Search for Names, Places and Biographies

Already layed Stumbling Stones

back to select list

Helmut Bartsch * 1895

Bremer Straße 32 (Harburg, Harburg)

JG. 1895

Dr. Helmut Bartsch, born on 20 Jan. 1895 in Harburg, flight into death on 30 June 1935

District of Harburg-Altstadt, Bremer Straße 32

After passing his high school graduation exam (Abitur) at the Harburg Realgymnasium, a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages, in der Eissendorfer Straße 26 (today: Stadtteilschule ["district school”] Harburg), Helmut Bartsch began his first semesters studying medicine, which he had to interrupt soon when the First World War started and he followed Kaiser Wilhelm II.’s call to German arms. He distinguished himself as an air force officer in numerous combat missions by particular bravery. Awarded the Hanseatic Cross and the Iron Cross First and Second Class, he returned to his home at the end of the war.

Following completion of his university studies, he set up his physician’s practice in his native city at Bremer Straße 32. He soon earned an excellent reputation as a doctor. Many of his patients were workers. In addition, for many years he was active in an honorary capacity as chief physician at the Harburg Workers’ Samaritan Federation (Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund), founded by Emil Hirschfeld (27 Feb. 1864–28 Apr. 1927), a well-known Harburg physician of Jewish descent.

Helmuth Bartsch felt very closely connected to the latter, not only professionally but also politically and on an interpersonal level. Both were members of the SPD, to which Emil Hirschfeld had rendered outstanding services after 1919 as a Hamburg senator. (Today’s Hirschfeldplatz in Harburg commemorates his life work.)

Emil Hirschfeld accompanied the young physician’s and political fellow traveler’s journey through life as a paternal friend. Helmut Bartsch also got along very well with Hirschfeld’s two sons, the journalist Hans Emil Hirschfeld and the physician Kurt Hirschfeld, who took over the practice after his father’s death. Together with them, he tried to preserve the legacy of his great role model and continue to work according to the principles of the deceased.

On 10 Oct. 1925, Helmut Bartsch married the physician Rose Blumenfeld (born on 10 Mar. 1896), the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. The marriage produced two children: son Harald, born on 8 Oct. 1926, and daughter Oda, born on 2 Nov. 1927. Both children spent their childhood and first years of school in Harburg.

A Social Democrat, friend of the Hirschfeld family, and husband of a "non-Aryan” woman, Helmut Bartsch seemed suspicious to the Nazis from the very beginning. Wherever they could they tried to defame him publicly and scare away his patients. On 31 Mar. 1933, his name appeared on a list of Jewish businesspeople, lawyers, and physicians to be excluded from municipal bids in the future by orders of the Harburg city council.

This order, however, was revised again only two weeks later. Today, one can no longer determine who prompted this correction. It remains open whether Helmut Bartsch presented his case in person or whether some of his patients or other Harburg residents interceded on his behalf.

Three months later, Helmut Bartsch was suspended from his post as chief physician of the Harburg-Wilhelmsburg Workers’ Samaritan (Arbeiter-Samariter) crew because medical staff not supportive of the "national government” were unwanted.

When both children were complaining about ever-increasing frequent harassment by teachers and fellow students, Helmut and Rose Bartsch felt it was advisable in the summer of 1934 to send them to the Quaker school "Eerde” in the Dutch town of Ommen. It was not an easy decision for the parents, as they could not resign themselves to the separation and to the bitter truth that in Germany it was obviously no longer possible for their children to attend any school without facing hostilities.

Moreover, Helmut Bartsch increasingly smarted from anonymous denigrations of his person and the secret and open insults against his "half-Jewish” wife by several neighbors. Friends of the family could not help but observe that he became noticeably more pensive and reserved. They had known him in the past as a cheerful person, full of joie de vivre, who now had lost much of his carefree appearance, for understandable reasons. The old circle of friends and acquaintances shrunk from month to month. The two sons of Emil Hirschfeld had fled abroad soon after the Nazi "seizure of power;” others who had stayed in Germany avoided Helmut Bartsch.

The situation escalated in the early months of 1935: One Sunday while on standby duty, Helmut Bartsch had been called to a patient, who sent him away, however. When this patient died, a criminal charge for negligent homicide was brought against Helmut Bartsch. Soon afterward, preliminary proceedings against him were launched before the Stade Regional Court, in the course of which Bartsch’s conduct was assessed as correct by experts. As a result, the legal proceedings were suspended.

However, for Helmut Bartsch the news of the stay of proceedings came too late. Without waiting for the court’s decision, he left the apartment on Bremer Straße on the evening of 26 June 1935, purportedly to keep an appointment. The next morning, his wife found him unconscious in the garage next to two Barbital (Veronal) and morphine syringes. All attempts to resuscitate him failed. He died four days after his admission to the Harburg Mariahilf Hospital on Albersstraße (today: Knoopstraße).

Only the closest friends appeared for the funeral service on the Ohlsdorf Cemetery, since many feared that the NSDAP would not shrink from infiltrating the mourners with informers.

The later Director of the Senate and Press Spokesman of the Berlin Senate, Hans Emil Hirschfeld, wrote in retrospect after his return from exile about the early death of his admired friend Helmut Bartsch: "Despite [his] bravery as a soldier, he was not a robust person but rather sensitive and delicate. For this reason, he probably viewed his situation as a physician in Harburg as hopeless, due to the persecution and hostilities. This emerged from the few written communications I received from him through indirect channels. To me, there is no doubt that he was driven by these circumstances to his last desperate step.”

After the occupation of the Netherlands by German troops, the two children returned home unhindered. As a "half-Jew (jüdischer Mischling) of the 2nd degree,” Harald Bartsch was soon deployed to the eastern front and has been regarded missing ever since. His mother survived the Second World War in Hamburg, subsequently emigrating with her daughter to the USA.

In agreement with a resolution by the Harburg District Assembly, the Senate Office for District Affairs had one of the streets in Harburg’s Langenbeker Feld housing development named after Dr. Helmut Bartsch in Feb. 1988.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Klaus Möller

Quellen: StaH, 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 100396; StaH, 430-5, 1810-08 Dienststelle Harburg, Angelegenheiten der städtischen Polizei, Ausschaltung jüdischer Geschäfte und Konsumvereine; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer; Heyl, Synagoge; HAN 2.7.1935, Amtlicher Anzeiger des Hamburgischen Gesetz- und Verordnungsblattes vom 16.2.1988.

print preview  / top of page