Hain, my father’s old sailing partner. The Hains’ son Peter was my age, and a friend of mine. I remember visits to, and stays at, their large villa in Schlachtensee, fashionable Berlin suburb, and us two boys going up to the attic where a whole electric train scene was laid out on top of the billiard table, with stations and tunnels, and points and signals, electrically controlled. With a bit of persuasion – or my going down to complain to the adults! – Peter even allowed me to control the network… On the landing below the attic was the flat of Adolf or Elisabeth Hain’s parents, but one didnt meet them, I never saw them downstairs, which I thought strange, even sinister. Going up to the attic one day I caught a glimpse of them, very shy simple folk I had more of a relationship with Frau Hain than with him, and I remember her explaining to me that the green plant in her large conservatory, with those soft, velvety pointed leaves, was a Zimmerlinde… When there wasn’t a regatta there would be picnics of the Hain and Zander families on board the yacht, and the Hains had huge thermos flasks with wide necks, containing hot dinners, whereas my mother or our maid Wilma had prepared cold pork chops and coffee in a very ordinary-sized thermos flask for the Zanders. I was a little jealous… I have childhood memories till ’33, of weekends in Wannsee, driving in our Muckepicke mini Opel along the new Avus racetrack / Autobahn, being taught by my father to sail, to row, to look through the huge binoculars fitted on the balustrade of the terrace, to learn about knots! - and drinking Berliner Weisse mit, and being spoilt rotten by the staff in the kitchen.

Back in London I studied the book and wondered how the author, Alexander Rost, sailor and journalist, would be dealing with the Nazi period. Would he gloss over it?

Alexander Rost writes: (pp 105-107)

“1933: The Seglerhaus tradition was based on patriotism, irrespective of origin or profession, whether one’s views were conservative or tended to the liberal, the subject didn’t arise; sentiment was devoted until 1918 to the Kaiser. This was no different from pretty well the entire German bourgeoisie. Despite all scepticism vis-a-vis Hitler and his party one welcomed the ’national renewal’.” And Rost quotes the ‘Yacht’ magazine, Nr. 16/1933, which reported, with the headline: “‘Significant Decisions at the Seglerhaus’: The Governing Council, as well as the Reception and Membership Committee of the Seglerhaus am Wannsee, met on 13 April 1933 for a joint session in the venerable halls of the Seglerhaus, pervaded as they were with the breezes of the highest sailing traditions. The President of the club (Adolf Hain – PZ) and the President of the Reception/Membership Committee raised the question of the ‘Gleichschaltung’ of the club, that is to say the alignment of the club and its aims with those of the totality of the desires and aims of the national government for the German people. (i e brought into line with Government policy - PZ) It needed only a brief probe of the views and attitudes of the gentlemen participating in the session to agree to the unanimous confirmation of the fact that the VSaW had since its foundation in 1867, kept faith with the national spirit of its fathers, in inviolable loyalty, and from honest conviction, and stood with utter firmness behind the new Germany. With its work devoted to the high ideals of the German sailing sport, and to the vigorously firm training of the young, the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee can restore its continuity, where it had emotionally stood aside in 1918, inspired as it has been by the new German ideals.’ “In similarly convoluted language, in comparison with which the pathos in Otto Prozens day (an earlier historian of the sailing scene – P Z) is positively heartwarming, the President of the club, Adolf Hain, welcomed the ‘Umbruch’, the ‘revolutionary change’, in Germany. ’When the club year 1933 began, heavy storms loured over Germany. The spring 1933 victoriously tore away these dark clouds, and in the rays of the sun the new Germany was born. The club, together with its members, came marching with joy; the glorious old flag, Black White and Red, emblem of freedom, was flying once more over German lands.’

“At least he didn’t express himself like the militant Nazis, and speak about the ‘Third Reich’; instead of paying homage to their party he spoke vaguely of a ‘freedom movement’. But the following year he felt obliged to rally the membership of the club, as only ‘a section of the membership had been gripped by the new spirit of the time, and had volunteered to collaborate with enthusiasm in the life of the sport and of the club. The rest of the members had yet to follow suit.’ ‘Gleichschaltung’ (that bringing into line with Government policy - P Z) and the ‘Fuehrerprinzip’, the Leader principle, which largely did away with all elections, were the concepts now governing the ‘new order’ of the sporting world in Germany.


“The political indoctrination intensified. Only those holding the ‘Ariernachweis’ – proof of pure Aryan descent – were allowed to hold office in the club. This also applied to the VSaW, whose club leadership (Adolf Hain – PZ) willingly gave in to political pressure from above, and the Jewish members or, as it was expressed in the jargon of the time, ‘juedisch versippte’, i e those of Jewish kith and kin, were expelled from the club, whereas other clubs still did all they possibly could to ignore political instructions, and only did so after the Olympic Games in 1936, when the whole sailing sport had utterly to submit to the National Socialist regime. The president of the water sports association Kewisch wrote in the Yacht magazine: ‘Leader’ and ‘democratic club’! These two concepts have become irreconcilable in the new reality.’ Those who did not fulfill their obligations to the club were deserters; a Leader of a club could not just resign, but could only be released from his duties by his ‘superiors’; his will must prevail, and if there was no other way, even by applying the most extreme methods, and that without the slightest consideration; and ‘The president of a club can be a popular man, but a leader does not put any value on the fact of being popular.’ The ‘President of the club’ in its old sense had been officially abolished.”

And the new-type President of the VSaW was my father’s old friend and sailing partner Adolf Hain… and I learn that 76 years later! On the internet I saw that the expulsion of the Jewish members of the VSaW was effected as early as 1934. And that the daughter of the dictionary publishing family Langenscheidt, Ruth, was not permitted to store her boat on club premises, as she was married to a ‘Half-Jew’, the terminology of the time and place for a person of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish parentage... unbelievable! A madhouse.

Alexander Rost continues: (p110)

“The work of the Youth Section, 20 members, suffered from obsolete boats, and from the fact of being placed under the Naval Hitler Youth. The Olympic Games had come and gone, and the political pressure was again intensified.”

And: (p113)

“At an Extraordinary General Meeting on 6 June 1940, the Leader of the club Hain defined the particularity of the sport of sailing as being a fighting sport. Members had to accept a change of rule, which robbed them of the last vestige of a voice in the club’s affairs. The alternative was the threat of the club losing its rights to the use of its property, and if it was closed, the entire proceeds, including those from the clubhouse, would pass to the Nazi party.”

The publishers of Das Seglerhaus sent me a number of newspaper cuttings about Adolf Hain from the ‘Yacht’ magazine, and Number 30/1938 reports that, in 1924, Max Berke had introduced him to the secrets of sailing. The Berkes were friends of my parents, and I was often a guest in their little villa, with its Doppeldach, a symmetrical roof that had two slopes, the lower one steeper. His wife, again, was closer to me, and allowed me to play with, and walk, their wire haired terrier Whiskey. And I also had rides in their motorboat, have a photo of us in the album. After the war, in ’46, during my two years as relief officer of the Save the Children Fund, I arranged to meet Max Berke in the club, went with my beloved great-uncle and childhood playmate Ottchen, very much an old invalid now, and my aunt Lottchen. He had survived in Berlin because she was ‘aryan’. Don’t remember how we got to Wannsee, likely with my Red Cross vehicle, whatever that was at the time, an original Volkswagen, or a Bedford truck. The club then was functioning in much smaller quarters on the opposite bank of the lake, as its own clubhouse had been requisitioned by the American army. Max Berke was pretty peeved about that, that the ‘Amerikaner’ were in his club. Lovely irony, with me, his guest, a Berliner in British Red Cross army khaki! Don’t know whether Frau Berke had died, or why we didn’t meet her. I remember we were sitting on the narrow quai in front of the clubhouse, it was a boiling hot day, and I suggested that I might take a dip in the lake, a terrific temptation, but Max Berke wouldn’t hear of it, was quite offended at such vulgarity. I don’t know why I didn’t look up the Hains at that time, where I tried to, and did, make contact with so many from my old life, my young life, in Berlin…

When I was in Berlin in the spring of 2009 I was at last allowed access to the archives of the sailing club, and on 23 April sat in the conference room where all the fateful decisions were taken by the leader and the club elders, and were then handed down to the meeting of the club members in the great hall below. The club’s cupboards with the protocols and the yearbooks were unlocked for me, and I was surprised to find that Max Berke’s name ceased to be listed as a member after 1937. The club historian, Peter Rieck, who came to join me, explained to me that Max Berke had resigned, and had joined the Kaiserliche Yachtclub, because he disagreed with Adolf Hain’s enthusiastic policy of collaboration with the Nazis.

I was heartened at that. Peter Rieck told me that some members of the club deny their Nazi past, and that he himself was not allowed back into the club in the 70’s, because of his anti-nazi history. It was a strange feeling for me to read in the Yearbooks that my father was present at the Annual General Meeting of the club on 11 December 1932, and that, at the Annual General Meeting on 10 December 1933, he was represented by Emil Schmidt, he having by then emigrated to England. And in the members’ list of the Yearbook of 1934 there is an entry, added in pencil, “Erich Zander, London NW3”… although by that time we had moved from the London boarding house to a shared furnished house in Welwyn Garden City.

‘Yacht’ magazine, Nr. 30/1938, further reports that in 1927 Hain bought the 22 Quadratmeter Schaerenkreuzer racing yacht ‘Elan’, but ‘Yacht’ magazine does not report that he co-owned it with my father, a Jewish partner! Well, it wouldn’t, would it… In the jargon of the period, after reporting Hain’s sailing successes, it goes on: ‘In a comparatively short time Adolf Hain has accomplished a great deal. He did, and does, all he achieves, not for himself, but solely for the sake of the best interests of the German sailing sport, to serve which, and to further which, he has made his task. We hope that we can retain him for many years yet in a leading position in the German sporting world, because colleagues like him are rare and difficult to replace.’

From the ‘Yacht’ magazine archives, undated:

‘Whereas Adolf Hain devoted himself in the early years exclusively to the sailing sport and to sailing regattas, in 1930 he followed the call of duty when the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee asked him to take over as Treasurer and, in 1932 took over the Presidency of the club, whose Leader he has remained ever since. The successes which the VSaW has achieved, under his purposeful leadership are well known, and if the VSaW stands today in the front rank of the German sailing clubs, it owes this in the first place to Adolf Hain.’ …

‘In the year 1933 the entire responsibility of the management of all the Berlin racing sailing clubs was conferred on him, and at the same time he became Bezirkswart of the Bezirk II, Wannsee.’ (An office with authority in the local sailing world – P Z) In 1935 he became `deputy leader of the union of sailing clubs, and was appointed leader of the competition section of the German Sailing Union and, shortly after, Gauwart of the Gau Berlin-Brandenburg. (An office covering the whole area of Berlin-Brandenburg – P Z)

‘In this larger field of work Hain could develop his abilities in greater measure.’… ‘He put all his energies and capacity for work into bringing the German sailing sport up to international standard, as its importance warranted. The successes during the Olympic Games of 1936, as also those gained during the years that followed, are largely due to the efforts of Adolf Hain. Many an opposition had to be overcome, but he was always successful in persuading the recalcitrant…’

Alexander Rost reports that on 27 January 1943 there was a huge bombing attack on Berlin, and rivers of lead from the keels of damaged yachts from devastated sailing clubs on the East side of Berlin flowed into the Dahme river, whereas…

(pp 114-115)

“On the Wannsee one remained on the leeside of the catastrophe. Now and again, somebody in secret fury threw Hitler’s bust, erected by the club management, into the water; but before the secret police could get wind of it, boatsman Hinrich Allers was able with cunning technique to fish it out, even if with a bit knocked off the nose or with a damaged neck.

“How the crimes of the regime had also besmirched the good name of Wannsee one learnt only after the war, when it became known that in a villa (belonging to the state) on the Grosse Wannsee Strasse (Along the road from the sailing club. PZ) a top secret conference had taken place in 1942 concerning the ‘Endloesung der Judenfrage’, the Final Solution of the Jewish Question. That the choice happened to fall on this venue was a very bad moment in the history of the colony, of this district of villas, particularly because Jewish citizens, patriots of the monarchy, had made a big contribution towards the flowering of Wannsee, and not a few of them towards the sailing sport.

“In the sailing club there was no denial of the national traditions, but the growing recognition that one was living in a criminal state, could no longer be avoided. Only the ‘leadership’ which the club now had, instead of an executive committee, as did every leadership in Germany at that time, stood rigidly to attention before the swastika flag. ‘We fight this war for our right to live’ intoned the Leader of the club. (Adolf Hain – P Z) in his address at the then final meeting of members on 28 November 1943. ‘ To lose it would mean the end of our country and of our history.’

Adolf Hain made his money in the wholesale silk trade, which was largely in Jewish hands, so that he not only had a Jewish sailing partner, but also worked closely with Jews in his business. Conveniently the state he supported so diligently removed all his competitors! His rise therefore in the Nazi hierarchy is psychologically, socially, politically and morally utterly fascinating – and sick-making. Perhaps he had to be an even better Nazi to cover his tracks, having had such close contact with Jews in both his business and his private life. It is a very typical example of what happened in Germany. It is a very typical example of how, what happened in Germany, could happen. It is a classic case. But it does come so very close to my family’s life, to my own life, and that is pretty shattering. It is also immeasurably sad.

The Jews in Berlin were very much part of the scene. One can speak of degrees of assimilation, and many of them, certainly in Berlin, were highly assimilated. I didn’t know of my own Jewish origins until, in 1933 - I was ten – a man came to the door of the flat in Ravensbergerstrasse 2 and, from his suitcase, showed me a whole range of Nazi emblems, armbands, etc, and I bought a buttonhole swastika badge, similar to the sailing club’s buttonhole badge with the little black, white, and red pennant, worn by my father. I still have one. When my mother came home, she had to explain to me that I couldn’t wear it. As she used to say, it wasn’t a subject. One was part of the scene. And certainly in my generation, had it not been for the crooks that took over in Germany, the utter assimilation of the Jewish Germans would have gone on into complete and unselfconscious integration and equality. It didn’t happen that way, and one could weep.

Adolf Hain remained Leader of the club till 1945, so Peter Rieck told me. I knew that his son, my friend Peter, went missing during the war. A year or two back I was surprised to find a letter that he had written to me, must have been not long after we left Berlin in 1933. In it he reports quite innocently, rather naively, of his outings with the Hitler Youth, treating them rather as if they had been the boy scouts, without any recognition of the fact that I, his friend, was excluded from them. I have no idea whether my father had any inkling of the senior role Adolf Hain played as Fuehrer of the club and more. I know they corresponded after April 1933, when my father came to England, but I don’t know to what degree. At perhaps their final meeting in Berlin, and Adolf Hain had been up to Kiel for the ‘Kieler Woche’, the year’s most prestigious yachting meet, it must have been summer 1932, he had seen Hitler, and had told my father what fascinating eyes Hitler had, that look… and he had asked my father why he should want to emigrate, to leave Berlin, to leave Germany; he said that Hitler had other worries than the Jews…

Adolf Hain came to see Anita long after the war, when she was in her spa, in Badenweiler in the Black Forest. He had retired to Lake Constance, and spoke to her about his wife 'representing' him, i e doing the hostess honours as the lady of the house. Sounds terribly nouveau riche to me, dont know his antecedents. It could well be that it was his parents who lived on the mezzanine floor of their villa, and were kept away from the classy company he entertained downstairs. I also don’t know whether Anita had any inkling of what a prime Nazi Adolf Hain had turned into. There may be references to it in her diaries, which I have yet to look at… At that meeting, when he came to see her, he showed her a postcard from my father, who had signed it ‘Paul’, his second forename, which he had chosen to use because he didn’t like the reference to ‘little’ in the book title ‘Eric, or Little by Little’. Adolf Hain said to my mother: Surely this is Erich’s handwriting? So there was some correspondence between them.

One winter, in that series of Christmas visits Anita and I made to Berlin, around 1990, we had an outing to Wannsee, and I thought it would be nice to have a goose Christmas lunch in the old clubhouse. We rang the bell at the side entrance, and explained about our old association with the club, and were guided up to the dining room, with some awkwardness, I thought, embarrassment, and given a lovely meal. Of course we had no inkling of the club’s role in the history of the intervening years…

It has been a great relief for me to find all this out; to know now exactly what exalted a role Adolf Hain played during the 12 years the murderers were in charge; to know now exactly what happened at the Seglerhaus; to know now exactly what took place in that great hall in which I gave my goose lunch party last Christmas, and in which I may well yet have more Christmas goose lunches with my Berlin and other friends; and on the terrace in front of which I may well yet have more sunny birthday feasts. I’m glad I know. I needed to know. And the ghost is laid.

14 February – 18 March 2009

2nd version with Max Berke’s resignation, and amendments. 24 June 2009

3rd version with the 1934 date of the exclusion of the Jews, and Ruth Langenscheidt. 10 August 2009

4th version with Anita’s and my Christmas goose lunch in the clubhouse around 1990. 26 November 2009


Der erste Schritt der Ausgrenzung der Juden...

Du darfst nicht mehr Klubmitglied sein.

Du darfst nicht mehr in Deinem Stammlokal Kaffee trinken

Du darfst nicht mehr auf der Bank im Park sitzen.

Du darfst nicht mehr ins Theater, ins Konzert, ins Kino, in die Ausstellung.

Du darfst nicht mehr die oeffentlichen Verkehrsmittel benutzen.

Du darfst kein Geschaeft mehr leiten.

Du darfst nicht mehr unsereinen heiraten

Oder ficken.

Du darfst nicht mehr leben.

Das Gedicht ergab sich aus meiner Geschichte von Adolf Hain und dem Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee , VSaW. 18 3 9


The first step in the exclusion of the Jews…

You are no longer permitted to be a member of the club.

You are no longer permitted to have coffee in your regular café.

You are no longer permitted to sit on the bench in the park.

You are no longer permitted to go to the theatre, to concert, cinema or exhibition.

You are no longer permitted to use public transport facilities.

You are no longer permitted to run a business.

You are no longer permitted to marry any of us,

Or to fuck any of us.

You are no longer permitted to live.

The poem arose out of my story of Adolf Hain and the Sailing Club on the Wannsee, VSaW. 19 3 9

C 2009 Peter Zander

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