University and Difficult Years

I lived at Landshut until the end of my physics studies in 1968. 4 years elementary school,  9 years secondary school with the German Abitur (qualification for university entrance) in 1960. During my years in the secondary school I became fascinated by natural sciences and hesitated a long time to choose either chemistry or physics. Finally I took the decision for experimental physics and started my studies at the Technical University in Munich, which I left after the first semester in order to continue at the Ludwig Maximilian University, also in Munich. This period until 1968 was a wonderful time of discovering the view of the world governed by the laws of nature.

At this time I would not know that I would pass major a part of my professional career in activities where my knowledge of physics was not directly applied. But the way to analyze a problem, to find a solution and to implement it, which is so typical for the working method of a physicist, helped me a lot to organize the work and to implement new methods while working in the Marketing and Quality area. My interest in physics remained strong, so  after my retirement  I attended  lectures about special and general relativity as well as quantum field theory at the University of Freiburg. These topics are the building blocks for the understanding of the fantastic evolution of our World.

Munich was about 60 km far from Landshut and the train took about 1 hour from my home town to the Bavarian capital. I could have had the opportunity to live in a student hostel at Munich, but I decided to stay close to my friends and the football activities and travelled twice a day between Landshut and Munich. Today I think this was not necessarily a good decision to miss this opportunity for new social contacts.

At the university there were no tuition fees except a rather small enrolment fee. I was lucky to receive a special top level study grant available in Bavaria, the Hundhammer scholarship. In 1960  the average salary per person per year was DM 6000,-. The monthly  amount of the study grant of DM 250,- was enough to cover my cost of living. So it was possible to spend most of the semester holidays for recreational activities with my friends. During the semester I worked very hard to attend the lectures and to pass the seminar tests, but in the semester holidays, I did not work on physics except during the period before the exams. I was mainly doing sports, swimming and soccer. During the evenings we very often played Schaffkopf (a Bavarian card game) with small stakes, evident for a student. My situation was more favorable than for some of my friends who had to earn money for their studies working during the holidays either for administration or industry. My brother chose another option for financing his studies. He enlisted for some years for the German army. 

During the last years of our school education it was our mother who took care of us. After the first successful years of the grocery shop, when my parents even could start a branch in Lower Bavaria the upcoming competition of food chains and specialized delicatessen shops were hard for the existence of small groceries. In the end my parents had to give up their business and my father became general sales representative of Hammesfahr, a tyre retreading company. This was a tedious job. My father had to travel the whole week trying to take orders. My mother was responsible for the management of the stock in the Schwesterngasse and the income was moderate. So I had only little time to spend with my father and did not notice how the relationship between him and my mother grew worse. Possibly there was also a certain indifference on my side. In the late fifties they separated and got divorced in 1961. In the same year my father died of a heart attack. He was only 55 years old. After the separation from her husband my mother worked as a secretary for the Jenaer Glaswerke Schott & Genossen. Her boss was the Technical Director of the Landshut branch for electronic packaging, Dr. Fuchs, a physicist. I graduated from school in 1960, my brother did the Abitur 4 to 5 years later. So during the last years in secondary school there was only our mother who took care of us. Working 6 days a week plus doing the household was a terrible stress. Later, while we were at college there was some financial support because of my study grant and the fact that my brother financed his studies doing his military service.  But the years of permanent stress had ruined her health and that left her only a few years to enjoy retirement until she died of a heart attack at the age of only 65 years.

My parents showed a very strong sense of responsibility for their children and during the difficult economic conditions in Post-War Germany they had to make great sacrifices. I am so grateful that they gave us a carefree childhood and a profound education which became the base for a solid professional career for my brother and myself. 

I had a couple of friends from school and from my soccer activity. Some of my school friends I still meet today. Christian Lorenz, who had become a judge at the Landgericht, Ludwig Oswald, our  class representative and later a primary school teacher as well as Ursula Köbl, who went teaching social law at the Freiburg University.