Halberstadt, Hans

Hans Halberstadt

Hans Halberstadt, born in Germany in the 1880’s, one of Germany’s top fencers, represented Germany in epee and sabre at the 1928 Olympic Games in
Amsterdam.  German National Champion in Epee and Sabre once or twice (German fencing great, Erwin Casmir, usually took the gold at these events).
Sometime after Krystallnacht, Hans’ family business was seized and he was  interred in Bergen-Belsen.  Because of his status as a fencer, and the fact
that Heydrich and many SS officers were fencers, he was allowed to leave  Germany with what he could carry at the age of 56.  He went first to London
and then to the US in 1939 and to San Francisco, where he was hosted by the German fencing master Eric Funke.  Hans taught at the Funke Fencing Academy
and would go to the movie theatres on Market Street to learn English.  After a short period of time, Hans was hired to teach fencing by the San Francisco
Olympic Club.  In 1941 he opened his own fencing school on Filmore St., where he continued to teach for the rest of his life.

Helene Mayer, one of the greatest foil fencers of all time, also left Germany and emigrated earlier to the US and settled in San Francisco.  She
and Hans were from the same town and fencing club in Offenbach Am Main (Frankfurt) and she took lessons from Hans and represented his club while
winning 9 US Championships.  She continued to fence at the club until she returned to Germany to get married in 1952.

Other notable students of Hans were Sal Giambra (1948 Olympics) and Tommy
Angell (1964 Olympics, foil).

Hans’ students and teams won many Pacific Coast titles as well as national titles.  The club, founded by his students after his death in 1966, was one
of the top clubs in the US throughout the late 20th Century, with its fortunes rising and falling with a succession of Head Coaches.
As an aside, Hans’ fencing equipment business became the foundation for Freedom Fencers Supply, which became American Fencers Supply in 1967.  When
I started working there in the late 1980’s, we still used an electric thread-cutting machine that Hans himself had built.