This passport belonged to Gerhart Maass, a German Jew born in 1918. He had to renew his document in 1938 before he immigrated to Canada. Because he was Jewish, his passport was stamped with a red “J” and the surname Israel was added to his name.

The Maass, a family torn apart

An amendment on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names Law stated that it was mandatory for every German of Jewish descent who did not have a “typical Jewish name” to add Israel or Sara to their personal documents. Those documents were also stamped with the letter J, for “Jew”, in red.
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An amendment on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names Law stated that it was mandatory for every German of Jewish descent who did not have a “typical Jewish name” to add Israel or Sara to their personal documents. Those documents were also stamped with the letter J, for “Jew”, in red.

This passport belonged to Gerhart Maass, a German Jew born in 1918.
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This passport belonged to Gerhart Maass, a German Jew born in 1918.

Gerhart Maass (in the middle) with his brother, Herbert, and sister, Lisa. All three survived the Holocaust due to the efforts of their parents to find them positions abroad. Gerhart immigrated to Canada in 1938 while Herbert and Lisa went to England to pursue their studies in 1934 and 1936.
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Gerhart Maass (in the middle) with his brother, Herbert, and sister, Lisa. All three survived the Holocaust due to the efforts of their parents to find them positions abroad. Gerhart immigrated to Canada in 1938 while Herbert and Lisa went to England to pursue their studies in 1934 and 1936.

Käthe and Adolf Maass' wedding announcement in 1911. They killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
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Käthe and Adolf Maass' wedding announcement in 1911. They killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

Käthe and Adolf in the garden of their Hamburg house on Gerry’s last visit, 1938.
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Käthe and Adolf in the garden of their Hamburg house on Gerry’s last visit, 1938.

Gerhart Maass in his uniform of the Canadian Army. He enlisted in 1942.
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Gerhart Maass in his uniform of the Canadian Army. He enlisted in 1942.

The Alteration of Family and Personal Names Law: A Discriminatory Act

In August 1938, the Nazi government voted an amendment on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names Law. It stated that it was mandatory for every German of Jewish descent who did not have a “typical Jewish name” to add Israel or Sara to their personal documents. Those documents were also stamped with the letter J, for “Jew”, in red. This discriminatory law was one of the first Nazi measures to facilitate the identification of Jews in Germany.

Gerhart Maass, Soldier in the Canadian Army

Gerhart Maass moved to Canada in November 1938. He joined the Canadian Army in 1942 and obtained his citizenship in 1944. He returned to Europe where, after liberation, he discovered the Gestapo documents regarding the fate of his family. Gerhart learned that his parents had been deported and killed at Auschwitz in 1944. He returned to Canada and settled definitively in Montreal.

Gerhart’s wife, Joan Maass, donated an important collection of archival fonds about the Maass’ family to the Montreal Holocaust Museum. This passport was acquired in 2010.

This project is part of the implementation of the Plan culturel numérique du Québec.Objects of Interest of the Holocaust, Plan culturel numérique du Québec

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