EMS Randonee Night Tour Returns to Cranmore

The 17th annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race will feature an untimed, up and down-mountain social nighttime ski tour and dinner for skiers on randonee and telemark gear as part of the opening festivities on Friday evening, March 1. Eastern Mountain Sports of North Conway will sponsor the event, providing alpine touring demo equipment for those who need it. Participants who want to take advantage of the demo offer should call the EMS North Conway store at 603-356-5433 to reserve gear or visit the store prior to February 28, 2012 so that they can be fitted with equipment.

The 2012 EMS Randonee Night Tour leaves the Cranmore base area as twilight fades to night. Hannes Schneider, grandson and namesake of the Austrian skimeister, strides toward the camera in left center.

EMS was a pioneer in the retailing of nordic and backcountry skiing gear in the early 1970s when the concept of cross-country skiing was becoming popular but not many alpine ski shops were prepared to cope with the surge in interest in the new style of skiing. The EMS store in North Conway became a center of cross-country sales and information in that period and for several years revived the fading Intervale Ski Area as a nordic center. Over the years other retailers caught up to EMS’ early lead, but several of the company’s massive mail order catalogs from the early 1970s in the New England Ski Museum’s collection give evidence to the breadth of their ski selection in the early years of nordic skiing’s popularity.

The connection between human-powered climbing on skis and the man honored by the event, Hannes Schneider, is clear and direct. Schneider developed his techniques before the invention of ski lifts, and as a practiced and passionate backcountry skier in his native Arlberg region of Austria, used uphill alpine touring techniques daily himself and taught them to his students. Schneider is considered the founder of ski instruction as it is still structured today, and as an originator of the mountain resort industry because his ski school sparked unprecedented prosperity to his mountain hometown of St. Anton, Austria.

Registration for the EMS Randonee Night Tour begins at 4 PM on Friday March 1, and costs $25, including a dinner buffet. Beginning at 5 PM, tour participants will ascend a route to be selected and marked by Cranmore patrollers, and follow a designated route down the mountain’s alpine trails. The Meister Hut at the summit of Cranmore will be open and hot chocolate available to the group. All skiers will be urged to make their descent by 7:00 PM so as not to miss the hearty alpine buffet that coincides with the opening reception of the Meister Cup in Zip’s Pub and Grill.

The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is a benefit event for the New England Ski Museum of Franconia, NH. While celebrating 30 years in its Franconia Notch State Park home, the museum also maintains satellite exhibits at Bretton Woods Ski Area, the Visitor Center at Intervale Scenic Vista, and the Eastern Slope Inn.

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Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race Honors US Ski Troops

70 years ago this winter, the legendary American ski troops that would soon be named the 10th Mountain Division were just occupying Camp Hale, the brand new training base in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division from that era from as far away as Washington state will be on hand at the 17th annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race at Mount Cranmore in North Conway, New Hampshire on Saturday, March 2, 2013.

Construction of Camp Hale was just being concluded in late January 1943, and some 16,000 soldiers and 2,500 mules were already in residence. In late December 1942 the War Department issued an order to fill a second regiment of soldiers to be trained in mountain and winter warfare. In an unprecedented arrangement, the Army used a civilian agency, the National Ski Patrol, to serve as a recruiter for the new regiment on the theory that the NSP could better judge skiing ability than non-skiing Army personnel. The resulting unit, the 86th Mountain Infantry regiment, had sky-high morale and test scores indicating that two-thirds of the 86th enlisted men were officer material. A 1946 Army report noted that “some of our most hard-bitten Regular Army personnel are now frankly admitting that the best men we are receiving …have been endorsed through the National Ski Patrol.”

The soldiers of the mountain infantry had only a short time at Camp Hale to learn the essentials of outdoor winter living before they were assigned to maneuvers in the Homestake Peak area near Leadville, Colorado from February 4 through 12. Those troopers who had already spent one winter training with the 87th Mountain Infantry adapted to both the winter environment and bureaucratic Army methods and thrived on the exercises. In a 2005 memoir Robert W. Parker, later a Vail resort marketing executive, recalled his squad setting up their Army mountain tents in crisp, straight lines that would please the most diligent superior officer, then proceeding to dig snow caves where they slept in warmth and comfort impossible to achieve in the non-breathable, moisture-coated tents.

Other mountain troopers, new to the Colorado high country and with uneven training, had considerable difficulty in adjusting to the altitude, deep snow, and heavy packs. Mountaineering experts sent from Washington as observers submitted a less-than-complimentary report, which in time resulted in changes in the command of the unit. The high point of the maneuvers came as the artillery used its 75 millimeter pack howitzers to bring down a devastating avalanche from Homestake Peak onto the aptly-named Slide Lake. The point was to prove the potential for artillery-induced avalanches as a weapon of mountain warfare, a tactic that would never be used in World War II but which did inspire the use of explosives in postwar civilian avalanche control.

Veterans of the World War II-era 10th Mountain Division are in their late eighties now. The New England chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division will hold its annual winter gathering in conjunction with the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race, and a group of veterans is expected on Saturday to observe the race and mingle with skiers of all ages, as well as active-duty mountain soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, New York, the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) of the Vermont National Guard, and the Army Mountain Warfare School of Jericho, Vermont. Those three units of mountain soldiers will participate in the opening ceremony of the event, skiing down with the national and division colors, and compete in the special military category of the Schneider Race.

The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is a benefit event for the New England Ski Museum, which has as part of its mission the remembrance of the 10th Mountain Division, many of whose veterans were instrumental in the postwar development of the alpine and nordic ski industries.

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New England Ski Museum Call for 2013 Grant Applications

Each year in connection with its Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race, the New England Ski Museum makes grants totaling $3,000 to support people and groups that enhance the mission of the Museum, which is to preserve the history of skiing and winter sports in New England.

The program is named for former Museum president Cal Conniff, who originated the Hannes Schneider Race in 1997 to honor the Austrian ski pioneer and bring a measure of financial viability to the non-profit Museum.

This year, the Cal Conniff awards will be announced on Friday, March 1, 2013 at the opening reception of the Hannes Schneider Race in Cranmore’s Eating House restaurant, in North Conway, NH.

Previous Cal Conniff Grant awards have included:

  • Amherst Regional High School Nordic ski team, Amherst, MA, $500 for program support;
  • Penobscot Valley Ski Club, Bangor, ME, $500 to support their nordic ski program;
  • Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports, Waterville Valley, NH, $1,000 to support adaptive ski programs for local school children;
  • Discovery Camp Program at Loon Mountain, Lincoln, NH, $1,000 to support their skiing and snowboarding programs;
  • Bretton Woods Adaptive Sports & Recreation, Bretton Woods, NH, $1,000 to provide adaptive ski lessons for local students with physical and developmental disabilities;
  • The Ford K. Sayre Memorial Ski Council, Inc, Hanover, NH, $1,000 to purchase ski jumping boots for their junior and high school jumpers;
  • The Damon O’Neal Scholarship Committee, North Conway, NH, $800 to partially fund a scholarship in memory of ski racer Damon O’Neal;
  • New England Disabled Sports, Lincoln, NH, $1,000 to support its hosting of the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame;
  • Nick Alexander, Lebanon, NH, $1,000, in support of his ski jumping career;
  • Thunderbolt Ski Runners, Adams, MA, $800 to support its 75th anniversary race on the Thunderbolt Trail;
  • Cochran’s Ski Area, Richmond, VT, $1000 to support its community after-school programs;
  • Bruce Whittier Middle School and Poland Regional High School in Poland Maine, $1,000 to support nordic ski equipment acquisition;
  • Northeast Slopes, East Corinth, VT, $500 to support installation of a T-Bar tow.

The Cal Conniff Grant Program is open to individuals, organizations and educational institutions with an interest in winter sports, such as alpine and nordic skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Anyone who can demonstrate the need for funding for the purposes of education, preservation of skiing history, encouraging winter sports participation, or other involvement in snow sports is eligible.

The selection process is conducted by the Museum’s Grant Committee on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis. The committee judges applications based on the following:

the importance of the grant to the success of the proposed program;

  • the proposal’s contribution to the preservation of ski or snowboard history;
  • the educational value of the proposal;
  • the extent to which the project encourages skiing or snowboarding participation;
  • the applicant’s degree of organization in the pursuit of the project.

The application process is kept purposefully informal. Applicants submit a letter that outlines a description of the project, its goals, the audience that it will impact, and the dollar amount requested. Supporting information for the application should include:

  • resume or organizational description, including contact name and mailing address;
  • two letters supporting the merits of the individual or program;
  • representative photograph for publication if the applicant is successful.

The deadline for applications is February 5, 2013.

Questions about the program or application materials should be e-mailed to staff@skimuseum.org or mailed to:

Cal Conniff Grant Committee

New England Ski Museum

PO Box 267

Franconia, NH 03580



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2013 Ski Museum Shop Catalog Now in Print

The 2013 New England Ski Museum Shop catalog is now in print and online, featuring more than 35 new products that convey the excitement, adventure and nostalgia of skiing from the 1930s to 2012. The 24-page catalog offers perfect gifts for skiers and lovers of winter, and quite a few of the products are exclusive to the museum, developed using posters, photographs, films and archives from the broad collections that are a feature of the organization.

2013 catalog cover

New England Ski Museum is set apart from other American ski museums by the extent of their collections, housed in the Paumgarten Family Archival Center a short distance from the museum itself. The collections are used by the museum’s directors, staff and members to produce original works on the history of the sport ranging from the internationally-known academic studies of E. John B. Allen to the surreptitiously educational, hilarious blooper-reel DVD Thrills and Spills in the North Country produced by Rick Moulton. Director Jeremy Davis’ most recent book, Lost Ski Areas of the Southern Adirondacks, is one of several new books that appear in the catalog.

More skier gifts can be found on the museum’s website, including two books by members that will be available soon. Henry Yaple’s Never A Bad Year for Snow tells the history of 75-year old Lost Trail/Powder Mountain, a local sleeper ski area in western Montana, while closer to home, Tom Eastman’s 75-year history of Cranmore Mountain Resort is expected in mid-January.

The catalog cover, a bold, dynamic image of a skier in a terrain jump crystallizes the vivid style and passion for the sport that characterize ski area posters in the 1930s and 1940s. The poster was developed as a shop product as a result of an exhaustive review of collections in the process of renovating the museum’s permanent exhibit in the summer of 2012.

There was a time, about 15 years ago, when neckties were the largest seller in the museum’s catalog. Several ties with ski motifs still appear in the catalog, but the title for most popular product these days is held by hooked wool pillows, stockings and rugs by Chandler 4 Corners of Manchester, Vermont, with a variety of skiing scenes.

New DVDs in the catalog show unbelievable skiing scenes from the local—Mount Washington in the new Warren Miller film Like There’s No Tomorrow—to the Himalayan—in the mind-boggling concept behind Skiing Everest.

The shop catalog is one of the methods that the non-profit New England Ski Museum uses to support itself. All proceeds from catalog sales go to support the museum’s mission to preserve and disseminate the history of skiing.

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Bernie Weichsel to Receive 7th Spirit of Skiing Award

More than a quarter century after he created the prestigious BEWI Award which honors pioneers of skiing and the ski industry, ski and snowboard expo producer Bernie Weichsel will receive the New England Ski Museum’s Spirit of Skiing award in recognition of his influence in popularizing the sport. The award to Weichsel will be presented at the ski museum’s 35th Annual Meeting and Dinner at Wachusett Mountain Resort in Princeton, Massachusetts on November 17, 2012.

Bernie Weichsel

Bernie Weichsel, recipient of the 7th annual Spirit of Skiing Award.

The Spirit of Skiing award is given annually to a person who embodies the adage put forth by ski pioneer Otto Schneibs that “skiing is not just a sport, it is a way of life.” Previous honorees have included Tom Corcoran, Stein Eriksen, Herbert Schneider, SE Group, Penny Pitou and Georg Capaul.

Formerly a member of the board of directors of the ski museum himself, Bernie had a role in the naming of the award he will receive in November. “It was 2006, and we were casting around for a name for the award, which we would present to Tom Corcoran at our next meeting,” recalled museum director Jeff Leich. “Bernie was visiting the museum on his way to a hike up to Greenleaf Hut, and as we were browsing through the exhibit, Bernie saw the term “spirit of skiing” in a display and thought it would be a good name for the award. We never looked for any other.”

Bernie first skied at age four at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills, and became a lifelong skier. The son of a butcher and owner of the Weichsel Beef Company, Bernie made several good faith efforts to take up management of the family company in between stints at the Colorado School of Mines and as a Vail ski bum, but the call of skiing won out and in 1979 he founded BEWI Productions, Inc. to produce events modeled on the ski shows run by Harry Leonard and Jerry Simon that he had worked in college. He burnished his reputation as an impresario of events by managing the National Ski Areas Association trade shows, and by starting SKI USA, which marketed some of the largest American ski resorts throughout the world.

BEWI Productions is the organization behind consumer ski and snowboard expos in Denver, Minneapolis and Boston, which collectively attract audiences in the hundreds of thousands each year.

As an established figure in the ski industry, Bernie got involved with a number of non-profit ski history organizations, beginning with the New England Ski Museum. After retiring from that board, he joined the boards of the International Skiing History Association and the US National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum, where he is currently chairman. Under Bernie’s leadership the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony has been held at various locations around the country, including most recently Sun Valley and Seattle. He is presently working with those two allied organizations to create a new showcase of ski history in downtown Denver which will combine the Beekley Collection of Skiing Art and Literature with snowsports artifacts and displays from several ski museums.

The directors of the New England Ski Museum enthusiastically anticipate honoring Bernie Weichsel, who has done so much for the ski and snowboard industries, and who has been the founder and presenter of the BEWI Award for 26 years and counting. Board members feel that it is time for the ski world to return the favor.

Reservations for the event may be made by calling the ski museum at 800-639-4181, or by visiting http://newenglandskimuseum.com/events/ . The cost of the dinner is $75 per person before October 1 and $90 thereafter. Sponsored tables of 10 with preferred seating and banner display can be reserved for $800 before October 1 or $1000 after that date. A limited number of rooms at the nearby Wachusett Village Inn are available to participants at $99.00 per room plus tax and service charge; reservations for those rooms can be made by calling 978-874-2000.

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Herbert Schneider 1920-2012

Herbert Schneider assumed leadership of the Hannes Schneider Ski School at Mount Cranmore following the April 1955 death of his father. Hannes’ passing was completely unexpected, and when it came he had been fully engaged with planning for the new East Slope and chairlift at Cranmore, and had just returned from a trip to New York to meet daughter Herta and son-in-law Karl Fahrner on their arrival from St. Anton.

Herbert Schneider

Herbert Schneider 1920-2012

On his last day of life, Hannes dictated several letters to Herbert, who took them down in shorthand, then complained of pain in his elbows and stomach. In those pre-EMS days it took time to arrange for an ambulance to the hospital, and Hannes died before its arrival. At his funeral in North Conway, skiers from across the country and abroad mingled with the local people who had become his friend.

At the time that Herbert Schneider took over the ski school at Cranmore, it was a busy and profitable concern. Hannes Schneider had virtually invented the ski school structure, and his fame in the skiing universe had attracted many patrons to North Conway. The ski school saw growth in every year between the arrival of the Schneiders in 1939 and 1955. There was a day when 800 lessons were taught at the mountain, and to give 200 lessons on a midweek day was unremarkable. Learning to ski on the long wooden skis and soft leather boots of the day required more practice and persistence than on today’s efficient ski equipment, and many returned to lessons week after week, for years at a time.

Herbert’s new role as Director of the ski school was one for which he had been prepared almost from birth. At age 11, he was sent to school at Feldkirch, about 40 kilometers west of St. Anton, to a Jesuit school named Stella Matutina. Here he played hockey and ran track after classes.

Herbert Schneider as a youth in St. Anton

Herbert Schneider as a youth in St. Anton

When he was older, he spent one year in L’ecole Superior de Commerce in Neuchatl, Switzerland, in order to polish his French skills. Hannes’s ski school in St. Anton was becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, and the ability to speak languages other than German was becoming important. Herbert expected to follow his formal education with a few years teaching skiing at Sun Valley to learn English, but events in Europe intervened.

When the Anschluss came in March 1938, Herbert and his sister Herta, also in school in Switzerland, knew little of the events in St. Anton. Hannes, from the beginning unimpressed at the rise of National Socialism in Austria, progressed to a firm refusal to treat with the Nazis from Innsbruck who gained influence in St. Anton. When the day came that Germany annexed Austria, Hannes was awakened at 3 AM and taken into custody along with four others, including the brother of Otto Tschol, who would live in North Conway and teach at Cranmore. One of those arresting Hannes sheepishly apologized for the way it was done, only to be fired for his solicitousness a few days later.

While Hannes was held in custody, first in the jail in Landeck then under house arrest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany, Herbert and Herta stayed in Switzerland with sympathetic families.

Rosen's house

The house where Hannes Schneider was held under house arrest in Garmisch, seen in 2012. Photo by Heide Allen.

All through the summer and fall of 1938 Hannes’s future was unknown. He was offered the directorship of the ski school in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, though the offer was withdrawn after pressure. Hannes’ wife Ludwina’s strong feeling was that if they could not resume their previous life in St. Anton, it was best to move as far away as they could.

This became a real possibility late in the year, as Cranmore’s Harvey Dow Gibson, alerted to the situation by Benno Rybizka, set his sights on having Hannes relocate to North Conway and operate the Hannes Schneider Ski School from Mount Cranmore. Gibson’s financial and political connections made this improbable scenario a reality in early 1939, and the arrangement had great appeal to Hannes and Ludwina because it allowed the entire family to leave Europe altogether, at a time that turned out to be on the eve of all-encompassing war.

Upon landing in North Conway, Herbert had two immediate obstacles to a career in ski instruction: he did not speak English, and he had never taught a ski lesson. The language barrier came down within 4 or 6 weeks, Herbert recalls, helped by intensive attendance at the North Conway theater watching Hollywood’s offerings with the other Austrian instructors in town—Toni Matt, Franz Koessler, Otto Tschol, and Benno Rybizka. Herbert spent his days shadowing the experienced instructors; he recalls Toni Matt as an especially gifted teacher of skiing. It was a time when technique was progressing so rapidly in Austria that Benno, who had been in America since 1936 and was unaware of the evolution of technique in Austria, criticized Herbert and Franz for making pure parallel turns without showcasing the stem phase of the turn.

It was only when he arrived in America that Herbert realized the extent of his father’s influence on the sport of skiing, as Hannes was not accustomed to speak of his role at home. Hannes, Herta and Herbert were made to feel at home in North Conway immediately, and soon gained wide acquaintance. However, the welcome release from European tension was darkened by the death of Ludwina Schneider shortly after the family’s arrival.

In his second year in North Conway, the 1939-1940 ski season, Herbert had his first class on his own. His first pupils were Mr. and Mrs. C.V. Starr, he being the insurance magnate who would soon come to dominate the ski area at Mt. Mansfield, and would finance the installation of a chairlift in St. Anton after the war. Herbert received his instructor’s certification in 1940, along with Toni Matt in an exam given by Roger Langley on the old Whiteface Trail in New York. It was on that trip that he received his nickname “Zip”, invented by Walter Maguire, who drove them to the event.

Herbert Schneider skiing at Cranmore

Herbert Schneider skiing at Cranmore

The advent of war in Europe in 1939, and America’s involvement dating to the Pearl Harbor attack changed everything for Herbert’s generation on both sides of the Atlantic. Herbert, Toni Matt, and Otto Tschol joined the newly formed 10th Light Division (Alpine) training at Camp Hale, Colorado in August 1943. They were sent directly to Camp Hale, bypassing basic training. On their arrival there Toni and Herbert were assigned to the 10th Recon, the unit containing the better skiers and climbers that were detailed to teach skiing, climbing, and winter survival to the main division. Lacking basic training, Herbert and Toni were assigned to individualized training with Sergeant Nelson Bennett, a Lancaster NH native.

In the winter of 1944, Herbert was on detached duty to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin, training troops of the 76th Division in winter warfare. He returned to Camp Hale in time for the division’s move to Camp Swift in Texas June 1944; just before his departure he became a US citizen in Eagle, Colorado.

The 10th, now designated the 10th Mountain Division, spent the winter and spring of 1945 in fierce combat in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Herbert was with the 86th regiment during this period, winning a Bronze Star for quick thinking when he and a group from his I & R platoon encountered a German patrol in a minefield behind enemy lines.

At the end of the war, the Herbert’s unit found itself in Riva, near the north end of Lake Garda, a place where Herbert’s mother Ludwina had worked before her marriage. It was also close to the point where Hannes’ unit had ended the First World War. In the months between the German surrender in Italy and the 10th’s return to America, Herbert and two others were sent to Innsbruck to retrieve some German mountain equipment. The proximity to St. Anton made a detour irresistible, and Herbert found himself welcomed at the home he had left years earlier. A celebration ensued when word of Herbert’s return got around, and bottles of wine that had been hidden for the duration were brought out.

Herbert in St. Anton 1945

Herbert Schneider returned to St. Anton in 1945 as an American soldier

The Sporthaus Schneider, the combination ski shop, guest house and Schneider family home, remained in the possession of the family through the war years thanks to lease arrangements made on behalf of the family by Karl Rösen, the man with whom Hannes had found refuge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen after his 1938 arrest. Rösen, not a Nazi himself, seems to have had connections at the highest levels of the Nazi party dating from decades earlier. He was also a skiing friend of Hannes’ and his interventions to get Hannes out of Austria and to secure the ownership of the St. Anton property surely eased the Schneider family’s troubles greatly. During the war years, the house was leased by Rudi Matt, one of Hannes’ senior instructors, and became a rest and recreation center where German military personnel learned to ski.

The brief, happy return of Herbert to St. Anton was overshadowed by the tragedy that just ended. Many young men of Herbert’s generation never returned from the military. Herbert’s best friend as a boy, Pepi Jennewein was one. A champion ski racer, he was recruited as a fighter pilot by the Luftwaftte, as were other ski competitors for their competitive impulses and rapid reflexes.  Jennewein became a fighter ace, recording many kills, before being shot down. Another St. Anton skier, Pepi Gabl, was present and saw a parachute open, but Pepi Jennewin’s fate was unknown for decades. In recent years it was learned that he survived in a Russian POW camp until the early 1950s.

Herbert and St. Anton friends 1945

Herbert and St. Anton friends, 1945

A civilian once more in the fall of 1945, Herbert returned to North Conway and Cranmore, helping Hannes operate the ski school and the mountain. Business at the mountain grew as skiing regained its prewar popularity. Cranmore was in an excellent position to capitalize on skier interest because not many ski resorts existed before the war, and the great postwar boom in ski area construction was yet to come.

Ownership of Mount Cranmore devolved to Mrs. Harvey Gibson after her husband died in 1950, and it was she who selected Herbert to lead the ski school in 1955.  A few years later, in 1963, when her financial advisers thought it best for her to sell the resort, Mrs. Gibson vetoed their plan to sell to a group of Cranmore managers and made it possible for Herbert to assemble a small group of investors and purchase the mountain. Herbert remained the on-site manager throughout his ownership tenure.

As a ski area owner, Herbert became active in industry groups like Eastern Ski Area Operators and the New Hampshire Ski Area Operators. He went onto the Board of the Professional Ski Instructors of America in its second year, and remained a Board member and officer for years.

Herbert Schneider leading a ski business meeting

Herbert Schneider leading a ski business meeting

In February 1966 Herbert married Doris Beaudet of Connecticut, a Northeast Airlines stewardess who was based out of Boston. Herbert and Herta had been on a flight with Doris, who soon thereafter came to Cranmore for a ski school lesson. Herbert remembered her name from the nameplate that airline crews then displayed on the cockpit door during their flights, and they struck up a romance. After their marriage, their first son Hannes was born in 1967, and his brother Christoph was born a year later.

As the son of the pioneer developer of ski instruction, Herbert Schneider was literally the second generation of businessmen making a living from skiing. Rapid developments in skiing had changed the ski business landscape since the heyday of Hannes’ ski school in the 1930s. First and foremost, just as Hannes was encountering his political problems in St. Anton, mechanical ski lifts were becoming widespread. Once it became obvious that lifts would become an integral part of skiing, the ski schools that had evolved when the only uphill capacity was measured in lung power had to adjust and incorporate lifts into the teaching scheme. Ski lifts allowed more time for downhill, hence more experience for each day on the slopes. Skis and ski boots became more refined. Both developments had the effect of reducing the time a novice had to spend in ski lessons. The Schneiders and other European instructors found Americans to be vastly less patient than Europeans, and had to make allowances for that attitude.

Just as years of ski lessons became less critical for a newcomer to gain skill on skis, a great surge in construction of ski resorts got underway in the northeastern US. Existing ski resorts like Cranmore quite suddenly had to cope with vastly increased competition from new areas on the higher peaks of the northeastern mountains, and from European and western destinations made newly accessible by air travel. Herbert struggled with these trends, and engineered the gradual expansion of lifts and terrain. He continued Cranmore’s early lead in mechanical snow grooming, and arranged for the installation of snowmaking around 1969 or 1970. While Cranmore lost the pre-eminent position in the hierarchy of eastern resorts it held in the 1940s, it remained a viable mid-sized ski area with a loyal following. In 1984, faced with the unwillingness of his partners to invest more in the resort, Herbert put the mountain up for sale and bowed out of the ski business.

It was 45 years after Herbert and Hannes took their first run on Cranmore. On the way down they had paused, and Hannes told Herbert, “Well Herbert, it isn’t St. Anton, it isn’t the Arlberg, but we’re going to love it here”.

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New England Ski Museum Unveils New Permanent Exhibition

For the first time in many decades, the New England Ski Museum has new nesm exhibitrevamped its permanent exhibition, those images and artifacts that stay on view from year to year while the museum’s shorter-term displays frequently change. The new exhibition, titled “From the First Tracks to the Fall Line: eight thousand years of skiing”, presents a coherent chronology of the development of skiing from its prehistoric roots up until the advent of the shaped ski in the 1990s, and includes local aspects of ski history with national implications such as several important ‘firsts’ at Cannon Mountain, and the career of Bode Miller.

“For years, when an important or interesting object came to the museum, it was placed on display where it would fit physically, not necessarily where it fit chronologically,” noted executive director Jeff Leich. “These renovations will give our visitors a much more logical sense of how skiing developed.”

The ski museum’s overhaul was made possible partly though a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the agency that channels federal support to museums. IMLS seeks to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

The exhibition features several 27 inch video screens, on which visitors can view their choices of film clips that explore topics such as ski instruction, the power and danger of avalanches, the early days of snowboarding, and the revival of the telemark turn. Despite the relatively small space of the museum’s exhibition hall, the film clips and in-depth articles on aspects of ski history published in the Museum’s Journal, which staff and docents make available to visitors on request, expand and augment the reach of the exhibition.

Upon entering the Museum, visitors see a short video introduction to skiing, coupled with an introductory alcove in which replicas of prehistoric skis—authentically produced by tribesmen in Central Asia who still use them—are paired with K2 Fours such as Bode Miller used when he first popularized shaped skis in the mid 1990s. Miller’s five Olympic medals on display mark some of his more recent skiing achievements.

The exhibition quickly focuses in on the transplantation of skiing from Europe to New England, and especially on the rapid growth of the sport and the fledgling businesses built around the sport in the 1930s. One important aspect of that decade was the creation of the National Ski Patrol to provide first aid to injured skiers, and the NSP in turn was a key advocate of the US Army’s mountain troops that became known as the 10th Mountain Division. Following the Second World War, veterans of the 10th were hugely significant in opening ski resorts around the country.

The rise of modern ski resorts in the 1950s and 1960s was followed by a retrenchment in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to the ‘lost ski area’ phenomenon as numerous small areas closed. Nordic skiing saw increasing popularity, and two new American forms, freestyle and snowboarding, appeared in the 1970s.

A 12-foot wide photomural of Tuckerman Ravine in the winter of 1969, noted as the snowiest on record there, closes out the exhibition, and visitors photographed standing before the mural appear to be in the ravine themselves. The Museum is open from 10 to 5 from Memorial Day until the end of ski season.
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International Ski History Association honors New Hampshire ski history

New Hampshire is well represented at the ISHA Writers and Filmmakers Awards Banquet in Seattle, Washington. From left: Skade Award winner Jeffrey Leich of North Conway; Ski Hall of Fame member Nelson Bennett, originally of Lancaster; Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Bob Beattie, originally of Manchester; Skade Award winner Meghan McCarthy McPhaul of Franconia; and newly inducted Ski Hall of Fame member Phil Gravink of Jackson.

Three from NH inducted to Hall of Fame; Cannon, Gunstock, Tuckerman Ravine books awarded

 SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—New Hampshire was well represented during the International Skiing History Association’s Ski Heritage Week in the Pacific Northwest earlier this month. Three books showcasing the state’s strong ski history received Skade Awards from ISHA, and three people with direct ties to New Hampshire skiing were inducted into the U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

“The state was a notable hotbed of skiing and ski industry development in the 1930s and 1940s,” said Jeffrey Leich, executive director of the New England Ski Museum in Franconia, New Hampshire. “ISHA’s awards to three books on New Hampshire ski history, and the Hall of Fame’s induction of three people with links to the state reflect the outsize influence of our small corner of the northeast.”

ISHA presented the Skade Award to three books on New Hampshire ski history: “A History of Cannon Mountain: Trails, Tales and Skiing Legends” by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, “Over the Headwall: A History of Skiing in Tuckerman Ravine” by Jeffrey R. Leich, and “The History of Gunstock: Skiing in the Belknap Mountains” by Carol Anderson.

The Skade Award, named after the Norse goddess of skiing and winter, is presented to outstanding books on regional ski history.

Cannon and Gunstock are among the oldest ski areas in the country, and Tuckerman Ravine, on Mount Washington, has been a skiers’ favorite since the sport emerged in New England in the early 1920s.

ISHA historian Morten Lund reviewed each book prior to the Writers and Filmmakers Awards Banquet, held April 13 at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. In “A History of Cannon Mountain,” Lund said, “The author’s talent in writing the oft-neglected biographies of Cannon’s pioneer skiers and developers in such delightful detail is commended and certain the reader’s good fortune.”

Of “Over the Headwall” Lund said, “This wonderful book by New England Ski Museum executive director Jeff Leich… showcases Mount Washington’s intrepid early American skiers daring fate on the crude equipment of the day.”

Lund called “The History of Gunstock” an “extensively researched ski history” that reveals detail about the area which had the first chairlift in the East and is home of Olympic racer Penny Pitou.

Bob Beattie, the legendary ski coach and television commentator who grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, received lifetime achievement awards from both ISHA and the North American Snow Sports Journalists Association during the ISHA awards banquet.

The following evening, three men with direct ties to New Hampshire skiing became honored members of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony at the Bell Harbor Events Center.

Phil Gravink, of Jackson, New Hampshire, made his foray into ski area administration in 1956, when he founded the Peek N’ Peak Ski Area in upstate New York. He went on to serve as CEO of Loon Mountain and Attitash, both New Hampshire ski areas, and was actively involved in the National Ski Areas Association and the American Society for Testing and Materials for many years. He currently sits on the board of the New England Ski Museum.

Joe Pack learned to ski in New Hampshire, where he started ski jumping as a youngster. His family later moved from Hopkinton to Park City, Utah, where he honed his skills as an aerialist. Pack’s ski jumping career culminated with a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics in Deer Valley.

Tyler Palmer, of Kearsarge, New Hampshire, grew up skiing at Mount Cranmore. He was a star on the World Cup circuit and the World Pro Ski Tour during the 1970s and competed in the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

The two evening celebrations capped a week-long Skiing Heritage Week, which included several days of skiing throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as ski film screenings, and ski maker K2’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.


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Harvey Dow Gibson

The origins of Cranmore Mountain Resort, dating back 75 years to the New Year’s holidays of 1937, lie in an ancient rivalry between adjacent townships in what is now called the Mount Washington Valley. Stung by the reality that his daughter had to travel to nearby Jackson to find ski instruction and pastures suitable for skiing, Harvey Dow Gibson’s loyalties to the home of his youth, North Conway, were aroused, and he resolved to create a ski area that would put his hometown on the national map of the young sport. One result would be that soon the contention between the local towns would be absorbed into a wider focus on regional promotion under the legend of the Eastern Slope Region. Another, more dramatic outcome would be the rescue of Hannes Schneider and his family from Nazi house arrest on the verge of the Second World War.

Hannes Schneider and Harvey Dow Gibson

Hannes Schneider and Harvey Dow Gibson in a radio broadcast from the Eastern Slope Inn

There are striking parallels between Harvey Gibson and Hannes Schneider. Both were born to families of humble station in small railroad towns in the mountains that relied on fledgling tourism economies. Both had a personal magnetism and innate dignity that drew people to them and contributed to their ascents. Both rose to almost unbelievable international prominence—even dominance—in their respective spheres of finance and sport. Both their hometowns experienced lasting prosperity thanks to the contributions of these native sons. Each had a connection to an apolitical figure with power in Germany’s Third Reich that would together enable Schneider’s escape from a darkening future in Europe. As the defining historical event of the 20th century drew near in 1939, both were pulled together in a dramatic footnote to world history in which Gibson rescued Schneider from his German detention. The two first met only days before North Conway’s native son brought St. Anton’s leading citizen to the White Mountains of New Hampshire on February 11, 1939. The momentous and welcome result for North Conway and New England skiing would be that Schneider would help Gibson’s resort at Mount Cranmore become for a time the most successful in New England, making it an incubator of growth of the sport in America.

Harvey Dow Gibson's childhood home on Artists' Falls Road still stands in North Conway.

Harvey Dow Gibson’s childhood home on Artists’ Falls Road still stands in North Conway.

Harvey Dow Gibson was born in North Conway on March 12, 1882, in a house that still stands on the corner of Artists’ Falls Road and North-South Road, now occupied by the GB Carrier Company. He and his older sister Fannie spent their early years in the neighborhood surrounding the long-gone Portland & Ogdensburg railroad station where their father was employed, which was situated at the junction of Depot Road and today’s North-South Road. The P&O had been constructed from Portland Maine up through nearby Crawford Notch by 1875, planned to connect Ogdensburg, New York on the St. Lawrence River with the Atlantic at Portland, to provide a rail route for grain from the Great Lakes states for international export. The rail line never made it further than Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, but its dramatic route through picturesque Crawford Notch ensured substantial passenger traffic.

Gibson’s family had roots in the hotel business in North Conway, a tradition that he would echo in his adulthood as owner of the Kearsarge House and Eastern Slope Inn. His grandfather James M. Gibson, between migrations to the California and Nevada gold fields in the mid nineteenth century, was proprietor of the Washington House, located roughly where Bob and Terry’s Sports Outlet now stands on the White Mountain Highway. His mother, Addie W. Dow, was the niece of the proprietor of the Merrill House in Kearsarge, and grew up waiting on tables in the inn for her uncle.

Gibson’s father, James L. Gibson, found employment as a telegraph operator at the P&O station in North Conway, just a block away from his father’s hotel. Over a matter of years, he became the station agent, and after the rail line became the Maine Central Railroad in 1888, he grew to be a confidante of the executive vice president of the railroad, Payson Tucker. Tucker established a summer home in North Conway named Birchmont, where the Red Jacket Inn now stands, and on his trips to the area came into contact with James Gibson, as messages for Tucker from all over the system came through Gibson’s station. Tucker took an interest in the stationmaster, and helped him establish a sideline lumberyard business next to the station, which still thrives today as a branch of Hancock Lumber. Besides a dynamic executive, Tucker was an alcoholic given to occasional absences when railroad managers could not reach him. At those times, James Gibson was often the only person who could locate him and convince him to return to his executive duties. The diplomatic ability demonstrated by Harvey Gibson’s father in those delicate situations would be echoed in the son’s remarkable rise to the peak of the financial industry in decades to come.


The Birchmont, originally the summer home of Payson Tucker, was later purchased by Gibson for Manufacturers Trust Company as a country retreat for its employees.

Harvey Gibson was educated in the one-room District 14 school in North Conway, on the site of today’s Schoolhouse Motel, then attended Fryeburg Academy in nearby Fryeburg, Maine. His school day began when he and other town boys caught the 5:24 AM train from his hometown to ride the ten miles across the Maine border, and ended when the return trip dropped them off after 6 PM. The point of traveling to Fryeburg Academy was to prepare for a college career, and Gibson at first contemplated attending Dartmouth. After his sister Fannie, older by three years, married Bowdoin graduate Ernest R. Woodbury of Saco, Maine, the glowing reports of his brother-in-law convinced him that Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine was the place for him. Gibson’s connection with the Woodbury clan would be further strengthened in the future, when Gibson’s nephew Wendell D. Woodbury became the overseer of Gibson’s affairs in North Conway.

On graduating from Bowdoin in the class of 1902, Harvey Gibson was hired by the American Express Company, ostensibly as part of a nucleus of college men in a new Financial Department. In actuality the Boston office was not informed of these plans, and Gibson was treated as an office boy and set to sweeping the floors on his first day. Eventually he was promoted to the Financial Department, and while there managed to befriend the chief, who he wrote was regarded as “an intolerant old bull” by all in the office. Through a combination of charm, perseverance, and willingness to learn an arcane bookkeeping system called the Mundle sheet, Gibson converted the curmudgeon into an ally who promoted him. When the Financial Agent position in the Montreal office came open, Gibson was the only Mundle system expert in Boston, and the promotion meant that he had free rein to operate in Canada without direct supervision.

After four years in Montreal, American Express transferred Gibson back to Boston, to London, back to Boston, and finally to New York. Everywhere he went he impressed his coworkers and superiors, and left a trail of goodwill. He had a Yankee shrewdness in dealing with red tape, which he demonstrated once in taking over a disorganized department whose correspondence was in woeful arrears. Gibson bundled packets of unanswered letters and documents and shipped them unread to company offices across the country. On receipt of these seemingly misdirected letters, the remote branches sent them back to Gibson’s office, where they arrived spaced out in time such that Gibson could deal with each overflowing envelope as it arrived. Keeping silent as to his method, Gibson came to be seen as an organizational savant.

While serving as assistant manager of the financial department in New York in 1910, Gibson was tasked by the express company to explore the purchase of a Boston travel company. After Gibson and a colleague arranged to acquire the Raymond-Whitcomb Company, at the last minute American Express dropped their bid, and Gibson and his partner jumped at the opportunity to give their notice and buy it for themselves.

The travel company purchase was Gibson’s first experience with debt, and he was helped through the process by banker Seward Prosser of the Astor Trust Company, whose firm would benefit by the hefty deposits that the travel company would make in his nearby bank. Gibson’s two years in the travel business would represent a minor footnote in his financial career yet important for the positive impression he made on Prosser, a banker with ambition and connections. In 1912, Seward Prosser became president of the Liberty National Bank in New York, and he invited Gibson to leave his travel company and move to Liberty National as assistant to the president. Thus it was that on March 4, 1912, Harvey Dow Gibson, nearly 20 years after his Bowdoin graduation, became a banker and began a truly remarkable rise that would take him to the top ranks of international finance.

Within a year, Gibson was named vice president at Liberty, after he passed through a subtle character assessment arranged by board member Henry P. Davison, who would have a large impact on Gibson’s further career. Gibson was given to understand he would be promoted, but when the board met, Davison asked that the appointment be delayed. Gibson gave no hint of dismay, declaring he had no desire to be vice president unless the entire board was behind him. This was precisely the reaction that Davison was hoping for when he set up his experiment to see how Gibson handled adversity, and within days Gibson had his promotion.

By the end of 1916, again through the intercession of Henry Davison, Gibson was named president of the Liberty National Bank. From that point on, Davison, a senior partner of the influential JP Morgan & Company, assumed a paternal interest in Gibson and the two became close friends. Gibson served as president of Liberty until 1921, when the bank merged with the New York Trust Company, with Gibson leading the combined firm under that name.

Manufacturer's Trust Company

Manufacturer’s Trust Company headquarters at 55 Broad Street, New York.

Banking was a precarious profession for some after the Depression took hold in 1929, but Gibson emerged from the banking crisis of 1931 as one of the leading lights of the industry. When the Manufacturer’s Trust Company fell into financial difficulties, the small group of New York’s most stable banks that made up the New York clearing house decided to admit the ailing bank provided a new president and policies were installed. The clearing house committee named Gibson as their choice to lead Manufacturer’s Trust, and within days Gibson formed a group of forty investors and purchased a controlling interest in the bank from Goldman, Sachs. On his first day of work at his new bank Gibson, after having to ask directions to its headquarters, was startled to receive a welcoming visit from J. P. Morgan himself. Gibson was proud to report that no such visit by Morgan had ever been made in Wall Street memory.

For the rest of his life, Gibson would serve as president of Manufacturer’s Trust Company with great distinction. He was peripatetically active in civic life in New York in the period between the world wars, and during the two conflicts he served overseas with the American Red Cross for years at a time. His reputation as a troubleshooter gained him unusual assignments. When $20 million in gold coins was shipped across the Atlantic after the 1914 outbreak of war to fund Americans trapped by the collapse of banking interactions between Germany and Britain, Harvey Gibson was chosen to accompany it. When small banks went out of business and needed to be liquidated, Manufacturer’s Trust could be counted on to do the job well. When the 1940 New York World’s Fair tottered on the brink of insolvency, Gibson was named chairman of the board and paid the creditors and rescued the investors.

From the overall perspective of Gibson’s lifelong accomplishments, his founding of Cranmore may appear as one of the least. Nevertheless, he never lost his love for his native town, and when he was goaded by his daughter Whitney Bourne’s desire to ski in Jackson because there was no place in North Conway, he quickly put together the elements of a brand new ski resort, at a time when the ski resort was a new concept.

“Dear Averell:” wrote Gibson to his friend and fellow magnate W. Averell Harriman, who had just created the ski resort at Sun Valley, Idaho. “If any of your friends want to go skiing, tell them about this little centre Helen and I are developing primarily to create activity in my home town.” Much of the formula that Sun Valley designed was repeated by Gibson in North Conway, and the two carried on some correspondence about their respective resorts. Harriman visited North Conway to take a look at the new Cranmore area, but a rainy weekend precluded any skiing.

George Morton

Mechanical engineer George Morton of Bartlett was the designer of the unique Skimobile that Gibson financed at Mount Cranmore. Courtesy of the Gibson/Woodbury Charitable Foundation

Mirroring Sun Valley, Cranmore offered expansive ski slopes served by uphill conveyances invented especially for each resort, with the best Austrian ski instructors, coupled with genteel lodging options nearby. Even the major ski races at both areas were similarly named—the Harriman races at Sun Valley and the Gibson Cup events at Cranmore both celebrated the respective founders.  As the winter of 1938 progressed, most of the pieces were in place at Cranmore for a first-class Harvey Gibson operation; the only element missing was the world’s most renowned ski teacher.

Just prior to the running of the 1938 Arlberg-Kandahar race in St. Anton, Austria, German troops entered Austria in the bloodless occupation/annexation known as the Anschluss. Hannes Schneider, until then the town’s leading citizen by virtue of the robust prosperity that his internationally famous ski school had created, found himself the target of native Austrian Nazi party followers who had previously been powerless to sway opinion to their cause given the steadfast opposition of Schneider. Politically Schneider was a follower of Chancellor Englebert Dollfuss (1982-1934), who was assassinated by Nazis, and his successor as Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg (1897-1977), who was forced to resign in the Anschluss. A degree of antagonism to Schneider’s anti-Nazi sentiments had been in evidence since 1933, personified by former instructor Karl Moser, an early Nazi with ambitions to lead the ski school who had resigned when visits by German tourists died off in the wake of the imposition of a tax of 1000 Reichsmarks on entry to Austria. There were several prominent attacks on Schneider in the press, in particular for his refusal to cut ties to Rudolph Gomperz, the tourism director of St. Anton who was in part responsible for the installation of the Galzig cable car, and who was born a self-described “non-arian”.

In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, Schneider was arrested and sent to the Landeck jail, though the policeman who took him in was apologetic to Hannes to such an extent that he was fired days later. Karl Moser was made mayor of St. Anton, and two days after the Anschluss organized a celebratory parade through St. Anton in which all were forced to march. Friedl Pfeiffer, one of Schneider’s top instructors watching from the sidelines with a broken leg, witnessed American racer Betty Woolsey marching alongside in her own counter-demonstration, shouting “Ski Heil” and displaying “a decidedly different hand salute to the Nazis” than the now-mandatory Nazi upraised arm. Franz Gabl, another of Schneider’s teachers, noted that Germans flooded into town so that business was brisk, and that without Hannes’ stern discipline “there were so many women—and many were eager for romance—and the moral standard was considerably lowered”.

The worldwide outcry that followed Schneider’s imprisonment in Landeck was triggered by American Alice Wolfe and Englishman Arnold Lunn, both good friends of Schneider with wide acquaintance in international skiing circles. Wolfe went to Landeck, she remembered in 1955, to “bribe the jailer to let me visit Hannes, more to have him comfort me than anything else.”

Karl Rösen

Karl Rösen, who was active in German ski organizations, was instrumental in protecting Schneider after his arrest.

Perhaps through Wolfe, or some other skiing connection, Dr. Karl Rösen, a German attorney from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was enlisted in Schneider’s case, and after 25 days in Landeck, Schneider was transferred to Garmisch under Rösen’s jurisdiction.

Rosen's house

The house where Hannes Schneider was held under house arrest in Garmisch, seen in 2012. Photo by Heide Allen.

He had been president of the Bavarian Ski Association in the 1920s, and was an honorary member of the Kandahar Ski Club of Mürren, the partner club with the Arlberg that put on the Arlberg-Kandahar races. Rösen had been a court-appointed lawyer to Hitler at the time of the 1924 Beer Hall Putsch, though his client conducted his own defense and Rösen’s name does not appear in historical accounts. Nevertheless, he evidently maintained enough influence in Berlin to shield Schneider from the personal vendettas of the Austrian Nazis, and transfer him to German territory where the Nazi party not only had nothing against Schneider, but were aware that he was a bit of a public relations dilemma for them. Acting as a friend and advocate but not as attorney for Schneider, Rösen appears to have ghost-written a well-referenced reply to the criticisms of Schneider addressed to Heinrich Himmler, and held in abeyance any potential reprisals until Gibson’s unexpected lifeline appeared from overseas.

As part of his creation of Mount Cranmore, Harvey Gibson had purchased the ski school in Jackson started by Carroll Reed, which had been his original motivation to bringing a ski resort to North Conway. Benno Rybizka, the lead instructor in Jackson, had been sent by Schneider in the winter of 1937 in response to Carroll Reed’s plan, and by 1938 was working with Gibson in North Conway. He undoubtedly alerted Gibson to Schneider’s situation, and the desirability of having Schneider at Cranmore. As early as March, 1938, Gibson drew up a contract between the Eastern Slope Ski School and Schneider for the directorship of the school, and gave the London representative of the Manufacturer’s Trust Company, Herbert W. Auburn, the task of negotiating with the Nazis for clearance for Schneider to emigrate to the US. Auburn, an assistant vice president in the Foreign Department of Gibson’s bank, reportedly had direct discussions with Himmler.

Gibson also happened to be the chairman of the American Committee of Short Term Creditors of Germany, a consortium of banks that held non-performing German debt. This committee had much to discuss with their German negotiating partner, Reichsbank president Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht (1877-1970). Gibson and Schacht were acquaintances, perhaps from the early days of World War I when Gibson was a go-between for English and German banks before America’s entry in the war. Schacht was not a Nazi party member, and experienced a gradual diminution of his power until he was dismissed in 1943 and placed in a series of concentration camps in 1944 for resistance activity. Interestingly, at the end of the war, he was in the same transport of prominent political prisoners as Kurt von Schuschnigg from Dachau to the Tyrol. In any event, the net result of the negotiations, which went unrecorded and were subject to a non-disclosure agreement, between Gibson and Schacht, Rösen and Himmler, and Auburn and his contacts, was that Hannes Schneider was allowed to emigrate to the US with his wife Ludwina, daughter Herta, and son Herbert. Probably not coincidentally, American banks continued to extend commercial credit to Germany under a “standstill agreement”; on March 31, Germany’s credit lines with international banks totaled $81 million.

With the February 11, 1939 arrival of the Schneider family in North Conway, with Harvey Gibson at their side as they walked through an arch of ski poles formed by youth of the Eastern Slope Ski School, North Conway and Cranmore began an emergence as one of the most successful ski resorts in the US, a status that would continue well into the 1960s.

Hannes Schneider arrives in North Conway

Hannes and Ludwina Schneider were welcomed to North Conway by Harvey Gibson on February 11, 1939. Benno Rybizka is on the left. Herbert Schneider is glimpsed behind Hannes wearing a white cap, and Herta Schneider is seen between Mrs. Schneider and Mr. Gibson.

“Without Mr. Gibson’s help we could not have gotten the necessary passports and US entry papers”, Schneider wrote to Otto Lang. “For this I shall be eternally grateful to him….When one has gone through what I had to endure, one cannot help but to be grateful and happy to be a human being again and to be offered the opportunity to earn a living”.

The window in which Gibson and Schacht reached an accord on Hannes Schneider’s release did not remain open for long. Before the next ski season, as construction proceeded on the upper stretch of the Skimobile that Schneider insisted was needed to reach the summit of Cranmore, and on the day that Harvey Dow Gibson assumed leadership of the New York World’s Fair, September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and shattering conflict would soon engulf the world.

Harvey Dow Gibson

Courtesy of North Conway Public Library

Harvey Gibson spent the World War II years overseas with the Red Cross, and was welcomed home by a laudatory editorial in the New York Times. He remained president of Manufacturer’s Trust Company until his death in 1950. Many North Conway organizations and individuals benefited form the charitable instincts of Gibson and his wife Helen.

 Hannes Schneider remained a North Conway resident and director of the Hannes Schneider Ski School until his death in 1955. His wife Ludwina died about six months after their arrival in North Conway.

 Herta Schneider returned to St. Anton about 1949 and married Franz Fahrner; together they ran the Fahrnerhof guest house. Herta died in 2001.

 Benno Rybizka left Cranmore soon after Hannes’ arrival, and taught at Mittersill and Mont Tremblant. He returned to St. Anton after the war, where he died in 1992.

 Herbert Schneider took over the Hannes Schneider Ski School on his father’s death, and purchased Cranmore Mountain from the heirs of Harvey Gibson. He owned and operated Cranmore until 1984, and was an active force in the Professional Ski Instructors of America, several ski resort trade associations, and the town that offered his family refuge in 1939.

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In the Shadow of the Swastika The remarkable friendship between my father and my godfather: Hermann Hoerlin and Hannes Schneider

By Bettina Hoerlin

It seemed like it would never end: up, up, and up, one step behind the other, my stride mimicking the slow and steady “Bergsteiger” (mountain climber) pace set by the two tall men in front of me.  One was my father, who had once held the world record for having climbed the highest mountain ever summitted and the other, my godfather, better known as the father of modern skiing.  Hermann Hoerlin and Hannes Schneider, friends from the “old” country  (respectively Germany and Austria), had both fled fascism and forged new lives in the United States.  On a beautiful autumn day in 1951 they were leading me up Mount Washington, the first mountain I had ever ascended.  I was 12 years old and knew of my father’s impressive feats: first ascents in the Alps, the Himalayas and the Andes during a time when international climbing enthusiasts competed for glory and recognition.  And I knew about my godfather’s famous reputation: the Skimeister who had formalized the so-called Arlberg technique, popularizing skiing and giving it panache by teaching royalty, actors and actresses, and industrial and financial moguls around the globe.

Hannes Schneider and his goddaughter, Bettina Hoerlin, September 1951

Father and godfather were formidable company for a neophyte and a nervous one at that.  We had gotten up early in the morning and Hannes’ daughter Herta had prepared breakfast while my mother packed our lunch.   This was going to be a big day for me: a real mountain, an ascent of approximately 4,000 feet, and two intrepid guides.  Before we reached the Headwall of Tuckerman Ravine, I was faltering but Hannes’ dramatic narration of Toni Matt’s famous schussing of the bowl in 1939 proved inspirational.  The thought of an 85-mile per hour descent on skis made the steepness of the ascent by foot feel both more significant and more palatable.  I gamely kept going, with encouragement from both Hannes and my father.  But disappointment lay ahead.  We were almost at the top when the sounds of cars and voices reached my ears.  No one had mentioned there was a road to the top, much less a cog railroad.  Instead of (relatively) solitary triumph and glorious quietude, I was amidst the multitudes admiring the view from New Hampshire’s tallest peak surrounded by the brilliant fall foliage of the White Mountains.

In my memory, that was the only time that I was upset with my godfather.  I felt I should have been forewarned.  Whether Hannes purposely did not tell me about Mt. Washington’s easy accessibility or whether he assumed I was aware of it, I’ll never know.  No doubt it would have diminished my motivation to get to the summit.   But all was quickly forgiven, especially since during the round-trip hike I was treated to hearing some remarkable stories about a long-standing friendship that started on one continent and continued on another.

Hannes and my father Hermann had met ski touring in the Alps in the late 1920’s.  Younger than Hannes by ten years, my father had been described by a prominent British mountaineer as  “… one of Germany’s most enterprising young mountaineers” with  “…as brilliant a record of climbs as any young mountaineers in Europe.” [i]  Many of his first ascents had been around Mount Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, a huge massif with Aiguilles, sharp needle-like spires of harrowing rock, more difficult to scale than the mountain itself. [ii]  Ascending them in winter was even more daring, but that is exactly what my father did, breaking all summer records for speed and establishing himself as a premier winter climber.  Using a novel approach to alpinism at the time, he combined skiing and mountaineering, first donning skis to traverse across deeply crevassed glaciers and ice fields and then trading them in for crampons to ascend the sheer faces of the Aiguilles.

Herman Hoerlin, winter of 1941

Herman Hoerlin, winter of 1941

His unofficial consultant on all matters that had to do with skis and skiing was his friend Hannes.  When in 1930, my father was asked to join an international expedition to the Himalayas, which planned to use skis to help achieve its goal of reaching the top of the world’s third highest mountain, he again turned his friend Hannes for advice.  The expedition was not successful in their conquest of Kanchenjunga, but nonetheless bagged the highest peak (Jongsong, 24,482 feet) that had yet been summitted.   In the course of the expedition, the team scaled a total of four peaks over 7,000 meters (22,966 feet); at the time only eight peaks over 7,000 meters in the world had been conquered.  In utilizing skis during expedition, the high altitude record for skiing was undoubtedly set as well.  Observed one of the climbers, “ Balancing at low levels is automatic, but (between 21,000 and 22,000 feet) a conscious effort is required, whilst a swing is distinctly hard work.” [iii]  Bending ‘zee’ knees for well-executed stem Christies undoubtedly had unique challenges as did the unpredictable terrain of glaciers and crevasses.  Reportedly, the Sherpas were astonished by the maneuvers, yet another craziness of the obsessed European mountaineers.

My father and Hannes had more than skiing and mountains in common; they shared a similar political outlook.   With the election of Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in 1933, discussions between the two men often turned to politics.   Hannes and Herman were staunch anti-Nazis, experiencing the ever-threatening tentacles of National Socialism directly and indirectly.   First and foremost, each of them mixed easily with the scourge of the Nazis: Jews.  Hannes had several professional and personal ties with people of Jewish descent, who – although they may have converted to Christianity – were still classified as Jews according to the Nuremberg Laws.  This included a person critical to Hannes’ success: Rudolf Gomperz, the director of tourism for the town of St. Anton, an enduring relationship that contributed to branding Hannes as a “rabid Jew” in Nazi publications. [iv]

Hannes at Mount Cranmore

Hermann similarly had close associations with Jews.  The 1930 Kanchenjunga expedition had been led by Gunter Dyhrenfurth, who according to top Nazi officials belonged “…to the Jewish tribe.” [v] Subsequently my father was viciously attacked by the most powerful man in German mountaineering for having joined an expedition led by a Jew and for not having planted a German flag at the top of Jongsong (instead he flew a Swabian one, appropriate to the region of his birth).   In addition, as a member of the prestigious German-Austrian Alpine Club’s Executive Committee, Hermann had fought against Nazi efforts to take over the club and expel Jews from its membership. And worst of all (according to Nazi dictates), he was in love with a woman who was Jewish by background.  The same newsletter, Das Schwarze Korps that called Hannes  a “Nazi-basher,” was pushing for up to 15 years imprisonment for intimate relations between German of any gender and Jews. [vi] It is no wonder that my father kept the romance secret.

Although my father was not nearly as high profile a figure as Hannes, he was well-known for his first ascents and for starring in a film made about the 1930 Kanchenjunga adventure.  Shown in theatres throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Himatschal: Der Thron der Goetter (“Himalayas: The Throne of the Gods”) traced the 1930 expedition in thrilling detail, exposing audiences to extreme Himalayan mountaineering.  Released in 1931, it overlapped with the showing of the most popular of  several ski films starring Hannes, Der weisse Rausch (“White Ecstasy”), in which he schussed the slopes with the later infamous Leni Riefenstahl.  When the two movie stars, both handsome and charming, met shortly afterwards, Hannes joked with my father about his newly acquired fame.

However, other matters were not so cheerful.  With growing alarm, Hannes and Herman witnessed increased incidents of Nazi thuggery and persecution rampant in Germany and Austria during the early 1930’s. In St. Anton in 1934, the esteemed international Arlberg-Kandahar race was guarded carefully against disruptive hooligans who shouted Nazi slogans and flashed Hitler salutes. [vii]  In both countries, violent street incidents against Jews proliferated and raucous university protests intimidated Jewish students and professors alike.  Hermann’s thesis advisor in physics at the University of Stuttgart was married to a Jew; the menacing behavior toward his family motivated my father to sleep on the floor behind the door of his Professor’s home.  If need be, Hermann – who slept with his ice axe by his side -  was ready to defend him against trouble-makers.

With the 1933 imposition of the notorious 1000 Reichmark tax on any Germans crossing the border into Austria, my father’s ability to see Hannes and certainly to climb in the Austrian Alps ceased.   The measure had crippled the Austrian tourist trade [viii] although thanks to Gomperz’s ingenuity and Hannes’ entrepreneurship, the ski school at St. Anton weathered the blow.  Having starred in ten skiing films and given ski lessons or demonstrations globally, Hannes continued to attract foreigners to his small village. In 1936 Germany lifted the punitive tax levy, an event celebrated by Germans and Austrians alike, as a sign of the return to friendly relations between the two countries.  In retrospect, it was an ominous precursor to the German Anschluss two years later, when Austria fell totally under the domain of the Third Reich and Nazi precepts.

The story of Hannes’ instant imprisonment after the Anschluss by the Nazis is well known, as is his eventual departure to the United States in early 1939.   His plight, decried internationally, was initially brought to everyone’s attention by Alice Damrosch Wolfe Kiaer, a wealthy American socialite and serious skier who visited St. Anton for several winters.  The daughter of the well-known conductor of the New York Symphony

Kate and Herman Hoerlin, Hannes and author (Bettina Hoerlin) atop Mount Cranmore, September 1951

Kate and Herman Hoerlin, Hannes and author (Bettina Hoerlin) atop Mount Cranmore, September 1951

Orchestra, Alice was part Jewish.  Ironically, someone of Jewish extraction again proved to be of key assistance to Hannes.

My father had managed to emigrate six months to America before Hannes, but in his case, it was a “good Nazi” who helped him.  Hitler’s personal adjutant had paved the way for Hermann to marry and emigrate.  In a rare exception to the Nuremberg Laws, Hermann married the woman who would become my mother in July 1938.  Her status as a Mischling (someone with mixed Jewish heritage) is noted in their marriage certificate as is the “special permission” of the Fuehrer.

Once Hannes and his family reached American shores, it did not take long for them to connect with Herman (in deference to his new environs, he had dropped the second “n” from Hermann) and his wife Kate, a widow with three children, whose first husband had been killed by the Nazis during the infamous 1934 purge, the Night of the Long Knives.  Herman’s first piece of news to Hannes was that Kate was expecting a baby and asked whether the great skiing icon would agree to be (its ) godfather.  On June 25, 1939, Hannes attended my baptism in our backyard in Binghamton, New York.  He is listed on the baptismal certificate as Johannes Schneider and he, along with several other European refugees, celebrated my arrival as the “first real  American” among them. What made the scene especially poignant was that Hannes’ wife was extremely ill with cancer and Hannes had left her bedside in North Conway to come. In August, Hannes became a widower, left with his two children Herbert, age 19 and Herta, age 18.

Over the next few years, North Conway was often frequented by my parents, my mother’s presence welcomed at the Schneider house for her cooking in addition to her company, especially by Herta.  For my father, it was a chance to go skiing with Hannes and the two men enjoyed themselves on the slopes significantly, a welcome respite for Hannes who usually worked ferociously toward making the ski school a resounding success. When Hannes had first come to North Conway, he had asked “Where are the mountains?”  Skiing in the eastern United States contrasted sharply with the above tree-line open slopes and formidable peaks of the Alps.  But Hannes had applied himself to expanding the ski area tremendously and felt at home, appreciative of the town’s embrace, the support of his sponsors and of living in freedom.  He and my father, on their outings, inevitably talked about the war raging in Europe, wondering how and by whom the Nazis could be stopped.  When the United States entered the war in 1941, they hoped they knew the answer.

By the end of 1942, gasoline rationing had been instituted in America and trips to North Conway became prohibitive for my parents.   The date also marks the beginning of a steady correspondence in German between Hannes and my family, whom he called “meine lieben Hoerlins” (my dear Hoerlins). [ix]  The letters cover a variety of topics from the mundane (Hannes asks my parents to send him sausages, that is Wuerste, from their butcher since he could not find good ones in North Conway) to the momentous (the war).  In regard to the latter, Hannes’ thoughts document a running chronicle from the viewpoint of an émigré who fled Nazism: the pain of having one’s homeland destroyed, wishing the war would end quickly and fervently hoping for an Allied victory.  A sampling of these emotions follows:

“Now the whole world is up in flames and it will take time to put them out.  We must be so thankful that we are here, where things are going so well for us, in contrast to our countries of birth.”   (February 19, 1942)

“Now they {Germany and Austria} will really feel the war for the first time… the hospitals must be overflowing with the wounded and the half – frozen. Whether peace will come by the end of the year is a big question…”   (January 11, 1943)

“If the eyes of German soldiers have not opened by now, then they are certainly even beyond blinded {after the battle of Stalingrad}.”                           (February 1, 1943)

“Since our last letters, a great deal has changed in Europe and the foundations are beginning to crumble…I hope that the Allies will not let themselves be fooled by the retreat of the Nazism and fascism.  One can see that the war is lost… It will still last this year, but winter is on the side of Allies.  Hunger, cold, lack of clothing will be consequential.  The bombing of cities is certainly awful, one hardly dares to think about it, how many totally innocent people will die. But who started all of this – this question is clear this time.”    (August 10, 1943)

“ Of course I have heard nothing from overseas.  Can’t this war ever end?-! So much suffering and poverty worldwide and in spite of this, humanity is not rational (sensible). Now I believe there will be another year of war unless something unforeseen happens.  Unless a huge attack is launched, Germany will not collapse.  Hopefully I am wrong.”    (November 23, 1943)

“There’s not much to say about the war situation. One doesn’t know what will transpire over the next weeks.”    (March 31, 1944)

“It is so stupid that {the Axis) are not surrendering… German youth are so blinded in their upbringing and know nothing of the world, only blind obedience to orders. I simply cannot understand the attitude of the Germans, they are past being idiotic, don’t you agree?”   (October 14, 1944)

“ It is so sad to hear every day what is being destroyed and that people cannot come to their senses.”      (December 11, 1944)

During the war, both Hannes and Herman were considered “enemy aliens,” a designation particularly galling to them, given they had left Europe precisely because of Hitler.  In my father’s situation, it meant his job as the director of physics at the Ansco Film Company was jeopardized; for Hannes, it meant restricted travel.  However, both men were anxious to be of assistance to their adopted country and not coincidentally, prove their loyalty.  Summoned several times to Washington, D.C., each contributed to the American war effort.  In the case of Hannes, reportedly frustrated because his alien status did not allow him to be a ski troop instructor (as he was in World War I albeit for Austria), he gave expert advice on military ski equipment and mountain warfare. [x] As for my father, described in official correspondence, as a “…mountain climber of some reknown,”[xi] his detailed maps of mountains on the Italian/Austrian border and in the Berchtesgarden region, near the site of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest,” provided valuable information for reconnaissance and/or bombing missions.  Both of these so-called “enemy aliens” played a clandestine role in being of service to the United States. Herman definitely agreed with Hannes, who wrote after one of his Washington meetings, “I was pleased that I can be of a little help in order to win the war.”[xii]

When the war in Europe was finally over in May 1945, Hannes and Herman took stock of mutual friends on both sides of the Atlantic.  Some had died, others survived, still others were in prisoner-of-war camps.  The circles of mountaineering and skiing intersected frequently and the two friends most often saw eye-to-eye regarding the political stripes of their peers.  A few of Hannes’ “Buben” (boys) or ski instructors had fought on the Axis side but were not committed Nazis.  Others, who had immigranted to America, had enlisted in the American forces, including Hannes’s son, Herbert.  The names of additional Tyrolean instructors who had sided with the United States, such as Toni Matt, Otto Lang, Friedl Pfeifer, and Otto Tschohl, became synonymous with the Arlberg technique and the development of skiing in America.

Hannes and Herbert Schneider with Kate Hoerlin, playing darts in New Hampshire, ca. 1940

Hannes and Herbert Schneider with Kate Hoerlin, playing darts in New Hampshire, ca. 1940

Both Hannes and Herman had similar post-war experiences.  As Hannes wrote to my father, “I never knew I had so many friends in Europe. I receive letters from people who I have never seen and everyone is hungry.”[xiii]  Hannes, like my family, spent an enormous amount of money and time sending food packages; I remember well helping my father pack teas and coffee, chocolate and other treats.  Moreover, hundreds of people inquired about coming to America and seeking employment here.  Hannes constantly had to point out how difficult, almost impossible, it was to immigrate, no matter how excellent a ski instructor someone might be.  My father, gainfully employed at Ansco, had similar requests from jobless scientists.   Of course, no one who wrote to them had ever been a Nazi , or even a Nazi sympathizer, a claim sometimes doubted by Hannes or Herman.

Once the war was over, Hannes was under considerable pressure to return to St. Anton.  His house (which served as his home, a guest house and a ski shop) had been safely kept and the townspeople wanted him back, helping return St. Anton to its former days of glory.  Hannes was not tempted, perhaps remembering his experience in October 1938.  In a rare moment of impulsiveness, Hannes had bolted from essentially being under house arrest in Germany, making a brief trip to St. Anton to see his family.  The citizenry avoided him, former friends shunned him and Nazi youth roughed him up.  After he had left, his wife and his children suffered several humiliations. [xiv]  He was not anxious to repeat the incident.  Quoting a German proverb, Hannes succinctly commented to my father, “ A donkey goes on the ice only once.”[xv]

Over a year later in the summer of 1947, Hannes visited St. Anton with his daughter Herta.  In a lengthy letter to my family [xvi], he exclaimed, “ We had a royal welcome…  When the train arrived, there was music and a few hundred people at the station.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Young and old…accompanied us to our house that was covered with Alpine flowers.  I must confess it was a major event.”  The next day Hannes was feted by an official welcoming party with 120 liters of South Tyrolean wine and 120 frankfurters.  However, the French occupation troops made it difficult to be too joyous, especially when Hannes discovered that a French lieutenant, his wife, child and their maid inhabited his home.  Returning to North Conway after having been heroically received in St. Anton, Hannes concluded, “ It was so very nice, to be in the old country again.  But we are so very happy to come back here.” [xvii]

For Hannes as well as my parents, America had become home.  As Hannes had written in 1941, “I cannot repeat enough, thank God we are in this country” [xviii] They were fully appreciative of American fairness, the opportunities afforded them and the general spirit of tolerance and freedom.  Throughout the war years, Hannes was astonished at the level of support for his ski school and that people continued to flock – both during winter and summer ‘seasons’ -  to North Conway, despite gas rationing.  Having observed the American reliance on cars, he commented in one letter:  “I never would have believed that Americans would ever walk there {Cranmore Mountain}.”[xix]  After the war, the area became an even more popular and desirable destination.

Bettina and Herta Schneider at Mount Cranmore, ca. winter 1952

Bettina and Herta Schneider at Mount Cranmore, ca. winter 1952

By 1946, I was seven years old and ready to learn at the feet of the great Skimeister.  He had seen little of me since visits between the families were rare during wartime, although he always sent me birthday and Christmas presents.  But for several winters in the late 1940’s, I took lessons at his famed ski school.  At the end of the day I would diligently show off to my godfather my finest attempts at stem turns, which were alternately critiqued and praised under his watchful eyes.  Summer and fall also became a time for my family to head to New Hampshire and enjoy its surrounds.  It was in the autumn of 1951 that I had conquered my first mountain, Mount Washington, with Hannes and my father.  The following winter was the last time I saw Hannes.  In 1953, my family moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, the infamous “Atomic City,” where my father took a position and studied the effects of high-altitude nuclear explosions.   In his Christmas letter to the Hoerlins in 1954, Hannes wrote: “How sad, that we are so far apart and that we seldom will be able to see one another.  There’s so much to chat about…” [xx]  Indubitably, Hannes was also feeling the absence of Herta, although delighted by her marriage to Franz Fahrner, an Austrian ski instructor, that brought her back to living in St. Anton and running the family store, Sportshaus Hannes Schneider.

When Hannes died suddenly in April 1955, my father lost a dear friend.  Their lives, although very different, had several parallels.  Both of them loved the mountains and nature, reveling in winter sports and celebrating the beauty of the world.  Both had escaped from under the shadow of the swastika that had threatened their lives in Europe, darkened their days in America and profoundly impacted their futures.  Both found refuge in a new country, which they loved.  Throughout these years, they had an abiding friendship, one that never faltered.

Bettina Hoerlin, PhD, is a retired professor who taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Haverford College.  She has held a number of health administrative positions including Health Commissioner of Philadelphia. Her first book, “Steps of Courage: My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America,” was released in September 2011.


[i]  Frank S. Smythe, Climbs and Ski Runs (London: A&C Black Limited, 1929), p. 176

[ii]  Hoerlin was credited with first winter ascents of the Aiguille Noire and the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey (1929)

[iii]  F.S. Smythe, The Kangchenjunga Adventure (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1930), p. 293.

[iv]  E. John  B. Allen, The Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II

(University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), p. 397.

[v]  Letter from Paul Bauer to the German Sports Minister, Hans von Tscahmmer und Osten, December 10, 1934.

[vi]  Saul Friedlander. Nazi Germany and the Jews, volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-39 (New York: HarperCollins 1997): p. 122

[vii]  E. John B. Allen, ibid., p. 396

[viii]  Shofar Archive of the Nizkor Project, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, volume 2, chapter XIV, pages 944-45.

[ix]  I possess only Hannes’ letters to my father, but the tenor of the correspondence makes clear their mutual feelings about the war.

[x]  Gerard Fairlie.  Flight without Wings: The Biography of Hannes Schneider (New York: A. S. Barnes and Company, 1957), p. 217.

[xi]  Letter from William Honkala, Investigator, U.S. Treasury Department to E.J. Ford, Special Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice.  June 22, 1943.

[xii]  Letter from Hannes to Herman Hoerlin, June 9, 1943.

[xiii]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, December 20, 1946.

[xiv]  Fairlee, ibid.  p. 205-6.

[xv]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, April 25, 1946.  “Der Esel geht nur einmal aufs Eis…”

[xvi]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, October 9, 1947

[xvii]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, October 9, 1947

[xviii]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, January 11, 1943.

[xix]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins, February 1, 1943.

[xx]  Letter from Hannes to the Hoerlins. December 19, 1954

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