Theodor Carlebach came from a well-respected Jewish family in Germany, which spread in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ernst Carlebach (1838-1923) moved from Mannheim to Heidelberg in 1863 and founded a book and art antiquarian business there. His son Rudolf (1870-1917) came to Mannheim as a notary in 1900 and married Lili Goldmann in 1901. They had two sons: Theodor and Alfred (born February 4, 1905). His father Rudolf Carlebach wrote several books on legal history. When he died in 1917 and his wife had to go to hospital, the sons went to their grandparents in Heidelberg.
As chairman of the synagogue council, Ernst Carlebach was very influential and strengthened the more conservative direction of the generally liberal Jewish community in Heidelberg. Little information is available for Theodor Carlebach from 1917 to 1933: he received an agricultural education. To do this, he often spent several months at various locations: from May to July 1919 he was a private student of Max Maier, a well-known educator in Weinheim. Other places were: Reichenau, Mohring, Strasbourg, Untersiggingen and Gut Hohenhausen. He then worked as an assistant to a Jewish charity in Berlin and helped young people at risk until the Nazis prevented him from doing so. He prepared for the university by “a fairly extensive self-taught course” (letter of June 14, 1934 to the University of Tübingen). 1933/1934 he studied in Freiburg im Breisgau. The year 1933 saw a profound turning point for the Carlebach brothers as “full Jews”: Alfred Carlebach, who had studied law in Berlin and Heidelberg since 1929, dropped out of study in February 1933 and emigrated to Palestine in 1934. Theodor Carlebach turned to Christianity and was baptized on July 30, 1934 by parish priest Johannes Schneider in the Eberhardskirche in Tübingen. Three theology students were witnesses.
From 1934 to 1937/1938 he studied Protestant theology as a guest student in Tübingen, in the winter semester 1934/1935 in Erlangen and in the winter semester 1935/1936 in Marburg. In the winter semester of 1936/1937 he continued his studies at the illegal church college of the Confessing Church in Wuppertal-Elberfeld. Perhaps he continued to study underground even after the Gestapo closed the university. In his spare time he helped at the children’s church service in Wuppertal – until the November pogrom in 1938.
In January 1939, Theodor Carlebach tried to emigrate to England with the help of Pastor Hermann Maas in Heidelberg and the “Pastor Grüber” office in Berlin. His name can be found on two lists of theologians who were able to come to England at the invitation of Bishop George Bell. According to a list, Pastor Adolf Freudenberg suggested Carlebach to emigrate to Venezuela because he had an agricultural and theological education and could therefore work as a pastor and farmer.
He arrived in England on July 21, 1939. After the war began, Carlebach – like all Germans – was interned on the Isle of Man. From 1939 to 1942 he studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, passed both theological exams, was ordained a deacon in September 1942 and a priest in the Diocese of Southwark (London) in 1943. From 1942 to 1953 he was a clergyman (curate) in various parishes in south London: from 1942 to 1945 at St. Andrews Church in Lambeth, from 1945 to 1946 at Holy Trinity Church in Richmond, Surrey, from 1946 to 1949 at St. James Church in West Streatham, from 1949 to 1950 at St. James in Gravesend / Kent, from 1950 to 1953 at St. Paul’s in Salisbury / Wiltshire.
Theodor Carlebach married to the widow Hilda Axcell in Gravesend. Her daughter Christine was born in 1951 (and is a friend of many in the Messianic movement). From 1953 to 1973 he was a priest in parishes in the counties of Derbyshire and Staffordshire (central England): from 1953 to 1961 Vicar in Swadlincote, from 1961 to 1970 Vicar St. Luke’s in Bilston and from 1970 to 1973 Curate St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s in Leek. His wife Hilda helped him with community work. Rev. Theodor Carlebach was remembered as a calm-tempered man. In retirement the Carlebachs lived in Streetly and belonged to the Church of the Brethren. Theodor Carlebach died in Streetly in August 1977. (Hartmut Ludwig)
Prayer and Reflection: I met Christine Carlebach in the 1980s but had not idea of her family’s history. I am now full of admiration and gratitude for men and women like Theodor, for the trials they went through, for the faith they demonstrated, and for those who helped them along the way. This important chapter in the history of Jewish disciples of Jesus stands as a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the times of genocide and trauma that have affected our people over the millennia, but whose survival demonstrates the preservation of a remnant despite all odds. May we honour their memory by living out their faith and convictions!
Theodor Carlebach * January 12, 1903 in Mannheim, † August 30, 1977 in Streetly (England); Verth. with Hilda, née Allen, used Axcell (1919-2010); one daughter 1912-1917 high school Mannheim; Agricultural training; Jewish welfare organization in Berlin; 1933/1934 studies in Freiburg; July 30, 1934 baptism; 1934–1937 theological studies in Tübingen, Erlangen, Marburg, Wuppertal: July 1939 emigration; Studied theology in Qxford; Ordained deacon in 1942 and priest in 1943; 1943–1973 Reverend of the Anglican Church.