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Hermann Maas

Hermann Maas was born in 1877 in Gengenbach - a charming old German town, once an Imperial Free City, situated in the Black Forest in Southern Germany. He studied evangelical theology, later becoming the town pastor of Heidelberg at the Heiliggeistkirche (The Church of the Holy Spirit), and eventually Prelate of the North Baden region. He died in Mainz in 1970.

The key dates relating to this pugnacious man of God would only be of local - or at the very most, regional - significance, had he not given priority, over and above the requirements of his profession as a clergyman, to following his true calling: namely, campaigning for peace between religions and between races and on behalf of his persecuted Jewish fellow citizens. This he did not only in his words, both written and spoken, but also in his deeds and often at great danger to his professional vocation, his health and indeed his life. After the War he continued, working to achieve reconciliation between Jews and Christians and between Jews and Germans.

In the true spirit of the ecumenical movement with which Maas chose to be affiliated, however, his commitment to harmony and reconciliation between faiths extended beyond his concern for peace between Christians and Jews. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that on June 24, 1936, it was Maas who oversaw the final dismantling of the partitioning wall that ran through the Heiliggeistkirche - a wall that had separated Protestant and Catholic worshippers since the early 1700's.

Tribute has been paid to Hermann Maas and his lifetime achievement both inside and outside Germany, and most particularly in Israel: in 1950, Prelate Maas became the first Christian German to receive an official invitation to Israel after the War. A small wood was named after him in the Gilboa mountains, and in 1967 a carob tree was planted in his honour in the "Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations" in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's memorial site for the victims of the Holocaust.

This is why, in the home town of this member of the "36 Righteous Among the Nations", the congregation named their pastoral community centre after him in 1988. It was subsequently decided that with the support of the Hermann Maas Foundation, the Hermann Maas Medal would be awarded every four years in Gengenbach. The recipients were to be individuals who had distinguished themselves in the promotion of understanding between Christians and Germans.