HENRI & HORST TAUCHER
HMP is honored to present the true story of two Jewish brothers that survived Nazi terrorism in Berlin, Germany during World War II and found a new life at 204 South Jackson Avenue in Joplin.
The brothers’ survival of atrocities and how they made their way to Joplin as orphans, is told in part in the book, “Saved by the Enemy…The True Story of Fred and Henry Taucher: Survival Amidst Nazi Terrorism in Berlin.” Published in 2011, the book is still available as an e-book. The author, Craig A. Ledbetter, is a stepson of one of the boys that sought refuge in Joplin.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz- Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The annual commemoration honors the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.
True Story of Fred and
Henry Taucher: Survival Amidst Nazi Terrorism in Berlin.”
BACKGROUND ON HENRI & HORST TAUCHER
Julius Taucher was born in the United States, but for unknown reason, moved back to Germany in 1910 with his parents. He met and married Therese and soon she gave birth to their son, Henri (known in the U.S. as Henry or Hank) in the comfort and safety of a hospital on January 3, 1932. But as Therese approached the birth of her second son, Jewish babies were no longer allowed to be born in Berlin hospitals. Therese’s employer recommended a mid-wife, Fraulein Gertrude Nolting, to help bring Horst (known in the U.S. as Fred) into the world on January 29, 1933. The very next day, Adolf Hitler would become Chancellor of Germany and conditions for Jewish residents would become increasingly worse and life threatening.
The fact that Gertrude took the chance of assisting in the birth of a Jewish child was puzzling because she was a member of the Nazi party! Gertrude’s life partner and housemate, Fraulein Traute Holina, was an official photographer for the Nazi Protection Squads. Together the women were well off and even had a second house on the outskirts of town. After the boys’ father was sent to Auschwitz and killed, the boys and their mother went into hiding and assumed the names of people who had perished during previous air raids on Berlin. Curiously, they found help from Gertrude and Traute, or in other words…were saved by the enemy.
Before the end of the war on April 15, 1945, Horst was forcibly placed on a train destined for Dauchu, but the train never arrived due to artillery exchange. Horst escaped wearing a “Hitler Youth Uniform” that he removed from a corpse. He was then picked up by Nazi officers. Once again…saved by the enemy! Horst returned to Berlin and met his brother and mother at a pre-selected location.
Therese was later shot and killed in crossfire between German and Russian troops in Berlin. The boys hid in the underground tunnels. Once the war was over in May 1945, and for a short while, the boys became guides for Soviet soldiers.
They found their way to Gertrude’s house and lived there and returned to reopened Berlin public schools and English language classes while waiting for their American visas. This was very difficult due to having no documentation of who they were or the situation of how they came to be orphans. Although the boys were Jewish, Gertrude still hung on to the belief that Hitler’s plan was ideal. She would say, “Boys, you can’t go to America. Americans are our enemies!”
Eventually they went in search of an American army installation and befriended Werner Nathan, and Lieutenant Kowalski, both American Jewish soldiers stationed in Berlin. The soldiers arranged for the boys to immigrate to the U.S. in 1946. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American Occupied Zone facilitated the boys’ immigration to the U.S.
The British Army took the boys in an ambulance type Jeep to catch a U.S. military transport plane, but there was no room on the plane. So, the boys boarded a ship at the nearby port. The JDC and USCC paid for the tickets. Years later, the boys learned that the plane they were originally scheduled for was “lost” over the Atlantic Ocean.
Ten days later, the boys arrived in New York, were processed, then sent to an orphanage. The JDC started looking for the boys’ two male American cousins who might be named Felix and Alfred. An advertisement was placed in a worldwide newspaper printed in German. The cousins did not subscribe to the paper—but friends did—in fact, friends in Joplin.
But because there was not a female in the household, the boys were sent to a foster home in Kansas City, Missouri. Now known as Fred and Hank, they were enrolled in eighth grade.
Alfred would take the Greyhound bus to Kansas City to visit the boys every other weekend with the goal of bringing them to Joplin. Eventually an aunt living in Israel was found and thankfully she wanted to move to the U.S. She was more than willing to be the “woman of the house” and make a comfortable home for the boys in Joplin. Henry and Fred entered Joplin schools as sophomores, graduating from Joplin High School in 1951. Both were active in R.O.T.C. Henry had a love for the piano, learning from Alfred.
Fred Taucher, Joplin High School
After graduation both boys were hired at Newman Department Store in entry- level positions. Henry had planned to attend college but was drafted into the Army in 1952. Henry made the Army his career, retiring as a major. Henry continued to play the piano and settled in Southern California. He married Moira Bell at the age of 36.
Henry Taucher, Joplin High School
Fred applied to Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but was denied because he did too well on the English portion of the test and was accused of cheating! He took his citizenship test in Rolla. Fred enlisted in the US Army in 1951 and learned the early stages of the IBM office automation. He returned to Joplin, but after six weeks and not finding any Joplin businesses using the new IBM equipment, he moved to the Pacific Northwest. Fred eventually became president and CEO of Corporate
Management, Inc. and Corporate Computer, Inc. While living in Everett, Washington, he became active in world-wide Holocaust education.
BACKSTORY ON FELIX & ALFRED TAUCHER
Felix was born in Breslau, Germany in 1912 and Alfred in 1915. Hitler’s German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. By 1940, the brothers were living at the Joplin Y.M.C.A. Both men registered for the US Selective Service Draft of World War II, but never served.
Once in Joplin, Felix went to work at Miller Manufacturing at 928 Virginia in Joplin. It was a clothing manufacturer that started in 1934 owned and managed by two local Jewish families. He remained until he retired in 1973. He married Dana Webb, a co-worker, in 1964. Felix died in 1982 and is buried in Galena, Kansas.
Alfred was injured while still living in Germany causing him to have a “hunchback.” Unfortunately, the Nazi Party prevented him from receiving the medical help he needed. Alfred was a music teacher and taught piano to pupils in his home. His newspaper advertisements said he was certified by the State Department of Education and graduated from the European Conservatory of Music. He was also an employee of Newman’s Department Store. Newman’s was also owned by a local Jewish family. He received his US citizenship in June 1948. Alfred never married, died in 1967, and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery. Both men were members of the Joplin United Hebrew Congregation (702 S. Sergeant) and B’nai B’rith.
Taucher Home 2nd & South Jackson Avenue
During World War II, Joplin residents participated in fund raising activities through the following relief organizations:
Joplin Jewish Welfare Federation,
United Jewish Appeal, Joint Distribution Committee, United Palestine Appeal, National Refugee Service
In reference to a fund raiser at the Joplin Jewish Welfare Federation’s annual dinner meeting in June 1941, George Potlitzer said that, “the whole Tri-State area is requested to join in this campaign so that by the material help and the moral support of their non-Jewish neighbors, our small group of Jewish citizens in this district may be heartened in the humanitarian effort in which we are engaged.” At the time, Mr. Potlitzer and his family lived at 219 S. Sergeant which is now inside the Murphysburg Historic District.
As a young child growing up next door to Felix and Alfred Taucher, Carole King recently told HMP that they were wonderful neighbors. Ms. King explained, “The Tauchers kept their house in pristine condition. They kept to themselves but were always friendly. Alfred was a wonderful pianist and a strict piano teacher. My mother was also an accomplished pianist and a strict teacher. Both Mr. Taucher and my mom taught students from their home studios; they were over-the-fence colleagues in music.”