ENA GOWLAND and her German friend, WILLI MAASS

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Evenwood and Ramshaw History Group intended to hold an exhibition to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, VJ Day and the end of the Second World War.  However, this wasn’t possible therefore during the “lock down” we posted a number of relevant stories on the “I Come from Evenwood and Ramshaw” Facebook page.  This seemed to be the next best thing.

Ena Gowland, from Spring Gardens, told us about her wartime experiences and one story involved a German prisoner of war [POW] called Willi Maass.  Ena was given a toiletries bag as a Christmas present from him, in 1946.  She has kept it ever since and decided that she’d like to return the gift to Willi’s family as a memento of their father/grandfather with her kind regards.  Ena and her brother Eric have fond memories of Willi.

How could we trace him?  We wrote to the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland asking if it possessed any German POW details.  They kindly provided some information about Willi Maass when he was held as a POW in the USA and when he landed in the UK for repatriation to Germany.

That was a great help but how could we find his family in Germany? Ena, by chance, spoke to her cousin Frank Sanderson who just happened to have a good friend in Germany – Hermann.  Hermann and his daughter Carolin enthusiastically took up the challenge and remarkably, found Wolfgang Maass and Edith, Willi’s son and daughter.

The Maass family live in the same locality as they did pre-war which, after the war, became part of East Germany, under Soviet influence during the “Cold War” era. With the break-up of the “Soviet Block”, Germany was unified in 1990.

Wolfgang and Edith don’t speak English. We don’t speak German therefore in order to help things along, Frank asked his next door neighbour, fluent in German, to translate our letters to send to Wolfgang.

Needless to say, Ena was delighted that we’d managed to find the Maass family and the bag has been sent to them. Hopefully, we will learn more about Willi Maass and his family.