A view from the past... Germany

Schaper displays his two books, inspired by events in his life.

At 86 years old, Karl Schaper stands straight and strong, with a mechanic’s big hands gesturing as he talks. He speaks with a light German accent. From his cheerful demeanor, you wouldn’t know that he grew up during one of the darkest periods in his home country’s history: WWII, during which he was required to join the Hitler Youth. He shared about his life experience with visitors to the Clarion Library on Monday, March 6.

Schaper was born in 1931 in a small farming community near Hamburg, just two years before Hitler came to power. His parents were farm workers. Schaper said that for the first few years, the people thought Hitler was all right, but as time went by and he made more and worse decisions, people became scared, but couldn’t say anything. “If you said one word, you’d be in trouble,” Schaper said.

He remembers the persecution Jews in his country faced when he was young. One day as he walked to the store for his mother, he saw two boys his age pushing another boy wearing a Star of David off the sidewalk. “I said, ‘This is not right.’” When Schaper protested, the two boys turned on him instead. After being pummeled, he ran. “And this wasn’t the end of it,” he said. The next day in school, he was shouted at by an SS officer. However, his father told him he did the right thing.

 

For the full story of Schaper's life during the war and how he came to Iowa, see the March 16 edition of the Monitor.