The Story of Gunter Hauer

Written by: Daniel Loughrey, PPh Perspective & E-News Editor, March 2015

Gunter Hauer was born in Berlin, Germany in 1919. His father was a veteran of the first world war and was awarded an Iron Cross (Germany’s highest military honor) for his service. Growing up in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s allowed for Gunter to experience things that were fortunate (such as attending the 1936 Olympics and seeing Jesse Owens win gold) and unbelievably unfortunate (Hitler’s rise to power). Gunter was drafted in to the German army in 1936, but the army did not accept him in to the service due to his Jewish heritage.

As the Nazi party became more emboldened and with the international press out of Germany following the 1936 Olympics, Jews in Germany were anxious to leave the country. Many attempted to enter the United States, but with strict immigration policies in place, it was simply not possible for them all to do so. Gunter’s family was eventually able to secure passage upon a ship from Genoa to Shanghai. The voyage took approximately 28 days, and Gunter secured a job upon arriving through assistance from one of his friends from Berlin who had also sought refuge in Shanghai. At that time (1939), there were nearly 17,000 European refugees living in Shanghai so the expatriate community was quite large. Gunter’s job afforded him and his parents a small room to rent and enough for some food. His father unfortunately passed away shortly after arriving in Shanghai, so it was then just him and his mother. A friendly Japanese couple helped them out with groceries because Gunter’s mom befriended the wife, who was half German and half Japanese. She loved having someone to talk to in German so they often supplied Gunter and his mother with extra groceries. It was there in Shanghai that Gunter met his future wife, and the two married shortly after World War II.

Following the war, Gunter and his wife (Helen) moved to Cincinnati, Ohio because some of Gunter’s childhood friends from Berlin had moved there and had offered him a job at King Records. They lived in Cincinnati for a few years before Gunter was sent to New York to open a store there for King. While in New York he was offered a job running a distribution plant in Philadelphia so he and Helen moved again, this time to 40th and Girard in Philadelphia. He eventually landed a job with Atlantic Records, and it was with Atlantic that he would spend the rest of his professional career with.

Gunter and Helen raised their family here in Philadelphia as they eventually had two boys, Frankie and David, as well as a daughter, Gail. Those children eventually gave Gunter and Helen three grandkids. Gunter himself says it best: “I have truly lived the American dream.”

Gunter (2)
Photo of Gunter Hauer, PPh resident, taken in March of 2015.