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August 5: Herman Ludwig Maas and the Confessing Church

August 4, 2015

maas_1Herman Ludwig Maas, a liberal pacifist pastor within the Confessing Church of Germany who helped many Jews survive during the Nazi era and spent time himself in a slave-labor camp in France because of the work he did rescuing Jews, was born on this date in 1877 in Gernsbach, Germany. Maas, who was fluent in Hebrew, attended the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1903 and helped his daughter establish a weaving school in Jerusalem in 1933, where she trained Jewish refugees. Under the Nazi regime, he helped obtain the release of some Jewish prisoners from the Gurs concentration camp and provided them with emigration papers and money. He also found foster homes in England for young Jews, arranged for emigrations to Palestine, found jobs for refugees, and produced legal visas, work permits, and transportation. Beginning in 1936, Maas even led synagogue prayer services and served as the de facto rabbi of Heidelberg. He was the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to visit the new State of Israel, and on July 28, 1964, Yad Vashem honored him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Maas lived to 87.

“He became an unofficial ambassador between West Germany and Israel, persuading the German government to support Israel with money, technology, and diplomatic support. Maas published three books about his visits to Israel, and made countless speeches in churches and synagogues, explaining Israel to the Germans, and the new West Germany to Israelis.” —Theodore N. Thomas, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum