Zdenko Karl Thuma

Survivor | 27 October 1900 | Planter

Born in Marisch-Ostrau (now Ostrava in the Czech Republic) as Sudeten Deutscher. Zdenko and his brother were raised by their single mother. Zdenko studied horticulture at the Hoeheren Obst- und Gartenbauschule in Eisgrub, Suedmaehren (now Lednice in the Czech Republic).

Here he fell in love with the highborn Elisabeth Iris von Brcic who was born in Fiume (now Rijeka) on 10 August 1900. Her family left the area because of the turmoil created by Tito. Uncertain about the political fate of Germany and the Sudeten Germans, the Thuma couple decided to migrate to Indonesia and start a new life.

Initially, Zdenko traveled ahead and found employment at the Kuala Krapoh estate in Sumatra. His wife Elisabeth then followed. Life was not easy at the isolated estate and they tried their luck at an palm oil and rubber estate near Semarang. Finally, they found a steady and promising job at the Mungur estate near Solo where their daughter Irmgard was born on 4 February 1935. They had two children/daughters: Rotraut and Irmgard.

As German speaking national, Zdenko was arrested on 10 May 1940 and never seen again by his family. Some letters remain in the family that were mailed from the KotaTjane transition camp in North Sumatra. From 1940-1941 Elisabeth and the two children found shelter with a family friend in Bandung. In 1941, Elisabeth and the children were demobilized with the Japanese steamer ss "Asamaru" and ended up in the German quarters of Shanghai city, still unaware of the whereabouts of Zdenko Thuma their husband and father. In Shanghai they found a temporary home. Returning to Germany was no option. The children picked-up their daily routines and traveled by daily bus to the local Kaiser Wilhelm Schule.

In January 1942, Zdenko survived the Van Imhoff disaster. After a brief imprisonment on Nias, he wandered aimlessly through Japan-occupied Indonesia for four years. Somewhere in Indonesia, probably in Lembang, he took his life in despair.

In 1946 Elisabeth and the children were transported to Germany with the American troop transport ship Marine Robin after they underwent some "de-nazification" drilling sessions.

Elisabeth deceased in 1982 and left behind a cardboard box full of family letters. Daughter Irmgard and her sister are currently (2019) writing their family history on the basis of the quickly fading pencil messages in letters and on postcards.

In November 2018 daughter Irmgard spotted the vanimhoff.info site and mailed the following message:

I am Irmgard Thuma, daughter of Zdenko Karl Thuma. We lost him on this horrible 10 May 1940 and we never saw him again. Mein Vater war ein ganz besonderer Mensch nicht nur fuer seine familie. Meine Mutter hat ihm ueber alles geliebt und wartete wieder mit ihm vereint zu sein. Sie wartete und wartete wochen, monate, jahrelang. Als sie von seinem Tod erfuhr war wohl der ganze Sinn und Zweck ihres Lebens verloren gegangen. Aber auch die Nachrichten ueber meinen Vater liessen erkennen, dass nach der van imhoff-tragoedie etwas in ihm zerbrochen war. 4 Jahre lang zog er von einem Ort ueber den anderen in Indonesien. Dann hatte er sich das Leben genommen.

Die von meiner Mutter laufend wiederholten Worte "Vatie wird wiederkommen" waren fuer uns wie ein Versprechen. Sie blieben haengen irgendwo im Hinterkopf bis heute. Ich bin 83 Jahre alt aber nachts in den Traeumen erlebe ich seine Wiederkehr. Und dennoch moechte ich nicht tauschen mit den Problemen von Anouk, der Enkelin vom Van Imhoff Kapitaen <...> Herzlichsten Dank fuer ihr Werk im Internet..." (Irmgard Thuma, daughter of Zdenko Thuma)

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