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Recollections of Gunther Karger

In his own words, the Story of Gunther Karger

Born in Schmieheim, Germany  March, 16, 1933               
  with his wife Shirley Rosenzweig Karger born in New Orleans  September, 27, 1934

I am Gunther Karger and personally wrote this history in August of 2012 to preserve the  memory of my parents and the Offenheimers, who lived in Schmieheim since the early 1800’s.

Gunther and his wife
Gunther is shown with his wife as they were life partners throughout their marriage of 58 years (and continuing as of 2012). Gunther is an Internationally recognized author lecturing for several years aboard major world cruise ships. Gunther was an engineer pioneering the early exploration of space rockets, satellites. He received major awards for contribution to science and military systems and was named  “Outstanding Young Man of America” in 1967. Today he lives in Homestead, Florida with Shirley. They have two sons but no grandchildren.
Gunther Karger, born March 16, 1933 in Schmieheim is son of Ida Offenheimer of Schmieheim and Herbert Karger of Berlin. He is the last survivor of the Offenheimer family dating back to Israel Offenheimer who was born 1767 in Emmendingen and died in Schmieheim 1824.  The Offenheimers were a farming family while Herbert Karger opened a clothing store.  In the early Nineteenth Century, half of Schmieheim's population (nearly 1000)  were Jews.  Today no Jews live in Schmieheim.

The Schmieheim Jewish Cemetery
Israel Offenheimer Grave

Gunther & Shirley shown by Israel Offenheimer’s grave (died 1824) during their two week official visit in 2003 invited by the Kippenheim- Schmieheim Burgermeister.

The Gunther and Hanna Baumann Story
Hannah Baumann with
                        Gunther Karger
Hanna Baumann was the last Jewish person born in Schmieheim (1934) and was Gunther’s playmate as shown on the photo with Gunther. Her family left Schmieheim hoping to escape  being deported to concentration camps and killed.  The train they were on was stopped, the Jews aboard were removed and murdered including 5 year old Hanna and her parents.  The people of Schmieheim dedicated the new kindergarten school naming it “The Hanna Baumann Kindergarten” in her memory.
Gunther  Escapes from Germany in Summer 1939

When the threat of imminent persecution dramatically increased and Gunther’s parents realized they should leave Germany but failed,   they  sent  6 year old Gunther,  their only son away  on a transport of children  to Sweden  in summer of 1939.  His parents packed a single suitcase including  a few pictures of  his parents and Schmieheim family and the only picture of Hanna Baumann in existence pictured above.  The picture at right is of Gunther and his parents just before they sent him away never to again see their son. 

A few months after, Gunther’s parents, grandparents (Gustav and Sarah Offenheimer) and his aunt Karolina Offenheimer were among the remaining  14  Jews  rounded up and deported  to the Gurs  concentration camp in France.  Gunther’s parents and grandparents were all murdered.  Gunther today remains the sole survivor of the Offenheimers who lived in Schmieheim since  early 1700’s.  The picture at right is  what remained  of the Offenheimer  ancestral family home  after the war.

Gunther and His Parents
Offenheimer Ancestral Home Post War
The Schmieheim Memorial
In January of 2008,  the Schmieheim Evangelistic Church  placed a memorial  for the last 14 Jewish people deported and killed in concentration camps.  Eight of these fourteen were my parents,  grand parents and others. All were murdered  in concentration camps.  I remain the sole living survivor of these and survived only  because my parents sent me out of Germany before they  were  arrested and deported.  Below is the “Memorial “ and picture of my grandparents, Gustav and Sarah Offenheimer.
Schmieheim Memorial Schmieheim Grandparents
Gunther's Life After Germany
Gunther was sent to Sweden for seven years
Gunther with Regnhild
                        Gustafson, the Farmer's Daughter I don’t remember saying goodbye to my parents and family.  My first memory was “awakening”  in a large train station sitting on my black suitcase seeing tall blond people  speaking a strange language.   I had been sent to Sweden where I would live for five years  with the Gustafson family on a farm in Northwest Sweden. The picture shows Gunther with Ragnhild Gustafson, the farmer’s daughter.  I have kept in close contact with my Swedish foster family visiting them many times.
Then, I was sent  to an orphanage  for one year in the south and finally to another foster home in Stockholm.  After the war,  I was sent to live in yet another foster home with a distant relative to my father in Florida where I was living as a virtual slave for four years.

Crossing the Atlantic  from Sweden  to New York  1946
MS Grispholm 1946
MS Gripsholm 1946
Gunther on the Ship
Gunther aboard the Gripsholm
Then, at age 17, one year before  graduating high school,  I was “thrown” out by my foster parents in Florida and took the bus to  New Jersey where I lived in yet another foster home with my half uncle Alfred Offenheimer and his wife, Elsie  who had just come from South America.  They were very nice to me and let me stay so I could finish high school while cleaning chicken coops on their farm.  I graduated  high school in 1951  as valedictorian (number one) in my graduating class and joined the U.S. Air Force.  I met Shirley Rosenzweig of New Orleans (her parents immigrants from Poland) in the fall of 1951 while stationed at Keesler  Air Force Base in Mississippi.  We married  in 1954 and still are together and are confident  we will remain together until we all again will meet  the Offenheimers  in the “next world”.
Gunther in Air Force Gunther Wedding

During my career in the military and thereafter, I became an engineer  in aerospace sciences rising  during America’s moon program to Chairman of the  electrical engineering society and worked then with leading scientists  including Dr. Vernher von Braun, the German rocket engineer from Peenemunde.  Briefly, I became an adviser to the White House on national security matters.  In 1967, I was cited “Outstanding Young Man of America” for my contributions to the space program and national security.  After the “Moon Program” ended in 1969,  I became  an engineer and later a senior executive  in the airline industry until retirement  in 1987.  That led to a career on “Wall Street” creating and publishing an investment letter, writing books,  lecturing and being principal lecturer  on major cruise ships.  One of the greatest honors I received occurred May 17, 2011 when  Commissioners of Miami Dade County  issued the proclamation that May 17 shall be known as “Gunther Karger Day” recognizing his significant contributions to his country and  community.  For someone who stepped off a ship at age 13 alone with no money having survived the Holocaust and raised in multiple foster homes and an orphanage, that was a great day and honor for a “Son of Schmieheim”.

As of  this writing,  Fall of 2012 at age 79,  my wife  Shirley and I  live in a retirement community in Homestead, Florida  where I am active in politics and continue lecturing locally and nationally. We have established a museum  at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge,  Louisiana where Shirley has her large doll  collection and  I have placed  some items from Germany and Sweden. 

“I deeply thank my parents  for  sacrificing their lives  by sending me  to Sweden to survive.  My parents would have loved my wife,  Shirley, who stood by me for so many years and hope also that  my parents and the Offenheimers of Schmieheim are proud of their only son who they sent away so he had a chance to live.”

Gunther Karger,  Homestead,  Florida, August,  2012

Reference Resources for Gunther Karger

“Restructured Engineer” -  Gunther Karger  in IEEE Engineer Today

Compiled by Pete Dreifuss (
Last updated 13 November 2013
Copyright © Peter A. Dreifuss 2012
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