The club as we now know it was founded in 1949 and its purpose then was to promote interest in German language and culture: in those post-WWII days many similar German Clubs sprang up throughout the UK, the first of them being the Coventry German Circle. Today, more than 70 years on, our Club is still about promoting interest in the language and culture of German-speaking countries. With the enormous appeal of Germany, Austria and Switzerland as study, work or travel destinations many of our members have joined to learn more about the countries they've visited and love.
In 2019 we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Cheltenham German Club - but it seems there was a German Club in the town much earlier. It is hoped that some of you may have info to add to these notes I have made, do let me know. Where did the club meet? When was it founded? Who was the president or chairman?
The first reference comes in 1935. A Cheltenham solicitor, George Booy, attended a German Club meeting. At this meeting a letter, addressed to The Secretary, The German Club, Cheltenham was read out. It was from a young German student, Hansi Schulze, who was studying English at Berlin University. He wished to come to England and needed to establish a connection as at that time one could only take 10 marks out of Germany. George and his sister Anne invited Hansi to come and stay with them. Hansi's cousin was Lore who left Germany at the end of 1948 and married George. Lore Booy was our dearly treasured senior member.
The next reference to a club here comes in 1939. A person in Coventry researching his family tree asked if we had any information we might contribute. Both his parents were from Vienna but met in England. The heading at the top of his father's wedding speech was "Wedding Party for Grete Stary and Leopold Haar, in the Austrian-German Club on Sunday 3rd December 1939 in Cheltenham." Grete's guarantor was Councillor Lipson who lived in Bath Road and who was Mayor 1935 -37. Leopold became Leslie Hare and served as an interpreter in camps for German prisoners of war.
The third reference to a club is from Susie in paragraph 3 below: "Well I was born in 1935 in Nuremberg…my grandparents had a factory which made Christmas tree decorations. However, because they were of Jewish extraction, in the KrystalNacht in November 1938 my father and my grandmother were arrested, taken to prison, and in prison had to sign a paper saying they were giving the factory and our house to the Nazi Party of their own free will… We fled to Hamburg, and from there an aunt of mine who lived in England said come to England. My father found a job in Cheltenham with Spirax Sarco …so we moved to Cheltenham. My aunt said chose whichever school you like, I will pay for your education. I said oh those buildings are lovely, I would like to stay here, but of course at that time we had no idea what it meant to choose the Cheltenham Ladies’ College. I learnt English very quickly, I even stopped speaking German… I felt very English, I liked being in Cheltenham, but of course for my parents it was a dreadful situation because they had no money whatsoever. My mother worked as a volunteer twice a week at the Queen’s Hotel which was then an American Officers Club. My father was a fire warden, and then he had his allotment and he liked being in England…he was interned for six months in Scotland. My mother and I could stay in Cheltenham, and I remember sitting on the bed, my mother next to me and she was crying and I was saying don’t be so silly, pull yourself together. We were sitting on the stairs in the cellar when the bombs were dropping, because Cheltenham was bombed in the 1940s, some people said aha, your friends’ up there, but it wasn’t in a hostile way. And in the park, in Montpelier Gardens she was talking to people, and they said where are you from, she then suddenly realised it was better to say Bavaria, because people didn’t know if Bavaria was in Germany or in Switzerland, or in Austria. And then of course when we were always looking for new flats, because people were taking in friends who had been bombed out, or something like that, that was a bit difficult because they said we would rather take Londoners who were bombed out than Germans, but I mean that’s quite understandable, one can’t be annoyed about that. Oh there was a refugee club, a large refugee club in Cheltenham, and they gave concerts and the English people came there too, and I remember they once had a concert and I must have been about seven, and a little English girl and I, we both played piano solos, and it was in the Gloucestershire Echo, I was very proud of that. Well I heard that the war was over; I was having a piano lesson at the College, and the caretaker came in, closed the window and said the war’s over — and I got so excited I couldn’t carry on playing, it was incredible. And my mother had been in the cinema, the Regal cinema on the Promenade and they suddenly flashed on the screen ‘The War is Over’, so of course everyone dashed home and… I remember people congregating when it was dark in Montpelier Gardens, and some people wore pyjamas… In September 1946 we went back, we got the factory back, although most of it had been bombed.. we got our house back as well, but we never got refunded for all the things we had lost." Cheltenham German Club is grateful to Susie Schulenburg and the Stratford upon Avon Society for the extract above, the full fascinating document may be read on the site below. 'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'