A brief history of Joachim Rehbock

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Joachim Rehbock

My paternal uncle Joachim F. Rehbock was born in Karlsruhe, Land of Baden-Wuertenberg, Germany on April 7, 1910. He was the third son (my father Arnold was the second) of Theodor Rehbock, professor in Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Karlsruhe. After finishing the High School Gymnasium in the Schlossschule Salem, like his brothers, he studied business administration at the University of Karlsruhe where is father had become rector. He gained business experience working with various German firms. In 1935, the AEG Corporation sent him to Brazil to open a sales representation.

Some years later he married an Austrian theater actress Marion de Leporini and lived with her in Sao Paulo. By 1939, feeling the prospects of war, he thought it would be better for his wife, who was expecting, to be with his parents, in Baden Baden, south of Karlsruhe where they lived by now in retirement.

The USA through its Office of Strategic Services OSS started to exercise enormous pressures on all Latin American governments to align themselves in a show of Hemispheric Solidarity against the axis powers. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine they formed the Pact of Rio signed by all governments except Argentina, in exchange of access to American arms sales.

After the USA entered the war in 1941, Brazil followed suit by sending troops to fight in Italy. All German firms were intervened with, schools that taught German were closed, property was confiscated and bank assets seized. Joachim Reebok lost his job, was blacklisted in the notorious Blue Book, [I think it was called], that had been compiled already for years by the OSS.

The irony was that he actually was an outspoken critic of the NS Regime in Germany and the social circles he frequented while living with his wife in Brazil were mostly composed of British and other English speaking foreigners.

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Joachim Rehbock in Austria

Banned from working and faced with the prospect of being rounded up for deportation or internment he decided to go underground. He resurfaced in the hinterlands away from the coast and urban centers as a mountain guide in the Sierras of Itatiaia. As he later recounted those were the most adventurous and exciting five years of his life, befriending Brazilian Indians, caboclos and mestizos from whom he learned on how to survive in the wilderness…a frontier type of environment.

Only after the end of the war did he resurface and go back to the destroyed Germany to finally get his wife and his daughter Kitty, who he had not yet met. He returned with them to Brazil and started to rebuild his life there anew, landing a job as representative again for a German firm, the Feudenberg Group. In 1970 he retired to Salzburg, Austria where he died on April 24, 1995. His wife Marion died some years later. They are survived by their daughter Kitty Rehbock (my cousin), who lives again in Karlsruhe, where, nearly a century ago the life of her father started. (More information about the Latin American Program)

Juan-Tomas Rehbock


April 2005