Hans Halberstadt, who taught fencing in San Francisco from the time of his arrival in the city in 1940 until his death in 1966 at the age of 81, was trained by Arturo Gazzera at the Offenbach am Main fencing club. He competed for Germany at the 1928 Olympics in individual epee, on the epee team and the sabre team. He shared the Olympic experience with 3 other members of his Offenbach club: Helene Mayer, who rocked the world by winning individual Gold at the age of 17 in Amsterdam, and the twins: Julius and Hans Thomson. Both had previously been on the 1912 Olympic team. Julius Thomson was a foil specialist and Hans Thomson fenced both sabre and epee.
The Thomson twins, standing in the center. But which is which? Arturo Gazzera stands at the far right.
In digging through a number of sources, including the Halberstadt scrapbooks and our West Coast Fencing Archives, I have found quite a number of photos of Hans with one – or the other – of the Thomson duo. With careful examination, I’ve begun to develop a feel for seeing one over the other. Added to this is the knowledge that Julius fenced foil and Hans sabre and epee. Thus, I believe this must be Julius:
A 1920 foil competition in Frankfurt. Gazzera is seated in the middle in the dark suit and vest. Hans Halberstadt in the front standing row, 2nd from right with crossed arms. Also in the first row, 2nd from left, it must be Julius Thomson!
By tracing through competitions by weapon, I think I’m getting a clearer idea of which is which, but at other times, it’s pure guesswork.
A Thomson at far left, Halberstadt at far right in a photo dated 1920.
My guess, based solely on the 1920 date, is that this is also Julius. The haircut in this photo and the one previous is a spot-on match.
Here on the far right is Halberstadt with the Thomson twins at his back in Berlin, 1922.
Again the problem of no weapons to help with the determination. However, I’m thinking it might be Hans/Julius/Hans above.
Here, from the 1922 Frankfurt International, I think we have both of the Hans’ in front, flanking the great Erwin Casmir.
Again from 1922, this time the German Championships, Halberstadt and Casmir with the funny hats, and, because of the epee in the front row, I’m guessing Hans Thomson to the left of Halberstadt.
As events unfolded, Hans Halberstadt, while unable to remain in Germany after being briefly detained by the Nazis due to his Jewish heritage, he was able to remain friends with the Thomson twins. After the war, it was some time before European nations agreed to allow Germany to once again participate in martial sports, so clubs like Offenbach were shuttered for several years. Germany was also barred from Olympic competition in 1948, but eventually fencing reestablished a presence in Germany and the Thomson twins returned to the club.
This photo below shows an aged Hans in an undated photo with one of the twins.
This photo is simply titled “Naples” and shows Hans as he looked in the late 1950’s with… Julius? Hans?
They maintained a correspondence, and clearly the Offenbach club did not forget their long-time mate.
This letter from 1954, addressed to “Lieber Hans Halberstadt!” is signed by the members of the Offenbach club and the first two names?
Julius and Hans, the Thomson twins.