The Lifestory of Hermann Zapf

Given the new political circumstances, I was not allowed to attend the Ohm Technical Institute in Nuremberg. Not until 30 years later in the USA was I able to fulfill the dreams of my youth with computer technology.

So I had to find an apprenticeship. Since I was good at drawing, my teachers -who were aware of our political problems - suggested that I should become a lithographer. It was 10 months later, in 1934, before I found an apprenticeship.
Every time I went for an interview, I was asked political questions. I was told that they liked my work, but couldn’t take me on. The last company in the telephone directory was the only one that didn’t ask me any political questions. They too said that my work was good, but they didn’t do lithography and didn’t need an apprentice lithographer.

Instead, they said I could become a retoucher, and could start on the following Monday. I accepted straight away, and rushed home on my bike to consult the dictionary and find out what a retoucher was. And so I became a retoucher, starting my 4-year apprenticeship in February 1934.

In 1935 there was an exhibition in the Norishalle in Nuremberg in memory of the Nuremberger Rudolf Koch (1876-1934). He passed away on 9 April 1934. It was at this exhibition that I first became interested in lettering. I bought Koch’s book "Das Schreiben als Kunstfertigkeit" ("The Art of Writing") and a textbook about lettering by Edward Johnston, "Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering". Using these two books, I taught myself calligraphy at home using a broad-edged pen. I studied historical examples in the Nuremberg city library.

It didn’t take long before my master discovered that I was good at calligraphy. After that I was mainly given lettering retouching work to do and often had to work overtime improving my colleagues’ retouching work. I rarely got home before 8 p.m.. My parents were angry but of course they couldn’t do anything about it.

When it came to taking the journeyman’s examination at the trade corporation in 1938, my father said I should refuse to sit it because I was made to do so many other tasks during my apprenticeship. In a time when absolute obedience was paramount, such a decision would have caused a lot of problems. It was unthinkable to do otherwise.

more ... From Nuremberg to Frankfurt