Family GUSTAV TOBIAS, Rodenbach

german version

Gustav Tobias, the son of Isaak Tobias and Lisette Löwenberg, was born on May 20, 1873 and married Selma Levy of Steimel on November 20, 1906. The daughter of the deceased butcher Adolf Levy and his wife Henriette Bär was born on September 17, 1877. The pair moved to Rodenbach, a small village near Puderbach. They lived together with Gustav’s parents and his mentally retarded brother Heimann. Gustav took over Isaak’s business as a cattle dealer and butcher. They also practiced a little agriculture. Gustav was actively engaged in the local poor relief. In 1909 a sales counter, selling low quality meat at modest prices, was installed in Rodenbach. The Tobias were well-known and well-liked neighbors.

Isaak Tobias in der Neuwieder Zeitung, Quelle: Lothar Zimmermann, Rodenbach
Isaak Tobias in the Neuwied newspaper on his 90th birthday, Source: Lothar Zimmermann, Rodenbach

On May 25, 1908, Gustav’s and Selma’s first daughter Otense was born. Some called her Hortense, which was a more common name. Her sister Luzie was born on April 12, 1911. During World War I, Gustav served the “Landwehr Infanterieregiment 65” at the French frontline. He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for special bravery. After the war, Sabine was born on January 29, 1919, and the fourth daughter Herta was born on May 13, 1920. The girls used to help their parents with the business. Every Friday they were sent to their customers in the surrounding villages to deliver meat people had ordered. At school the girls attended the Christian religious classes voluntarily to be together with their friends, and of course, they participated in the annual Christmas celebration. On the other hand, the Christian parents advised their children not to make noise and run around the Tobias’ house on Shabbath.

When anti-Semitism became reasons of state Gustav’s longtime customers were intimidated by unblatantly threats from the new Nazi party elite in town. Nevertheless Gustav had a business turn-out of about 55,000 Reichsmark in 1936. The only way to disrupt his prosperity seemed to be the refusal of his operating license. Usually only a matter of form, Gustav applied for a prolongation of his license in 1937, but in November he was given the reply that his appeal was denied, and that he was not considered reliable. The head of the NS chapter and deputy mayor of Rodenbach, Hans Piorek, blamed Gustav for animal abuse and tax evasion. Both accusations were unfounded. In April 1936, it had snowed overnight unexpectedly and Gustav’s cows had been outside in the morning. He was given a fine for not bringing the cows into the stable in time, but he was able to refute this fine. The accusation of tax evasion based on the fact that Gustav was not able to present his book keeping of 1934 and 1935. In any case it was not required by law to make past books available. So in fact there was no reason to refuse his license. Gustav mandated a lawyer to help him, but he did not succeed. In January 1938, 64-year old Gustav, de-registered his business.

Selma und Gustav Tobias, Quelle: Lothar Zimmermann, Rodenbach
Selma and Gustav Tobias, Source: Lothar Zimmermann, Rodenbach

At the time, his eldest daughter Otense, lived in Cologne with her husband Moritz Aron. Luzie had married Max Gottschalk of Ahrweiler and the pair emigrated to the United States in January 1938. It was Solomon Tobias of Hartford, Connecticut, who helped his relatives with an affidavit. Gustav and Selma decided it was safer for Sabine and Herta to stay with Otense in Cologne. They wanted them to follow Luzie to the United States as soon as possible. The girls’ suitcases were already packed.

Gustav still couldn’t imagine his own life was in danger because he was holder of the Iron Cross First Class. He certainly noticed that his neighborhood didn’t dare to socialize with him anymore. He even told friends to keep away from him as not to get into trouble.

When it came to Kristallnacht, in the morning of November 10, 1938, the SA assaulted the Tobias’ house. Selma had been in bed with a flu and ran on the street crying in horror, only wearing a night shirt. The fanatic mob destroyed all the furniture and even tried to notch the timber of the house with a saw. After the destruction was done, Gustav and Selma were allowed to pick some of their belongings. Then they were chased away. Somewhere between Puderbach and Steimel they met Hans Piorek who took away their money. Now they were penny less with no place to live. They stayed at Selma’s mother’s flat in Steimel for a while and then moved into a vacant house in Rodenbach where they were secretly supplied by friendly neighbors in the dark of night. Gustav sold his properties, but the proceeds of this disposal were locked on an escrow deposit.

Gustav, Selma and her mother, Henriette, moved to Cologne to live with Otense and her husband Moritz in March 1939. They corresponded with Sabine, Herta and Luzie until 1941, trying to leave Germany as well, but on December 7, they were deported to Riga, Latvia. Only a week earlier, 1,000 Jews from Berlin had been killed in a forest outside of Riga. Latvian Jews still lived in the Ghetto of Riga and there was simply no more room. When Gustav, Selma, Otense, Moritz and more than 900 Jews from Cologne arrived in Riga, they found the flats empty with food still sitting on the tables. We don’t know where and when the four of them were killed, but no one ever heard of them.


  • Ebbinghaus, Gerhard „So wurden sie ausgebootet“ in Heimat-Jahrbuch 1994 des Landkreises Neuwied
  • Loeb, Michael „Jüdisches Schicksal in Rodenbach zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus“, 2001 herausgegeben von der Gemeinde Rodenbach
  • Faust, Dr. Manfred „Der schwere Juden-Pogrom in Puderbach am 10./11. November 1938“ in Heimat-Jahrbuch 2010 des Landkreises Neuwied
  • Faust, Dr. Manfred „Die Ausplünderung, Vertreibung, Deportation und Ermordung der Puderbacher Juden 1933-1944“ in Heimat-Jahrbuch 2012 des Landkreises Neuwied

Family tree:

Generation 1

  • Gustav Tobias (1873-?) ∞ Selma Levy (1888-?) Rodenbach/Puderbach

Generation 2

  • Isaak Tobias (1842-1933) ∞ Sara „Lisette” Löwenberg (1845-1914) Rodenbach/Puderbach
  • Adolph Levy (1861-1901) ∞ Henriette „Jetta” Bär (1863-1943) Steimel

Generation 3

  • Herz Tobias (1798-1860) ∞ Olisa Herz (1801-1864) Oberdreis/Puderbach
  • Gumbrich Löwenberg ∞ Lea Josef, Schupbach
  • unknown
  • unknown

Generation 4

  • Tobias Herz (1758-1833) ∞ Täubchen Samuel (1774-1860) Oberdreis/Puderbach
  • unknown …