Schemm, whose parents ran a shoemaker's shop, first went to a Volksschule for five years and then as of 1905 a teaching seminary. In 1915 he got married; in 1917 a son was born. As a teacher, he taught school beginning in 1910, first in Wülfersreuth, then as of 1911 in Neufang and from 1920 at the Altstadtschule ("Old Town School"), which was later named the Hans-Schemm-Schule, in Bayreuth. During the First World War he worked at a military epidemic hospital in Bayreuth where he became infected with tuberculosis.
Schemm was then appointed as head of a bacteriological-chemical laboratory in Thale (Hubertusbad), which, however, closed by 1921 on financial grounds. Schemm, who had dealt with chemical-biological matters scientifically before, went back to teaching school. Between 1921 and 1928, he also moonlit at the folk high school.
From 1923, Schemm had contacts with Nazi groups and on 30 September 1923 he got to know Adolf Hitler. In 1924, he became an assessor in the Bayreuth Völkischer Bund. On 27 February 1925, Schemm founded the Bayreuth Nazi Ortsgruppe ("Local Group") and in the same year the Nazi Gau of Upper Franconia (Oberfranken).
Systematically, Schemm prepared the local NSDAP for the election campaigns, first for the City Council in 1929. The Nazis won 9 mandates, and Schemm became factional chairman. The arrival of the Nazi faction led to frequent stormy sessions and one brawl, which were caused by the Nazi members', and in particular Schemm's, aggressive attitude.
In 1928 and 1929, Schemm took over the leadership of several Nazi newspapers (Streiter, Weckruf and Nationale Zeitung), which he however gave up after a short time. In April 1929, Schemm founded his own newspaper, and in August of the same year appeared the Nationalsozialistische Lehrerzeitung ("National Socialist Teachers' Newspaper"), the National Socialist Teachers League's (NSLB) journalistic organ. On 1 October 1930 came the first edition of the weekly newspaper Kampf für deutsche Freiheit und Kultur ("Struggle for German Freedom and Culture"), which was published by Schemm, and whose circulation rose from 3,000 in the beginning to 20,000 by 1932.
In 1931, Schemm founded the Bayreuth National Socialist Cultural Publishing House (Nationalsozialistischer Kulturverlag Bayreuth), which beginning on 1 October 1932 published the daily newspaper Das Fränkische Volk (circulation: 10,000)
In 1930, Schemm became a member of the Reichstag.
In 1933, the Gau of Upper Franconia, led by Schlemm, was united with the Gau of Upper Palatinate-Lower Bavaria (Oberpfalz-Niederbayern) to form the Gau Bayerische Ostmark. Schemm kept his job as Gauleiter. Furthermore he became an SA Gruppenführer. On 16 March 1933, the Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) Franz Ritter von Epp appointed Schemm to be the provisional Culture Minister. Hitler then appointed him on 13 April 1933 the "Leader of Cultural and Educational Affairs of Bavaria".
In 1933, Schemm became an honorary citizen of Bayreuth.
On 5 March 1935, Schemm died after an aircraft crash. Hitler personally ordered Berlin Professor Ferdinand Sauerbruch to fly to Bayreuth. Schemm, however, succumbed to his injuries before the professor's arrival. His successor as Gauleiter was Fritz Wächtler.
Schemm's life was glorified by the Nazis, and somewhat even later after the Nazis were gone. In the time of the Nazi regime, though, various schools, streets, and halls in Nazi Germany were named after him.