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Dr. Theodor Tuch * 1865
Horstlooge 35 (Wandsbek, Volksdorf)
1942 weiterdeportiert nach Treblinka
Dr. Theodor Tuch, born 4/20/1865 in Hamburg, deported to Theresienstadt on 7/19/1942, deported on to Treblinka
Clara Tuch, née Levie, born 5/12/1875, deported to Theresienstadt on 7/19/1942
Clara an Theodor Tuch lived in two rooms of the house no. 35 in the street named Horstlooge Im Haus Horstlooge 35 from 1939 to 1942 as tenants of Gustav Jordan, the Jewish owner of the property. Before 1939, they had had no connection to the suburb of Volksdorf – the Tuch family had lived in their own villa in Billbrook before their forced resettlement.
Clara Levie, married Tuch, came from a well-to-do Portuguese Jewish family. Her father, a cigar maker who had come to Hamburg from Holland, had married Hannah Ricardo-Rocamora in 1874. The Rocamoras belonged to the best-known families of the Sephardic community in Hamburg. Clara Tuch remained proud of her Sephardic origin all her life, a fact that her husband ironically commented from time to time.
Theodor Tuch came from an Ashkenazi Jewish family. His father Gustav Tuch (1834–1909) was a wealthy merchant and publicist who had acquired Hamburg citizenship at the age of 30. He had an ongoing influence on Jewish community and cultural life by founding several associations and societies. Gustav Tuch gained special esteem for his against international girl trafficking and Jewish involvement in it. At his initiative, members of the "Israelitic Humanitarian Women’s Association of 1897” attended to girls "imported” from eastern Europe or en route to south America and tried to save them for going into prostitution. When Gustav Tuch died suddenly in 1909, his merits as a philanthropist and benefactor for Hamburg were extensively appreciated by the public.
His son Theodor studied philosophy and mathematics in Jena, Göttingen and Kiel and graduated with a ph. D. In 1896, he married Clara Levie, 21 years old. Their two children Hans and Edith were born in 1897 and 1901.
Theodor Tuch was the proprietor and manager of the Karstadt-Porges company, dry-cleaning and dye works. The plant was in Billwerder alongside of the family residence. The company had outlets all over Hamburg.
The Tuchs ran a hospitable home, open to the ramified family and friends. A special friendship linked Theodor Tuch to his brother-in-law Max Mendel (see there), the general manager of the "Produktion” grocery store cooperative and a Hamburg cabinet minister from 1925 to 1929.
Theodor and Clara’s son Hans fought for the Kaiser in World War I and was killed in action at the age of 20. Their daughter Edith married Erich Blumenfeld, partner in the Karstadt-Borges company. The Blumenfelds moved into the second floor of the family villa in Billbrookdeich with their children René and Malkah.
The Nazi government’s coercive measure against Jews in 1939 radically changes the life of the Tuch family: they were expropriated and deprived of their home, their plant and their branch shops. Their son-in-law Erich Blumenfeld was put in a concentration camp. After his release, he immediately fled to the USA with his wife and children.
Clara and Theodor Tuch were resettled in Volksdorf. 64 and 74 years old, they were subject to further harassment by the Nazis. When Theodor Tuch to get the ration cards he was entitled to at the Rockenhof dispensary in Volksdorf, the officials there were "acting correctly” when they refused to give them to him – Jews had to pick up their ration cards at a special office downtown. When Theodor Tuch asked how he should get there, since he wasn’t allowed to use the subway, the now 77-year-old man was told: "you’ll just have to walk!” – at least three hours one way.
In the fall of 1941, the four-person household in Horstlooge was broken up. Gella Streim was on the first deportation transport that took 1,034 persons to Lodz on October 25th, 1941 – 1,016 of them directly to their death. The "evacuation” of their homemate made the remaining old people realize that their hardship had reached a new Gella Streim’s fate. It is likely that her deportation, the confiscation of her furniture and her "silence” in Lodz shattered Theodor Tuch’s last illusions about the Nazis’ plans for the Jews.
On December 15th, 1941, he began to keep a diary for his daughter in the USA. Seven months were left to him. On 50 pages of an old notebook, he recorded small domestic and familial scenes; they revolved around famine and cold and quarrels with their landlord Jordan. Tut above all, they reflected the unbearable pressure lying on Clara and Theodor: "Mother is suffering from an acute case of packingaway-tis, which is highly unpleasant for all Central Europeans who have contact with her.” (2/5/1942). "Madame is scrubbing as if she wanted to exorcise the devil. She is ruining herself and is getting skinnier all the time. Inconvincible.” (2/22/1942)
While Theodor Tuch was temporarily able to distract himself by reading history books and on long walks procure the few groceries still available to Jews, Clara fled into a sort of obsessive household activity to avoid pondering as far as possible. Thus, he at least succeeded in maintaining a sort of external imperturbable calm, whereas she could hardly bear the psychic pressure from isolation, yearning for her children and mortal fear.
From time to time, Theodor reported encounters with neighbors in Volksdorf: "A woman I don’t know stopped me, decorated with my yellow star, and asked me if I didn’t have a closet for sale – Jews had to give up all their stuff anyway!” (2/14/1942)
A small gesture of solidarity was also recorded: Frau Köhn, daughter of the local blacksmith, recalls how she, then 14 years old, together with her mother returned a repaired item to the Tuchs in Horstlooge. When she had rejoined her mother on the street, her mother sent her back to the Tuchs with a bag of sugar, while she waited on the sidewalk to make sure no one saw the girl – gifts to Jews were strictly forbidden. But Frau Köhn vividly remembers how Clara Tuch was overwhelmed by the bag of sugar, and "an elderly gentleman stood in the background, a man with the air of an artist who seemed to be hovering above the scene.”
After the first half of 1942 had passed without further deportations, and the Tuchs had already mentally prepared for a further move to Breite Strasse in Altona, the registered letter with the "evacuation order” hit them as a surprise in Horstlooge. On July 4th, 1942, Clara Tuch wrote a desperate farewell letter to her children; it was included in her husband’s diary as the final entry.
Theodor Tuch immediately sent the precious notebook to "Aryan” relatives in Berlin, who forwarded it to their daughter Edith Blumenfeld in the USA after the war.
On July 19th, 1942, the Tuchs had to board the deportation train to Theresienstadt at Hannover Station in Hamburg. Their landlord Gustav Jordan, Theodor’s brother Max Mendel, his wife and her 99-year-old mother were among the persons on that train. In the Theresienstadt Memorial Book, the date of their transport on to Treblinka is given as September 21st, 1942.
Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: March 2019
© Ursula Pietsch
Quellen: 1; 4; 7; Tuch, An meine Tochter, in: Bulletin Leo Baeck Institut, S. 6–32; Bauche, Gustav Tuch, in: Hamburger Biographie, Personenlexikon Band 2, Thevs, Bertha Lobatz, Ida und Max Mendel, in: Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Hamm, S. 140; Bauche, Jüdische Lebenswelten in Hamburg – Hamm, in: Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Hamm, S. 148; Pietsch, Volksdorfer Schicksale, Teil 5: in: Unsere Heimat die Walddörfer, Nr. 2/2005, S. 19 und Teil 6, Nr. 3/2005, S. 35; Interview mit Frau Mohr vom 7.2.2008; Interview mit Frau Köhn vom 7.5.2004.