In August 2005, Kevin Maas discovered in the attic of his parent's farm house a box of letters that had been sent by Maass relatives in Germany to Emilie Maas and her son, August, at Walnut Grove, MN. Five letters and two postcards were sent between the years of 1923 and 1932, the year Emilie died. No letters were found for the years 1933 to 1947, but in 1948, Ernst Maass, August's cousin, resumed the correspondence. Seven of these letters and one Christmas card were found. The last letter was dated August 17, 1955. Eight of the letters from Ernst were typewritten, all the rest were hand written in either the old Gothic script or the more modern German script.
We are indebted to all those mentioned on this and subsequent pages who graciously assisted with or provided transcriptions and English translations. A special debt of gratitude is owed to Siegfried Krause from Germany who transcribed and translated over 90 letters. Many of the letters were further edited by Gene Maas to improve (but not perfect) grammar and sentence structure. It is possible that the English version does not always reflect exactly what the writer intended.
[The accession numbers (A/N) are for reference and cataloging purposes.]
A/N MAA07 - A type-written letter from Ernst Maass sent to his aunt, Emilie Maas in Walnut Grove, MN
[translated by Gene Maas with corrections by Siegfried Krause]
14 August 1923
My dear aunt and Godmother,
By a visit of my wife’s uncle from America, from Chicago, I am reminded of the fact that I also still have an aunt and Godmother over there. I received your last lines at the beginning of the war in October 1914. Right after the end of the war I had written to you again, and attached some photos from the fields (we assume he meant battle fields), but this letter was returned again to my address, without any obvious reason. I assumed at that time that, since there was censorship, umbrage would be taken to the photos. Therefore I refrain also from a supplement of photos; this I will make up for later. From uncle Heinrich from Gollnow, whom I always visit occasionally on my vacation trips to Pomerania, I received a picture of you last summer, for which I was very grateful to the uncle. Now something of me and my family.
I have been married since 1919, what you have already learned from my mother, who wrote more frequently to America. [Note by Gene Maas: None of the letters written by Luise Maass, nee Sass, have been found] My wife also originates from the small village of Eichenwalde, where the wife of uncle Fritz is still living, as you probably learned from Emilie. At that time before the war I got to know my wife on my occasional vacation trips. My parents-in-law have a small Rentenwirtschaft (a small farm) in Eichenwalde. The uncle from Chicago, of whom I spoke at the beginning of these lines, is a brother of my father-in-law. He emigrated 32 years ago and later married over there. His name is Charls Grams and he is doing very well there and is living in Chicago at 3309 So. Robey. He described the conditions there to me as so good that I am also now firmly resolved to move to Chicago. However, only in the next spring. What would you think, dear Aunt, if I would become acquainted with you in your old age, dear Aunt, who held me over the baptismal font in Potsdam when I was a little creature. Now I am determined to buy and save dollars.
When it becomes spring, then I will sell my local dwelling, though I am sorry to do this, and I will start the trip to Chicago. I came to this resolution, because conditions worsened in such a manner here in Germany that it defies(?) every description. (i.e. the conditions are unbelievable). You probably read in the newspapers, also you can approximately estimate, the conditions that the middle class now experiences here. Food emergency, tremendous price increase, uncertainty generally, are at the agenda and everyone loses their desire for life. One buys now here only with millions. These are really Russian conditions, if not still more. Thus I want to free myself of all of this and begin the way in the country of stable conditions. Our uncle kindly promised to support me with the passage with dollars and he has presented three dollars to my little 1¼-year-old daughter. It happens also all the more easily to go there, as I also have over there still another acquaintance, who went to Chicago at the beginning of this year. This gentleman, named Carl Heumann, now is living in Chicago at 1368 E. 53rd Street. He was active before at the company where I am employed, and went over there on the occasion of the death of his father, who lived before there. He should be employed now at the power station in Chicago. By this gentleman I will have support with getting a job.
As I mentioned occasionally, I have a little girl. Hopefully, you will have the opportunity, dear aunt, to learn to know also this little Püppchen (puppet or dolly). An extremely merry Dingelchen (pet form of thing) I will send you a little picture of her with the next mail. And this small puppet shall not learn to know the real conditions here in Germany.
Thus dear aunt and Godmother, now you also have a few lines again from your godchild and I gladly hope to receive a message also from you . However, as you became already very old now, a letter from you would probably be difficult; however, I nevertheless believe, that you will grasp pen and ink with joy.
With the most cordial greetings and kisses,
A/N MAA08 - A type-written letter from Ernst Maass sent to his aunt, Emilie Maas in Walnut Grove, MN
[translated by Gene Maas with corrections by Jörg Schnadt, Potsdam, Germany]
28 April 1924
Dear aunt and godmother,
Today I finally got around to answer your dear lines of February 20 (ds.Js. = des Jahres = this year). Above all I offer my congratulations to you on your birthday on May 12th. May you celebrate this day, at which you end your 73rd year of life, with full physical and mental health and freshness and may you live to see this day joyful and lucky with your family for many long years. I myself will remember this day, May 13th, which we can never forget, when my little Mutzel ("dolly") was born. This year she will be two years.
Now dear aunt, I say to you my best and most sincere thanks for your dear lines and the check you sent. In accordance with your instruction, I delivered half the amount to my mother. With my mother it is not well at the moment. Through long weeks she has lain of flu, then she got phlebitis in the right thigh and now she lies, after she has been up a couple of days, of a serious pneumonia with a high fever again. Hopefully she becomes healthy again.
Our uncle Heinrich from Gollnow already is in the hereafter now, too. When I was in Eichenwalde in the autumn of last year, where my parents-in-law are at home, I heard from cousin August, the son of uncle Fritz from Eichenwalde, that he had died with him. When the city of Gollnow wanted to commit Uncle Heinrich to a poorhouse, August had brought him to his home and he then lived with August for about 2 months, until he was gradually overcome by physical weakness and finally died of old age. I have been very sorry. Every year when I journeyed to Pomerania I always visited him and I was pleased to be able in some way to support him by an attention. Of course in his old age he became very childlike in the last years and because he did not want to accept any advice in his private affairs, he lost the last remainder of his fortune during the time of inflation. Thus, he sold his only beautiful orchard and carried the money to the savings bank. Later, he also sold his house on the Bahnhofstrasse and did the same with the proceeds. At the savings bank the money was naturally consumed by inflation, so that only some Pfennige (100 Pfennigs = 1 Mark) remained. My cousin August , however, had him buried with all honor due to him. He rests today in the cemetery beside his wife and his two daughters. Another daughter of uncle Fritz named Luise, who is married to the agricultural worker Lembke still lives in Daarz, not far from Massow and Eichenwalde. A bad illness also occurred there. Lembke has lung- and gall-cancer and wasted away slowly. Perhaps you can give this knowledge to my cousin Emilie.
Now dear aunt about us. We had intended at times of also coming to America. This thought had emerged in the time of inflation and was not only my desire, but the most ardent desire of many, in trying to strive further in life. In the course of time now much changed. Our currency ratios stabilized with the introduction of the Rentenmark and the prices for food and commodities have adjusted to this basis and are affordable for those, who have a good monthly income, so that it is probably possible for ordinary people to lead a good and regulated life. Thus it now goes also for me, when I was at times annoyed by these conditions and therefore urged to have another life; however, then it completely changed. Why should I leave our Germany to go into the uncertain, even if, as you write, the possibility to get employment is quite difficult over there. Thus, I thought about and will remain here even though I would gladly learn to know the American country and also you. From Chicago I probably would have had opportunity, despite the long distance, at times to visit the State of Minnesota. Who knows, it will sometime still be possible. With my uncle in Chicago, rather my wife's uncle, I did not break the connection off therefore yet, even though you did not describe in your last letter conditions over there so particularly well. I am in the full possession of my mental and physical faculties as you will see on the enclosed picture. On the 11th of March, I was 32 years old and I believe to be able and have to do a good job at this age. I also wanted to enclose a picture of our Mutzel for you , however, have not obtained a photo yet. In this summer it is to happen and then you also shall have an image of our little Wildfang (means tomboy, but she is only two years old).
Now dear aunt, I hope that you receive these lines on your birthday and wish again with my whole heart much luck and joy on this day, in this and in all following years. Furthermore, I hope that I receive a message also quite soon again from you, even if they are only short lines, which do not exert you and your eyes too much.
With the most cordial greetings also from my family and from my mother I am your nephew and godchild.
(Note: the Rentenmark or "stabilized Mark" was a currency issued on November 15, 1923 to stop the hyperinflation of 1922 and 1923)
A/N MAA015 - A type-written letter from Ernst Maass sent to his aunt, Emilie Maas in Walnut Grove, MN
[translated by Gene Maas with corrections by Jörg Schnadt, Potsdam, Germany]
Finkenkrug b. Berlin
Main Str. 49
Ecke Wendt- Promenade
12 October 1948
Dear August and family,
It was a pleasant surprise for us when your letter from the 12th of September arrived on Sunday the 10th of October. Regarding this, the letter therefore was on its way for about four weeks and consequently I would guess that you will get my answer in the middle of November. From your lovely lines I see that you still have something left for us Germans and your, now in great misery [need] and humiliation living relatives and that you also have thought about us in the terrible time of war. First of all I want to thank you for your sympathy for us. Now, I want to start, to tell you about our doings in the last years here in the old home and suppose that you have a fair amount of interest about that.
As you may still know from my last letters, my dad has died suddenly on the 28th of January in 1906 as a consequence of a heart attack and left my mother and six children at the age of one to 6 years. My mother died after great illness on the 24th of May 1944 at the age of 83. Brother Julius died in 1915 in Russian prison. Brother Fritz died on the 7th of August 1946 at the age of 56 after a short but heavy kidney disease. Brother Georg, now 46 years old, was taken to a prisoners of war camp by the Russians. Since three years nobody has heard anything of him and it is assumed that he is dead. More precise information will never be given. Now there are sister Johanna, married to a merchant in Berlin- Wilmersdorf, sister Else, married to a district attorney in Neuruppin and myself living here in Finkenburg. I turned 56 on the 11th of March.
(click on photos to enlarge)
As you probably still know, my wife is from Eichenwalde in Pomerania, where Fritz, the brother of our fathers, lived as a gardener. Back then (1910) I visited there during holidays and met my wife Frieda as a 15-year-old girl there. We married after the First World War on the 29th of August 1919. My daughter Marianne, now 26 years old, unfortunately is retarded as a consequence of polio. My son Gerhard, now 21 years old, is a broadcast technician, engaged and is about to marry. My wife turned 52 on the 4th of July.
Until the end of the war in April 1945 we were doing well. I had a very good position as personnel manager at the power station, which supplied Brandenburg, Mecklenburg and Pommern with electricity. I had this position for 31 years as of the 15th of February. I had myself built this beautiful house in Finkenburg in 1935 and wanted to live here at older age at good pension and give my children the base for their home. The outcome of the war has destroyed this dream. Even though out house was spared from any war activities and my boy, who was a paratrooper, has come home well, but now comes the sad chapter.
I was fired for party-political reason after the end of war without pension and do not have the possibility as a 56-year-old man to get another position in an office. So far, I have one year as a gardener, two years as transport-worker and now some weeks as a street-worker at little wage and tough work, work that my weakened body can hardly stand as a consequence of bad diet. In addition there is the psychological effect from losing the position and our property of laundry (?) and cultural things, that were taken from us by the Polish and Russians, including my typewriter with which I maybe could have established a small existence again. It was a small American typewriter “Corona”.
Also our savings at the banks are gone. The last bits we lost because of the reform of currency. We only have the most necessary clothing and shoes in damaged form. There is no supply here in the Russian sector and if there was any, I could not even buy, since the wage is only enough to buy the food on cards. However, we do not want to despair but keep hoping that it will change again and will become better. From the beautiful Berlin that our dad showed you back then, there is not much left, standing. The center is totally destroyed and burnt out. If there indeed is going to be a peace with Germany, Berlin will be re-built, then there will be productions in the plants again. And then they will not only need good workers but also trade experts. Maybe, even I as an old man can get a new job, that gives me the possibility to feed my family and buy basic things for the body. The families in the American and British sectors are better off. They live a rather quiet life and are often better supplied then we are, now also by the air-bridge. It is amazing what the Americans do with that. Day and night the planes fly in short periods from the West to Berlin over our house. It truly is joy and satisfaction that there is help for Germany. Hopefully, we can also have part in this here in the Russian zone. I have to send this letter from the American sector because it would be a risk to do it here.
I will write you now more often, and would be glad to hear something from you from time to time, even if it is just a few lines. In the next letter I will write you about your former home Pommern.
When the CARE package arrives I will report that at once. My greatest appreciation and thank you in advance for your goodness. Until then hearty greetings for all of you.
Your cousin Ernst and wife
Comment by Gene Maas - CARE stood for "Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe", a private humanitarian organization founded in 1945. It now stands for "Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc."]