The title of Paterson’s debut memoir carries a dual meaning. As a child, the author fled the Nazis for a new life; as an adult, he created sanctuaries for others.
Until the German annexation of Austria, “Karli” and his sister, Doris, had a seemingly enchanted childhood in Vienna. Their progressive parents, Eva and Stefan Schanzer, raised them in “a social experiment in Modern living,” the Werkbundsiedlung, which touted utility and functionality above ornament and artifice. Eva’s sudden death—from what appeared to be scarlet fever—and the escalation of Jewish persecution spurred Stefan into action. In order to save his children from the Nazis, he arranged to have them adopted by the sympathetic Paterson family in Queensland, Australia. Baptized before fleeing Europe to make their lives easier in their adoptive country, the children were separated from their father, who set out on a courageous bicycle journey through the French countryside and a daring escape into Portugal. As Karli Schanzer became Charles Paterson, certain things remained. His gift for design and architecture and his connection to his uncle, the renowned Adolf Loos, came to fruition as he apprenticed to Frank Lloyd Wright. Paterson became a U.S. citizen and built a lodge in Colorado and was reunited with Stefan in New York. Written with his daughter, Carrie, Paterson’s detailed narrative veers between intimate and scholarly. With footnotes and a lengthy index, it’s a labor of love: a dossier of letters, mementos, documents, photographs, recipes and the contemporary reflections of family members. Beginning with ancestors in Hapsburg-era Vienna, the Patersons explore the death of Old Europe and the birth of what we’ve come to regard as American architecture. They also contend with the attempted annihilation of their bloodline and celebrate the courage and perseverance of those who survived. With enough material for at least three books, the authors are determined to fit it all into one. Patient readers will be rewarded.
An encyclopedic and epistolary family history, a eulogy for pre-Reich Vienna and an ode to midcentury modernism.