Special Tributes

Elizabeth and Julius Hallheimer
By:  Charlotte Guthmann Opfermann, 1999

Hallheimer, Elisabeth nee Ludwig and Hallheimer, Hermann
(known as ‘Julius’) from Crailsheim
Last address: Wiesbaden, Rheinstraße 98 II

Julius and Elisabeth Hallheimer nee Ludwig (* 3-23-06) were among my Jewish parents’ closest friends in the 1930s and well into the early 1940s in Wiesbaden, a resort town near the Rhein River where a Jewish presence is recorded as of the early 1400s. Like my father, Berthold Guthmann, Herr Julius Hallheimer was a veteran of World War I. He had lost the use of his right arm in the Worl War One service for r Kaiser and Fatherland 1914-18. Both men were active in Jewish veterans’ associations, the Reichsbund jüdischer Frontsoldaten, which my father helped found when he first moved into this lovely city shortly after the end of World War One.

Elisabeth and Julius Hallheimer were married in the early 1920s and settled for a happy life together in my former hometown and birthplace, Wiesbaden. Elisabeth was a handsome German Christian lady, Julius had been born into a Jewish family, but neither of them were very active in their respective religions, so Elisabeth’s possible conversion to Judaism was never discussed. Julius worked as a traveling salesman and helped in Frau Ludwig’s (his mother-in-law’s) dry cleaning store.

In the late 1920s, with Frau Ludwig’s encouragement and assistance, the young couple started a small knitting mill behind the stately Marktkirche in the heart of town. The business soon provided them with a comfortable lifestyle. Frau Ludwig sold many of her son-in-law’s articles at her small store, including the enormously popular 'Berchtesgadener Jäckchen' . Travelling salesmen of the Hallheimer knitting mill sold this article all over Germany to large and small retailers nationwide. It is ironic that one of the most successful articles of this firm’s production was this Berchtesgadener Jäckchen , an article of clothing much favored by German girls and women during the Third Reich years 1933-1945. It was a semi-official part of the BdM (Hitler Youth) uniform. This snug fitting Mieder--style black jacket with distinctive red and green stripes around the boat-neckline top and the row of acorn-shaped Edelweiß1 adorned pewter buttons was worn by big and little girls, by young and older women in and out of uniform and complimenting the then popular völkisch dirndl dresses. The wearers thus enjoyed a notion of ‘pleasing’ the Führer and expressed national pride and solidarity. Supposedly, the Edelweiss was Adolf Hitler's favorite flower. This jacket was also part of the actively promoted, resurging folk art, folk costume, underscoring German uniqueness, even in terms of Third Reich fashion.

On November 11th 1938 at 3 AM, Julius Hallheimer was arrested, along with most other German male Jews between 16 and 70 years of age. He was released the following day because of his World War One veteran status as a 100% disabled veteran and his classification as a mixed-marriage partner of a Christian wife2 .

In mid-November 1938, the Hallheimer knitting mill/factory was ‘aryanized’. It was taken over/stolen by one of his former employees. This procedure of 'Enteignung'/confiscation without compensation was supervised by the DAF (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) represented by two local Nazi functionaries: Herr Wehnert with Herr Klein acting as the official manager. Henceforth, it belonged to one of Hallheimer's former employees. Hallheimer and his wife continued to live in their handsome apartment on Rheinstrasse 98, high up among the carefully trimmed, old acacia trees, together with their beloved cat. He had furtively brought a few knitting machines to the apartment and was tinkering with new designs, even gave me some instructions how to work the machines -- all with a notion of, perhaps, leaving the country at some time soon and starting a new knitting operation in a hoped-for-host country, be it Palestine, the United States or any other place that MIGHT take on refugees. He tried to obtain an affidavit and a visum to emigrate to the United States, but -like most of us- he was not successful. Still, husband and wife tried to prepare themselves by dilligently studying English, but mostly they were waiting for the other shoe to drop. As the husband of a non-Jewish lady, as a seriously wounded veteran of the Great War who had nobly declined the pension offered by the country for which he had fought, Herr Hallheimer hoped against hope that he might be spared the worst victimization... death. Elisabeth Hallheimer was always kind andf loving and tried to be supportive.

Soon the selective, individualized arrests and killing began to decimate the Jews in Germany. It always began with a Vorladung, an order to come to Gestapo or police headquarters for ‘investigation’ of some often undefined infraction of the myriad special Jew-laws. The ‘investigative’ process involved torture and extensive abuse by the arresting police or Gestapo official, depending upon the mood of the agent at any given moment. Routinely this arrest preceded deportation to a concentration camp, most often Dachau, Auschwitz, Oranienburg/Sachsenhausen or Buchenwald. Within a few days, weeks or months the family then received a formal notification of ‘death from natural causes’, usually accompanied by an offer to purchase the ashes of the deceased for RM 150.--. I know of several such cases where the 'ashes' of one dead Jew were sold repeatedly, to different next of kin family members.

Much to everyone’s regret, my family began to see less and less of our friends Julius and Elisabeth Hallheimer. We were a ‘fully Jewish’ family; we were much more exposed to all the persecution measures than a ‘racially mixed’ couple like the Hallheimers, and it was accepted and understandable that we all would try to keep some distance. This was particularly isolating for the Hallheimer couple, as they now had absolutely no friends left.

In the privacy of their own apartment, the Hallheimers agreed to a pact of joint suicide should the dreaded call from the Gestapo arrive. Meanwhile, Herr Hallheimer was subject to frequent arrests, followed by interrogations and, for the moment, subsequent release. He had to work in the Gestapo building garden in summer, sweep the street at other times, shovel snow in winter, frequently run errands for the various agents. Frau Hallheimer was consigned to work as a slave laborer in various local factories. She was a Christian, but married to a Jew and did not have children. Consequently, the government agencies had the right to this Arbeitseinsatz , and they drew on her services at the lowest going rate of compensation.

During the various deportations of his fellow Jews, May 24, 1942, June 10, 1942, September 1, 1942, Herr Hallheimer volunteered his services and worked, as did all of us, as luggage carrier, compassionate helper, caregiver. He was, temporarily, spared the Final Solution measures and tried to provide comfort and support where he could. Contrary to instructions, we all sneaked in food to the friends who were awaiting the arrival of the deportation train, cooped up in the former synagogue which had been emptied of seats, benches, and altar and served as the official collection point for the three day waiting period. The local Gestapo Judenreferent, Jew specialist Walter Bodewig had issued firm orders not to provide food for the deportees during their waiting period. It was his view that they had been told to ‘pack food for two or three days’. If their individual supplies were inadequate while they were being held inside the synagogue, that was too bad3 and their own fault. Elisabeth Hallheimer sent large quantities of food with her Jewish husband. She herself did not dare to absent herself from work and risk arrest by bringing the food herself.

On August 30,1942, Julius Hallheimer went to fetch a Jewish friend’s luggage which had been left behind at the man’s former residence. Gestapo agent Bodewig had specifically forbidden him to do this, earlier, but Hallheimer obtained permission from another Gestapo colleague behind Bodewig’s back. For this, he was severely reprimanded and threatened by Bodewig4 for such an act of open insubordination, even deviousness. And he was marked for ‘elimination’, now more than before.

Unbeknownst to Herr Hallheimer, his wife Elisabeth agreed to their joint suicide pact in case his arrest order should come, because she wanted to please and comfort her mate, but she secretly planned to go through the motions only. She hoped to survive and had secured an antidote for the poison they would both swallow then. On March 24, 1943 Julius Hallheimer received another summons to report to the Paulinenstrasse Gestapo headquarters. Both Hallheimers, Julius and Elisabeth, knew what to do. Several hours after the scheduled appearance at the Gestapo office, two criminal police agents Kripos broke down the door to the Hallheimer apartment to inquire why he had failed to report as ordered. They found the couple in their beds. Herr Hallheimer was dead. Frau Hallheimer was rushed to the hospital where the emergency room attendants pumped her stomach. She was rescued and survived.

As a last act of protest, she buried her husband’s ashes at the foot of the large World War One Jewish veterans’ memorial at the Wiesbaden main Jewish cemetery on Platter Straße. Whenever I visit my former home town, I deposit flowers there in his and other Jewish veteran friends’ memory and I say a prayer for his courageous and now deceased wife Elisabeth. After the end of the War, Elisabeth Hallheimer married Dr Vollbrandt, the doctor who had helped her survive her act of courage and devotion to her first husband. Was this a suicide ? or was it murder ?

* * *

One of the favorite songs during gatherings of all the German World War One veterans’ associations, Jewish and Christian, was ‘Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden...’, written by Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862) in 1809 during the Befreiungskämpfe years when Germany’s liberation from Emperor Napoleon’s rule was the patriotic goal. As the casualties of World War Two mounted, this song (which had honored earlier patriotic battle casualties) was given equal status to the two Third Reich German national anthems, the Horst Wessel Lied and Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles, which -sadly- detracted from its earlier associations5. I have prepared an English translation of the Uhland text in memory of Julius Hallheimer, a good and courageous German patriot and friend and his devoted and courageous wife Elisabeth:Ich hatt' einen Kameraden,Einen bess’ren findst du nit.Die Trommel schlug zum Streite,Er ging an meiner Seite|: Im gleichen Schritt und Tritt. :| Eine Kugel kam geflogen:Gilt sie mir oder gilt sie dir?Ihn hat es weggerissen,Er liegt zu meinen Füßen|: Als wär's ein Stück von mir :| Will mir die Hand noch reichen,Derweil ich eben lad'."Kann dir die Hand nit geben,Bleib du im ew'gen Leben|: Mein guter Kamerad!" :|

* * *

I once had a comrade, You’ll ne’r find a better one. The drum roll called us to fight, He was at my side,|: Keeping step through good and bad. :| A bullet flew tow’rd us, Aimed for him or aimed at me? It brought him down, He’s lying at my feet,|: As if a part of me. :| His hand reached up for mine. But I re-load my gun." I can not take your hand, In life eternal we’ll meet, my friend,|: Once more in step as one." :|

For further details see, also, HStAA (Hesse Main State Archive) p.192 file ‘Walter Bodewig’, BW 49-44• • •© Charlotte Opfermann 2000

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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