Gerald Nagler Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Human Rights Movement and the Helsinki Process: Conversation with 
    Gerald Nagler, Chair of the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; 4/30/02 
    by Harry Kreisler

Page 1 of 3

Background

Mr. Nagler, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you very much; I am honored.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Vienna, and my parents both come from Vienna. My father was intelligent, realizing or feeling or having a sense of what was going to happen, so he was wise enough to leave Vienna in 1931. So I came to Stockholm in 1931, being two years old.

Looking back, how do you think your parents shaped your character?

I don't know how much my parents shaped my character. I knew for certain, of course they did, but also circumstances, the political situation, and so on. If I try to think backward, what got me involved later in life in human rights and civil rights and so on, I'm sure it has a relation to the fact that from 1938 and on, those years during the war, we always had people staying on the sofa whom my father had helped to get out of Austria, family and friends, in '38 and '39.

Was he a businessman?

He was a businessman, yes.

So the political climate in Europe was such that you became very sensitized to the issues of human rights very early, just by the life you were living.

If you live surrounded by parents, family, friends, who during all these sensitive years had to flee, [who] were scared -- from 1939 up 'til 1944, it was not easy. People realized that things were changing.

Yes.

Where were you educated?

In Stockholm.

And after your education, you went into business? What sort of business did you undertake?

I went into a family business which my father had started. That was an international export/import company in instruments, optical items, and so on.

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