Karl Schubert was born in Vienna in 1889. His mother was Jewish but had converted to Catholicism. He spoke six foreign languages, the last one he learnt being Russian when he was a prisoner of war during World War I.
In 1903 he became interested in theosophy, becoming a member of the Theosophy Society in 1907. This was a stepping stone towards anthroposophy.
In that same year he took his Abitur and went on to study Law and Languages. In 1908 he met Rudolph Steiner for the first time. He continued his studies: summer 1909 Sorbonne, winter 1909 /10 London, Kings College, 1911 back to the Sorbonne.
From 1915, he was involved in World War I
On 20 May 1916 he married Helene Nierl in Vienna. Later that year he was made a prisoner of war by the Russians.
He returned at the end of the war and worked as a teacher in a private commercial school. He got to know Steiner better. His son was born on 21 February 1919.
He became a teacher at the Stuttgart Waldorf School in 1920. At first he taught English, French, Latin and Greek.
In 1921 he took charge of the “Hilfsklasse” – the Special Class for children with learning difficulties. The children were integrated into some normal lessons. From then onwards, Schubert dedicated his life to teaching disabled children and children with learning difficulties. After he was dismissed from the Waldorf School for being a non-Aryan he asked if he could carry on with the class as a private arrangement. Surprisingly, he was given permission to do this. However, he although he could raise money to support the class he could not earn enough to look after his family so they only survived through the help of friends.
He then used this as argument for the class carrying on when the Waldorf School was closed in 1938. This time he was not so fortunate. At this point, Clara Lehrs stepped in and offered her home to the class. There were 30-40 students in the class at this time including many Downs Syndrome children.
The class carried on at Haus Lehrs on 20 Schellberg Street throughout and after the war. On just a few days, lessons were interrupted because of bombing. Only in 1944 did a member of the Gestapo come to fetch Schubert to take him to a labour camp. A family friend, a certain Frau Geraths, spoke up on his behalf and he wasn’t taken, according to one account. In another, he was taken away but friends intervened and got him back. http://www.wegmaninstitut.ch/schubert-archiv.html. The novel favours the latter. In the novel he does go away for a few weeks.
It was always a mystery that the children survived. It is slightly ironic that during the Nazi regime, two people who according to the Blutschutzgesetz were Jewish managed to shelter and nurture a group of physically disabled children with severe learning difficulties.
The Special School carried on at 20 Schellberg Street until 1969 when it moved into a new building in nearby Degerloch. It was never reintegrated into the Waldorf School and Schubert had to support himself and the school by applying for grants.Schubert died in 1949. Since his death, the school has been named after him.