The scion of a wealthy German family with manufacturing interests, Hans Halberstadt took up the sport of fencing as a young man in his home town of Offenbach en Main. He competed for Germany at the 1924 Olympic Games on the epee and sabre teams and in the individual epee.
A raconteur and man on leisure, he claimed to have had a locker in every major club in Europe, so that he might travel freely without the encumbrance of a fencing equipment bag. A decorated war hero from the First World War, Hans was taken by the Nazis in 1937 and informed – he claimed not to have known – that he was of Jewish heritage.READ MORE...
Friends in high places or bribes got him out of an internment camp and eventually onto a boat out of Rotterdam that took him to New York. After a cross country bus ride, he joined his brother and sister who had earlier relocated to San Francisco.
Hans arrived in January of 1940, penniless and with no occupation other than fencing. He opened the Halberstadt Fencers Club in 1941, living in the back of the rented space, and remained there as teacher until his passing in 1966. His club became the center of the San Francisco fencing community and flourished in his lifetime. It continued on after his death and remains today the longest continually operating fencing club on the West Coast.
A couple of months ago, I received an invite from Jessica to come to the OC to view the bequest of the Giambra family to the Olympic Club. Salvatore Giambra was an excellent fencer who got his start in the 1930s at Unione Sportiva Italiana
Having not one, but two, Helene Mayer trophies land in The Archive recently seems to have been a precursor to a small ‘golden age’ of incoming H. Mayer material that I can’t explain in any way that I can explain, but I’m happy for the good fortune.
I’ve been perusing the pages of “The California Fencer”, later just “The Fencer”, a West Coast publication that circulated for a few years following WW2 and prior to the start of the national American Fencer magazine.
Fear. It’s a motivator for me. Not the average, everyday kind of fear, nor an amorphous fear of zombies or clowns. Rather, the fear of loss. A very specific kind of loss.
There’s been a bit of hiatus around here. Perhaps you’re one who noticed. I’m sure someone must have. The overriding catchall reason for the long layoff since our last story is all about how much effort it takes to make a feature documentary. “What?” I hear you...
Regular readers will be familiar with the many tales told herein of Charles Selberg, himself a graduate of SF State (BA ’57, MA ’60). Selberg had his fencing beginnings at SF State under the tutelage of Erich Funke.
In attempting to self-analyze why writing about Hans is so enjoyable for me, the only thing I come up with is that in almost every group photo of him I’ve seen, he appears to be having the best time.
Thus, back in time we go to the Halberstadt School of Fencing – which is how the sign read that was painted on the door in gold letters at 3145 Fillmore Street in San Francisco.
After a too-long hiatus from posting to the site, I figured I’d start simple. But, like everything, there’s a bit more to the story. Over the summer, Friend of The Archive Jamie Douraghy had the excellent idea of calling me to let me know that retired fencing master...
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