Compiled from notes by Judy Lanskey
Judy is a niece by marriage and was raised by Robert George Stagg, née Hans Georg Hirschland (1921-1970), a son of Dr. Fritz Hirschland. Judy has shared these recollections with us:
My uncle was in the Marines, I believe, until he was 29 and although I was quite young when he told us these stories, I know that he wanted to be a career soldier. Because he was German, the military sent him to Japan instead of Germany and he had his back broken there. He knew some of the guys that are in the statute of Iwo Jima. He was given a silver star and a purple heart and an honorable discharge. It was after his discharge that he attended NYU. (Note that Hans is the only Hirschland we found a record of who served in the US Military during WWII. Charles Hannam, née Karl Hirschland, served in the Britsh military, but was also kept out of the European theater.)
I never met his parents as they died before we moved in with my aunt and uncle. I believe that Bob told me he that his father was a doctor and his mother was a French figure skater (?). He said that he spoke both French and German before he spoke English.
He and Madge did not have any children and raised my sister and me as their own. I still have Bob’s dog tags somewhere. The name on the dog tags is Hans Hirschland. He did not change his name until after the war. When my Uncle gave me his dog tag, I asked him why he settled on Robert Stagg when he changed his name. He said that as a child he had been called something like Boobie, so he decided on Robert which meant a nickname of Bob. As far as the Hirschland–he said that a rough translation was “hunting ground” so he decided on Stagg as a last name.
But, you do have to know that he never told us children that he was Jewish. I do not know if he told Madge. He told me that he changed his name because people might think it was a Jewish name and that there was so much discrimination in NY after the war. My aunt was raised as a Protestant, as were we children.
My uncle is the most wonderful man I have ever know and probably the smartest, too. He was like a walking encyclopedia. He started trying to teach me to read and speak German from the time I was about nine. He would use some of his old texts and some of his Albert Schweitzer books for this purpose.
My uncle worked for ABC television, first as a camera man and later as a video tape editor. He had a degree from NYU in literature or English and a Masters from Columbia in Theater Arts. He and my aunt, at one point, were partners in an off-off Broadway theater on the lower east side, The Cricket/Gate. We lived in New York City on West 75th Street.
When my sister and I were in high school, he was offered an opportunity to join the production side of work at ABC by moving to Tel Aviv where ABC was going to establish satellite offices. This was all very exciting for us and he asked for all of our approval which we gave, gladly. However, the Six Day War broke out and each day he became more worried about taking us into that kind of situation. After the first two or three days, he withdrew his application.
A few years after that, he took early retirement from ABC and moved the family to Puerto Rico. He died about six months later and is buried in Bayamon, P.R. He had a military funeral. My aunt and sister returned to NY and I went to California as I had married shortly after we moved to Puerto Rico.