Alfred Schnurmann was born in 1905 in Mulhouse, Alsace-Lorraine which was then part of the German Empire. His father, Leopold Schnurmann, was a prosperous Jewish wool merchant and his mother was Julie (Lang) Schnurmann. Alfred attended the university at Konstanz and worked as a salesman of textiles and clothing, settling in Berlin. In 1930 he married Hetta Hertel and their daughter Marion was born in 1932. Hetta and Alfred divorced in 1936, and Marion remained in Alfred's custody. In 1937, Marion was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and Alfred placed her in the Wyk orphanage for Jewish girls. During this time, Alfred made many attempts to emigrate out of Germany, applying for visas to France, Palestine, and the United States. Alfred's mother, Julie Schnurmann-Lang, and two sisters, Miriam and Alice, emigrated to Palestine in 1939, and they sent many letters back to Alfred about their situation there. In 1940, Alfred and Marion were able to obtain visas to the United States as part of the "French" quota, and so they traveled to the U.S. via Japan and settled in San Francisco. Alfred worked at the Richelieu Hotel and then for Levi Strauss before getting a job in 1945 with the Southern Pacific Railroad. He worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad until his retirement in 1983. In 1950, Alfred brought his girlfriend, Faye Faber, over to America and they were married that year. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, Alfred and Faye took several trips to Europe, Israel, and other places in the United States.