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Close-up portrait of Hella Bacmeister, a German prisoner in the Gurs internment camp.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 78391

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    Close-up portrait of Hella Bacmeister, a German prisoner in the Gurs internment camp.
    Close-up portrait of Hella Bacmeister, a German prisoner in the Gurs internment camp.


    Close-up portrait of Hella Bacmeister, a German prisoner in the Gurs internment camp.
    Circa 1939 - 1940
    Gurs, [Pyrenees-Atlantiques] France
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Paloma Tulman

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Paloma Tulman

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Paloma Tulman was born after the war to Hella Bacmeister and Victor Tulman. Hella Bacmeister was born on February 7, 1913 in Essen, Germany. Her father, Hans Johann Herman Von Bacmeister, was a Protestant Evangelist and nobleman born in Eisenach, Germany on March 29, 1901. Her mother, Hilda (Hildegard) von Tarnogrocki came from Polish nobility. However, she had a Jewish grandmother by the family name of Levinsky. Her father Albrecht was orphaned at an early age and moved to Germany where he was supported by the Levinsky family. He married Alvina Von Strathmann. Their daugher Hilda married Johann Herman Von Bacmeister and had three children, including Hella.

    Hella left Germany in the early 1930's for France to study dance with an Indonesian prince, Raden Mas Jodjana. She studied with him for seven years in his dance center in Vergognian in the south of France. In 1939 she received a letter from the authorities telling her to return to Germany. She had no interest in returning due to the political climate. She went to the French Police who told her she would have to go to the internment camp Gurs which she did on her own volition. While in Gurs, she met Victor David "Toldy" Tulman (b. Nagy Szminy, Hungary, March 29, 1901). He had fought in the Jewish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. After the defeat of the Republicans he came to France and was interned in Gurs where he served as camp rabbi. (He had studied in the Yeshiva Hatam Sofer in Hungary.) He also belonged to the underground.

    In addition to his rabbinic duties, Toldy also tried to improve the atmosphere of the inmates and arranged cultural events. He had a good voice and also appeared in operas. After learning that Hella was a dancer, he asked her to perform for him. She danced "Maria" and he was very impressed. She interpreted Maria as a Jew with an everyday son, not a deity. She told Victor that she was a Christian from Germany. (She only learned she had a Jewish great grandmother after the war.) While at Gurs, Hella worked both in the infirmary and the post office. Hella became friendly with and assisted the nurse Alice Synnestvedt who later was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Hella also worked as an artist and drew scenes of Gurs. She tried to teach "Harmony" to inmates and help others. She was not on any list as a political person, and she went by the last name Tarnow, rather than von Bacmeister.

    Hella and Victor became engaged in the camp in 1941. Victor was sent to Camp Malaval for forced labor for some months and then left for the underground in France. He corresponded with Hella for the duration of the war sending letters by way a Protestant minister in Switzerland by the name of Lauterbourg. They sent him the letters not knowing where the other person was. Victor was not deported as he was Hungarian (and Hungary was not invaded until March 1944). When Gurs was closed, Hella was sent back to Germany for forced labor and then taken to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in November 1943. After liberation Hella and Victor reunited with the help of the Swiss Pastor Lauterbourg. Hella converted to Judaism, and she and Victor married in Paris in 1949. Their daughter Paloma was born in Paris in 1952. Victor David Tulman died in 1987. Paloma with her mother Hella immigrated to Israel in 1989. Hella died in December, 2008 and is buried with her husabnd in the Mount of Olives cemetery.
    Record last modified:
    2011-03-09 00:00:00
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