15 October 1932 Birth of Heinrich Teubel – Jewish Priest and Organ Restorer

Heinrich Martin Josef Teubel was born in Pilsen, at that time in Czechosolvakia, on the 15th October, as the 3rd of 4 sons – Gerhard (1926-2015), Dieter (1928-1997), Heinrich, Werner (1932). His mother, Ernestine (Erna), born Rasp (1899-1951) came from Karlsbad and was a trained infant nurse, and his father, Gustav Teubel (1899-1976) had a diploma in electronics and at the time of Heinz’s birth, worked in the Skoda works in Pilsen. In 1931 he was made a professor at the engineering school in Komotau (at that time in a region known as the Sudetenland), where we moved to. There the boys went at first in the nursery.  As Heinz was a late developer, he only went into elementary school in 1937, as the sole one of the brothers.

Gustav’s mother was a Jewess, who changed to being a protestant at the time of her marriage. Her husband had a managerial position in the sugar factory in Keltschan, Bohemia (Bohemia and Moravia are the heartlands of the later Czechoslovakia (1919-1939) or Czech Republic (1945-1990). Upto 1919 these countries belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Sudetenland had a mostly German population, which, after the annexation of Austria by the German Reich in spring 1938, also led to its annexation (Munich agreement). This had crucial consequences for Heinz’s family. After the 1st October 1938 annexation,  Heinz’s father was dismissed from state service as he was a half Jew, under the Nürenberg law of 1935. He was given a very small pension. The family also had to move out of their official flat, but received an offer of a very big flat of a Jewish family, who had moved to America.

From that moment on the family experienced what it was to be called a Jew in Hitler’s Germany; to be of Jewish decent. The children though – Heinz was at the time 8 years old – had only a very unclear idea. They were, like others, enthusiastic adherents of the new German Reich, marched with the Hitler youth, sung for example the anti- Jewish songs, the sense of which they didn’t get, then experienced the change of mood in the war and the constant secrecy, also learnt that terrible things were happening with the Jews, but were so dominated by the happenings of war and the nights of bombing that they only gradually understood the full extent of what had happened after the war.

The effect on the family : Heinz’s father was unemployed for a time, then he worked for a short period in Berlin, and from round about 1940 (arranged through a Christian friend) for a large electrics firm in Ratingen near Düsseldorf. This firm delivered electrical equipment for mining, and it was happy to get an electrical engineer after the start of the war (1939). The boss, a staunch party comrade, took care that the father’s descent was kept quiet. So spring 1941 the family moved to Ratingen, where after half a year they were able to rent a house with a garden on the edge of town, a Godsend as it was already the time of night bombing. In the following years they saw Düsseldorf (10km away) and the towns of the Ruhr burning. Heinz was trained in the elementary school for half a year, then in autumn 1941 he went to the grammar school. 1944 he didn’t move class, as he had bad grades in Latin and Biology. In March 1945 Ratingen (West) was bombed and burnt – the family lived in the eastern part. In April the American tank columns rolled in and the family breathed a sigh of relief; for them the war was over, and the threat for them passed. Heinz’s father then soon changed his place and took on his favourite work at an engineering school in Dortmund. The school was happy, as the father, being a former persecuted person of the Nazi regime, didn’t need to be de-nazified. The family had no further thoughts until gradually the total shock of the concentration camps and the Holocaust was made known. But when their relations came to them as displaced persons, they encountered the total Nazi thinking among the relatives to varying degrees. The relatives of Heinz’s father, 2 sisters, had a similar fate to his father, but they survived the time without persecution (only the eldest sister, who was a teacher in Vienna was dismissed from her state job). One must know, the so called Antisemitism, from thoughtless prejudice to blatant anti-Jewishness, was very widely spread in the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was nearly a 1000 year tradition in the Catholic Church. Heinz’s mother had no problem marrying a half Jew, but she often expressed her anti-Jewish prejudices, even though she was horrified by the fire of the synagogue in Komotau and the expulsion of the Jews and fiercely opposed it. Heinz found it hard to describe this mental-mixture, and believes that one needs to experience it for oneself.

The post-war period was then initially dominated by completely different themes : what would become of the children in the conquered and destroyed Germany ? But they didn’t have problems with their descent any more after 1945.

How much the struggle to survive dominated Heinz’s time became clear at the important phases of life.

School had stopped in late autumn 1944 and it was unclear when it could begin again. So Heinz’s father insisted that he first learn a profession, and as he could not decide, Heinz was put into a gardener’s apprenticeship. The justification : according to the so called Morhethau Plan, Germany was to become only a country of farmers and gardeners. As they had to starve until 1948, and as Heinz was not accustomed to working in wind and weather, it was a hard time for Heinz. In September 1947 he caught typhoid and had to suspend his apprenticeship till the end of December. It was the first time that he barely survived.

One day the principal of the vocational school asked Heinz if he had the ‘middle school certificate’, and when he said no, the principal said “Pity. You could otherwise have trained to be a horticultural inspector”. Heinz was one of the best pupils there. This was a signal for him; he wanted to catch up and get the ‘middle school certificate’.  A former school colleague told Heinz that it would take him 3 years at a private school and that he’d have to do external examinations. He told him also, that in same time he could to evening Grammar School, do the Abitur, and that he would be tested by the teachers who taught him. So, 6 months later, after his apprenticeship examination (autumn 1948 – in between, after the currency reform in June 1948 the situation in the country had got clearly better),    in April 1949 he went to the evening Grammar School  in Düsseldorf, and with much luck, passed the Abitur in April 1952. He was the first person in the family who had achieved the Arbitur (both of his older brothers had gone to engineering school and had begun their careers as electrical engineers in industry. He wanted next to become a horticultural architect, but decided May /June 1948 to study theology. His parents were both convinced Christians. His father had converted to Christianity. He brought the children up very strictly; especially the three oldest were in constant opposition to this. Both Heinz’s older brothers left the church, Heinz as it were studied Theology out of protest. At the evening Grammar School he had a magnificent religious teacher, he also appreciated as a priest and preacher.  For Heinz, the time from about 1948 was a special time : Düsseldorf offered an excellent cultural life and he had a 70 year old German teacher  who introduced them – outside of the school – to modern art  (which they only knew from  the  Nazi era as ‘degenerate art’).   Within those 3 years Heinz learnt to know a total different world and a totally different way of thinking than he had got from his family. It set the course for his whole life.  The study from autumn 1952 until the 1st exam 1959/60 was a great obstacle course. He started with the language semesters at the church university in Wuppertal (luckily he’d already done Hebrew, Greek and Latin at the evening Grammar school), changed summer 1954 to Mainz, and autumn 1955 to Heidelberg. After 4 weeks of being there he had to break off from his study as he fell out with his father, and his father wouldn’t send him any more money. So he went working in a factory to earn some money. From 1949 he worked alternately in his profession or factories. Had he finally failed ?

May 1955 Heinz was able to begin his studies again, this time in Göttingen.  He remained here until autumn 1959, till the 1st exam. During this time, Heinz also worked in the holidays partly in his occupation and partly in different factories. He didn’t do it for his studies, but he did gain invaluable experience. In Göttingen he got to know his future wife, Carmen.  She came from east Prussia, was also a refuge, had done the Abitur in Göttingen in 1952, and then did  an apprenticeship as an industrial clerk  at Zeiss-Winkel  (optical industry, microscopes). For Heinz, this was the best time.

In the 1st exam he didn’t  pass the oral exam for 2 subjects, but had the chance to repeat them six months later. During this time he worked part time in psychiatry (closed department) in the large Bethel diaconal plant near Bielefeld , because his father was living in Bielefeld.

1960-1962 followed the curacy time, then the 2nd exams, which he this time he immediately passed. April 1961 Heinz and Carmen married. His first priest’s post was in Walsum in the lower Rhein. Approximately half the workers were miners and the other half steelworkers for Thuyssen in Duisburg.  In this time both of Heinz and Carmen’s daughters were born – Ricarda (1964) and Cordula (1967). Heinz had always wanted a congregation of workers. But in 1968 a student friend asked Heinz whether he wouldn’t want to take over a community in the Hunsrück (4 villages).  Carmen was very much in favour, as she was fed up of the coal dust and the fumes from the industry. So 1969 they moved to Rhaunen-Suzbach .  He had a completely different community : of urban industrial workers  in villages, where only a small number of people worked in agriculture, and the majority  worked outside, mostly in construction. Nevertheless,  13 years here shaped him mostly deeply, especially in pastoral care, and this had an impact from the years 1982/1983 to the current day.

What he could not have guessed was that during this time he had to do 2 organ restorations, which caused quite a stir. In Sulzbach, one of the most important German organ building firms built round about 300 organs over 6 generations  – 160 years. With both restorations (1979 Rhaunen, 1981 Sulzbach)  he was lucky  with advice and the organ builder (>>>>>>), so that in 1981 it became clear that with these restorations new standards had been set for the Stumm organs. For many of Heinz’s parishioners this still has significance, and they have become aware of the unusualness of their small Hunsrück community (round about 270 inhabitants). So he still has a connection to a whole range of parishioners.

For Heinz, another change then came quite surprisingly,: again in a totally different field of work : in Autumn 1982 he took over a post in the military pastoral care in Koblenz. He could never have imagined doing this, as from 1964 he had regularly been in charge of conscientious objectors and so was totally opposed to soldiers and the military. But in Autumn 1981 he spent a week in the Centre for Internal Leadership of the Army (Bundeswehr) in Koblenz, and of all things a conversation with a colleague of the military pastoral care made him think. He never regretted the move : he held a soldier’s  Bible circle for 8 years between 1982 and 1992/95 and he was often able to build an astonishing relationship with soldiers and officers. This also applied in the local parishes after his retirement (1992) to 2016 when he stood in at church services, baptisms, wedding ceremonies and burials. After his retirement, he continued to work part time in the military pastoral care until January 1995, and then he took over several missions in the prison pastoral care in Koblenz.

After the quarrel with his father in 1954/55, he finally broke away from him, but then before commencing his studies again, he reconnected with his father so that he could be reconciled with him. Through this crisis he grew up. In his faith, he took a different way, and has repeatedly dealt with what was called Pietism, and has tried to understand this piety, which is above all a piety of the members of the congregation. He knows that much of this piety lives on in himself today, such as open prayer. He has been for years in his church in a small circle “Bible and Everyday Life”, which has been rejected by others as being “fundamentalist” and “pious”, but it has helped him a lot to settle into this kind of faith.

Looking back, it has long been clear to him that he has had to constantly re-learn and continue to learn through the many changes and different areas of work. His wife and their two daughters also played a decisive role in this.

When he thinks about his roots : what had first been a disaster for all of them – they had to leave their beautiful homeland in 1941 proved to be a special blessing – they did not face any further expulsions after 1945 and were able to take in their relatives. And although as a child he knew about the problems of Jewish descent, he had to learn to be quiet about it and of course be in the state youth group of the time, marching with the Hitler youth. It was only after 1945 that the whole significance became apparent to him and his family, that if Hitler had won the war, they would not have had a future. Over the years he has been very concerned with what happened. He visited the concentration camps of Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Buchenwald.  And when he comes across old and new expressions of anti-semitism, he knows that this concerns him.

translated and edited from the German by Malcolm James – many thanks!

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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