Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Unit 1012 will honor and always remember German Pastor, Hermann Maas, every year on September 27, as he passed away at the age of 93 on that date in 1970. We will remember and honor him for saving the lives of many Jews during World War II and he rightfully deserves to be recognized by the State of Israel as Righteous among the Nations. His story should be an inspiration for us to support victims’ rights and defend the use of the death penalty.

We will post information about him from Wikipedia and other links.


Hermann Maas

Hermann Ludwig Maas (5 August 1877, Gengenbach, Baden – 27 September 1970) was a Protestant minister, a doctor of theology and named one of the Righteous Among the Nations, a title given by the Israeli organization for study and remembrance of the Holocaust - Yad Vashem, for people who helped save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust without seeking to gain thereby.


Maas was born in Gengenbach/Schwarzwald, Germany.

In 1903, he started working as a Protestant minister in a parish of Evangelical Church in Baden. At the same time he began to make the acquaintance of Zionist Jews, and formed friendly relations with many of them, having attended the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel that year. Since 1918, he was an active member of the pro-democratic left liberal DDP. Maas, who had decidedly liberal and pacifist views, caused a scandal in 1925 by attending the funeral of social democratic Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert. Conservative German pastors considered this to be an affront to the church because Ebert had been an outspoken atheist. In 1932, Maas joined an association for protection against antisemitism. In 1933, when the Nazi regime introduced the economic boycott of the Jews of Germany, Maas first went to Palestine to meet with some of the Zionist activists, impressing them by speaking fluent Hebrew. Upon his return to Heidelberg he faced harsh criticism as a "Jew-lover". After Hitler's Machtergreifung, he joined the Pfarrernotbund and the Confessing Church along with other notable Protestant theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and Hans Ehrenberg. In the early 1940s, Maas helped many Jews flee from Germany by using his connections to obtain exit visas. In mid 1943, on the instigation of the Nazi regime the Superior Church Council of the Baden Church forced him out of office for his activism. In 1944, he was sent to a forced-labor camp in France, from which he was later released by the US forces. In 1945 he resumed work as minister for the Baden Church.

In 1950, Maas was the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to the newly formed state of Israel. On July 28, 1964, Yad Vashem decided to recognize Reverend Hermann Maas as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

He died on 27 September 1970 in Mainz-Weisenau.

Tree in Honor of Maas Hermann

Hermann Maas


Hermann Maas was born on August 5, 1877 in Gegenbach/Schwarzwald.  Through both his father’s and mother’s sides, he was descended from a family of Protestant pastors from Baden.  Having studied theology at the universities of Halle, Strassburg, and Heidelberg, in the autumn of 1900, he entered the office of curate, which was the beginning of a life-long career in the Protestant church.

Since the days of the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903, which Maas had visited out of curiosity while on a stay in Basel, he became a  friend of the Jewish people and an ardent sympathizer of the Zionist movement. At the Congress he witnessed the passionate debate between the proponents of the “Uganda plan” and those faithful to “Zion” and had the opportunity of meeting with such  prominent Jewish political leaders as Herzl and Weizmann, and with the German-Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, with whom he maintained a life-long connection. As an adherent of the Christian oecumenical movement, he became a staunch supporter of the cause of understanding among the monotheistic religions and, in particular, a champion of  Christian-Jewish reconciliation.

On April 1, 1933,  the very day that the Nazis launched the general  economic boycott against the Jews of Germany, Maas set sail for the Holy Land for a three-month tour financed by a grant from the “German Palestine Committee.” The encounter with Jewish Palestine—the sight of the new Jewish settlements, meetings with freshly arrived German-Jewish emigrants, and contacts with Hebrew scholars—left an indelible impression on the Protestant theologian who himself was a fluent Hebrew-speaker. 

On his return to Heidelberg at the beginning of July, Maas was exposed to a concerted campaign of vilification and threats conducted against him by the local Nazi propaganda leaders and the SA. Local Nazi party circles demanded that the “pastor of the Jews” be excluded from the pulpit.  However, Maas was a too highly respected figure in the Christian world oecumenical movement, and the regime was as yet wary not to risk an international scandal.

This first serious conflict with the new rulers of Germany seemed only to intensify Maas’s defiance and the extent of his identification with the Jewish people. He contributed articles to the German Zionist paper, Jüdische Rundschau, translated poems of the Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, and did not hesitate to send his eldest daughter to Palestine to teach young Zionists the art of hand-weaving. He would invite Jewish religious leaders in Heidelberg to join him on Christmas eve and, in turn, would participate in the Jewish Passover celebration (Seder). The connection was so strong that Heidelberg Rabbi Dr. Fritz Pinkuss had to counsel him earnestly against attending Jewish public prayers so as not to put himself in danger.

Maas was a member of the Pfarrernotbund, the emergency association for dissident Protestant pastors set up by Niemöller in September 1933, and joined the “Confessing Church”, the opposition to the pro-Nazi “German Christians” within the Protestant Church. He was also a co-founder of the “Büro Grüber” in Berlin. In October 1940, while the Jews of Baden, the Palatinate and several places in Baden-Württemberg, were being deported to a concentration camp in sothern France, Maas succeeded in protecting some of the older and the frail from being included in the deportation. He kept in contact with those who were deported, using his connections to help them obtain exit visas abroad. 

In March 1942, the Reich Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs started a campaign against Maas that ended in his forced retirement in mid-1943. One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against him was the discovery of a bundle of letters in which the dissident clergyman expressed his abhorrence of the National-Socialist regime and its racial persecution of the Jews. The vindictiveness of the regime was not satisfied, however, and, in 1944, the sixty-seven-year-old was sent to a forced-labor camp in France. Only the entry of the Americans brought about his release and ended his tribulations.

In 1950, Hermann Maas became the first German to be officially invited to visit the State of Israel.  He wrote several books about Israel, Judaism, and Christianity.  He died in Heidelberg in 1970.

On July 28, 1964, Yad Vashem decided to recognize Reverend Hermann Maas as Righteous Among the Nations.

Hermann Ludwig Maas (1877-1970), a Protestant pastor in Heidelberg, Germany, was a rescuer and clergyman who stood in solidarity with the Jewish community to an extraordinary degree. 

Maas grew up in Gernsbach, a small Black Forest city where he played with and went to school and occasionally to synagogue with Jewish friends. His ordination in 1900 followed study at Halle, Straßburg, and Heidelberg. After a pastorate in Laufen, Maas moved to Heidelberg in 1915 to take the pulpit of the prestigious Holy Spirit Church, where he ministered for the next 28 years. In Heidelberg he cultivated an unusually close relationship with the synagogue, led by Rabbi Fritz Pinkuss. 


A self-described political liberal, Maas welcomed the democratic Weimar Republic, and for four years held a minor political office in Heidelberg, representing the liberal Deutsch-demokratische Partei. Among the pioneers of the European Protestant ecumenical movement, in 1914 he participated in the founding convention of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches, an organization that during the interwar years cooperated with other established European churches, Quakers, and American denominations to promote disarmament, international cooperation, and world peace. 

Most unusual of Maas's ecumenical and liberal commitments was his Zionism, which had crystallized in 1903 when he participated as an observer of the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel. At the invitation of the Women's International Zionist Organization, he visited Palestine in the spring of 1933. That August he financed his daughter's efforts to establish a weaving school in Jerusalem, where she trained Jewish refugees. On Maas's return to Heidelberg in June 1933, the Nazi party denounced him as “the Jew Pastor,” and demanded that the church suspend him from his Heidelberg pulpit. Bridling at the state's interference in church affairs, Bishop Julius Kühlewein of Baden successfully deflected the party's demands. 

As the Nazi antisemitic measures intensified, Maas began helping Jews escape persecution. He befriended members of the Heidelberg Jewish community, from university professors to cobbler's apprentices. He helped obtain the release of some prisoners from the Gurs concentration camp and provided them with emigration papers and money. He found foster homes for young people in England. He arranged for emigrations to Palestine. He found jobs for adults, and produced legal visas, work permits, and transportation. 

His influence spread beyond Heidelberg. After Rabbi Pinkuss emigrated to Brazil in 1936, Maas led synagogue prayer services in Heidelberg, cared for the Jewish elderly, and officiated at Jewish weddings and funerals. Pinkuss described Maas as the de facto rabbi of Heidelberg. 


Through his ecumenical connections in London and Geneva, Maas was able to work with a number of rescue organizations. As a Confessing Church pastor, he worked with his Berlin colleague Dr. Heinrich Grüber and others in the “Büro Grüber”, which helped hundreds of “non-Aryan” Protestants emigrate, in part by cooperating in the Kindertransporte to get endangered children out of the Third Reich

Because helping Jews was a crime, Maas was under constant Gestapo scrutiny, but members of his Holy Spirit Church--some of whom worked within the Gestapo bureaucracy itself--stood behind him, he said, “like a strong wall.” In addition, his prominence as a leader in the international ecumenical movement made the Gestapo cautious about mistreating him. He was able to continue his work for ten years. 

However, when in 1943 the police found irrefutable evidence against him, the Protestant church of Baden suspended Maas from all pastoral activity. A year later authorities sentenced the 67-year old retired pastor to hard labor in France under OrganisationTodt. After the liberation of France, Maas was able to flee the camp and was back home in Heidelberg when the US 63rd Infantry liberated Heidelberg on March 30, 1945. 


For 25 years after the war, Maas worked tirelessly as a reconciler. Reconciliation began with confession. In April 1946, Maas wrote a confession of Christian guilt that Rabbi Ralph Neuhaus in Frankfurt published in the first postwar edition of the Jüdische Rundschau, and he reiterated that confession at the Council of Christians and Jews in England in the spring of 1946. The new state of Israel, aware of what Maas had done for Jewish Germans, invited him for a state visit, making him the first non-Jewish German to visit the Jewish state, and in 1967 he was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile. 

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. 

The Protestant Church of Baden which had forced him into retirement invited Maas to return to ministry in 1945, this time as a consulting pastor (Prälat) in North Baden until his second retirement in 1965 at the age of 87. 

Hermann Maas died in his sleep in the night of 26/27 September 1970 while visiting relatives in Mainz. His body lies in the Handschuhsheim Cemetery in Heidelberg. 

Theodore N. Thomas

Milligan College
Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

Encyclopedia Last Updated: June 20, 2014

1 comment:

  1. I first read about Pfarrer Hermann Maas when I was a first year student at University of Vermont in 1950. I wrote to him in Heidelberg and he replied in flowing and fluent Hebrew. We corresponded for about one year. He was truly a Holy Man of God. I worship his memory which is a blessing for people of all faiths and good will.
    Rabbi Dr. Esor Ben-Sorek