09/27/2023 Report

Barbara Maass’ Visit to the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof Memorial Site

In mid-September, the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof team welcomed Barbara Maass from Montréal to the memorial site in HafenCity. She is the granddaughter of Adolf and Käthe Maass, who were both deported from Hamburg to Theresienstadt in July 1942 and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

Memorial in Bremen

A few days before her visit to Hamburg, Barbara Maass spoke at the inauguration of a memorial in Bremen that commemorates the looting of European Jews by German companies, authorities, and citizens* under National Socialism.

The memorial is located within close proximity of the Bremen site of the logistics company Kühne+Nagel, which profited on a large scale from the transport of household goods that the persecuted were forced to leave behind in the occupied territories of Western Europe.

The fate of the Maass family under National Socialism

The Maass family also has an important historical connection to Kühne+Nagel: Adolf Maass had completed his training at the Bremen company. Beginning in 1902, he built up its Hamburg branch and became a partner in 1910. In 1911, he married Käthe Elsbach, who came from a successful Westphalian business family. The couple moved into a villa on Blumenstraße in Winterhude, and by 1918 had three children.

With the National Socialist takeover, the family's situation changed radically: as early as April 1933, Adolf Maass was forced out of the company; shortly thereafter, the Kühne brothers - now sole owners - joined the NSDAP, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, also known as the Nazi Party. In the course of the November pogrom in 1938, Adolf Maass was arrested and held in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for several weeks.

While the children were able to flee abroad by the end of 1938, Adolf and Käthe Maass were unable to leave the country after the war began. In 1941, they had to sell their villa and take up residence in a "Jewish house." Soon after, they received their deportation order.

The sons of the family fought on the side of the Allies in World War II. Gerhart ("Gerry") Maass, the father of Barbara Maass, was stationed in Oldenburg at the end of the war as a soldier in the Canadian Army and returned to Montréal in 1946.

Visit to the memorial in Lohsepark in Hamburg

During her visit to the memorial site in Lohsepark, Barbara Maass was accompanied not only by her husband, Jean St-Amant, but also by Henning Bleyl and Evin Oettinghausen, who co-initiated the Bremen memorial. From Hamburg they were joined by Ulrike Sparr, a member of the Hamburg parliament, who had obtained stumbling stones for Adolf and Käthe Maass. In addition, two editors of the blog Untiefen. Stadtmagazin gegen Hamburg, who have been working intensively on the business of Kühne+Nagel under National Socialism, joined them.

Johanna Schmied and Cornelia Siebeck from the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof team showed the visitors the memorial in Lohsepark and the current photo installation, "Not just a memorial". They also explained the development of the future documentation center, which will be dedicated to the history of deportations from Hamburg and northern Germany and their continued relevance today.

Over coffee in the nearby Oberhafenkantine, Barbara Maass stated she was impressed by the commemorative efforts to date and expressed her hope that the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof Documentation Center will be able to open at its new location as planned in mid-2026.


Report: Cornelia Siebeck