The Early Years


Klaus' First Speech I was born in Berlin in 1943 and lived there for 21 years.
Here I'm giving my first political speech.

Berlin divided into two parts. You can see the rail, air, and roadlinks that connected the city to West Germany.
Berlin Divided

The Brandenburg Gate with the Wall in front of it. 30 years later we stood in front of it again and the Wall was gone.
tor1.jpg (11596 bytes)

The first political event I remember was the end of the Berlin blockade in 1949. 

I didn't understand what had happened, but clearly something wonderful had occurred. Everybody was very happy, and my mother told me that from now on we'd have electricity all day long, and she wouldn't have to iron at 4 o'clock in the morning any more.

I remember no deprivations growing up in postwar Berlin. We played in the streets; there were hardly any cars during those days. A fair number of buildings were in ruins and we were strictly forbidden to play in them. Kids sometimes got hurt by unexploded bombs or falling walls.

Age 10 w/ Renate

Renate and Klaus

My childhood was pretty uneventful.

I was rebellious, not in the sense of being ill-behaved; I got good marks in school, but I was always in conflict with authority.

8th Grade – we still used the old wooden desks8th Grage

At one point I published the school newspaper and got kicked off because the articles were too controversial. At another time I re-wrote the constitution of the Student Government (an American innovation, unthinkable in the old Germany) to make it more confrontational.

Age 14
My first real camera,
same day
Taking pictures in Berlin ca 1960.


First Camera

Shooting Pictures

I worked on the school newspaper at Browne & Nichols (I'm on the left). It was a prep school, we all wore jackets and ties ..The Spectator

When I was 18, in 1961, the big event of my life occurred: I was sent as an exchange student to America, to a prep school in Cambridge, MA. (Browne & Nichols).

I fell in love with America overnight. A year later I returned to Berlin and decided to emigrate.

The Berlin City Hall, where in 1962 JFK said "Ich bin ein Berliner." I was in the crowd.Schoeneberg City Hall


In 1965, when I was 21, I convinced my father that I should go to college in America for a year, and he agreed. Unbeknown to him, I had got an immigrant visa...

It was easy to get a visa in those days; the old quota system was still in effect, and the German quota was never filled. I simply went to the American consulate and said I wanted to immigrate, and they said "Fine, here are the forms." Six months after I arrived the law was changed and the door pretty much slammed shut.

The photo on my immigrant visa, the last picture of me taken in GermanyLeaving Berlin


I arrived in New York on April 14, 1965, after a 16 hour trip on Icelandic Airlines. The immigration officer took my immigrant visa, gave me a big smile and said: "Welcome!"

I had thought I would be just passing through New York, but it became obvious very quickly that I needed to look no further.

More about that on the next page.


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