Klara Maas: A Survivor and American Idol Fan

As I said, many of the stories in this line of the family do not have happy endings. And it doesn’t get better with the next child of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, their fifth child and fourth daughter, Johanna. But there is hopefulness in this story as well.

As reflected on Reverend Bach’s report on the family of Jakob Katzenstein and Sarchen Lion, Johanna/Hanna was born on December 28, 1838, in Jesberg.

She married Simon Maas, who was five years younger than Johanna and born in June 1843 in Mardorf. According to Barbara Greve’s research, Johanna and Simon married on December 3, 1873. If so, Johanna was 35 and Simon 30.

Their first child was born on April 26, 1875, in Mardorf, a daughter named Gidel, also known as Auguste.

Birth record for Auguste Gidel Maas
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5870

Their second child was a son, Jacob Levi, born on September 28, 1876.

Jakob Levi Maas birth record
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Geburtsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5871

Johanna died on March 18, 1892; she was 53 years old.

Johanna Katzenstein Maas death record
Standesamt Mardorf (Amöneburg) Sterbenebenregister 1892 (HStAMR Best. 915 Nr. 5971)AutorHessisches Staatsarchiv MarburgErscheinungsortMardorf (Amöneburg)

Her husband Simon Maas died on April 22, 1910, at age 66.

Their son Jakob married Rosa Goldenberg on July 26, 1907 in Kestrich, Germany. Rosa was the daughter of Dobel Goldenberg and Lina Baer. Rosa Goldenberg was also the sister of Nathan Goldenberg, whose wife Regina Katz was the granddaughter of Rahel Katzenstein, who was the sister of Jakob Maas’ grandfather Jakob Katzenstein. Thus, Rosa married a descendant of Jakob Katzenstein and her brother Nathan married a descendant of Rahel Katzenstein. Jakob and Rosa had one child, a daughter Klara born in 1921.

Marriage record of Jakob Levi Maas and Rosa Goldenberg
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 921; Laufende Nummer: 515

Neither of the two children of Johanna Katzenstein and Simon Maas survived the Holocaust.

On March 15, 1939, their daughter Auguste was sent to the Jakoby Institute in Sayn-Bendorf, at one-time a well-regarded psychiatric hospital for Jews that was warped into a facility used by the Nazis to mistreat Jewish patients.

According to this website,

During the first years of National Socialism the Jacoby Institute was left in relative peace; probably as an acknowledgement of the fact that it was an important employer for Sayn and the region. ….A circular decree issued by the Ministry of the Interior on 12th December 1940 decreed that “mentally ill Jews” were only to be accommodated in Sayn because “a cohabitation of Germans and Jews is not acceptable in any length of time” (illustr. 7). The option of concentrating all the patients in one location served as preparation of their deportation. In the course of five transports (between March and November 1942) 573 people were taken to the death camps in the East. 142 Jews died from 1940 till 1942 and were buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Sayn; most of them had already been seriously ill when they arrived in Sayn and not fit to travel. From 1940 to 1942 the graves in the Jewish Cemetery could not be marked with stones…

Auguste Gidel Maas is buried in one of those unmarked graves in Sayn-Bendorf. She died on October 29, 1941, according to the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR). She was 66. .

Her brother Jakob Levi Maas was arrested on May 6, 1941, and imprisoned at a forced labor camp in Breitenau. Two months later on July 18, 1941, he was sent to the Sachensausen concentration camp, where he died on May 16, 1942, according to Yad Vashem. His wife Rosa was also killed by the Nazis. She was sent to Theriesenstadt on September 7, 1942, and then to Auschwitz on January 23, 1943, where it is presumed she was murdered.

The only descendant of Johanna Katzenstein and Simon Maas who was not killed by the Nazis was Klara Maas, their granddaughter and the daughter of Jakob Maas and Rosa Goldenberg. Klara arrived in the United States on May 4, 1940. According to the ship manifest, she was going to New York City to her uncle Julius Goldenberg, brother of her mother Rosa and her uncle Nathan Goldenberg.

Klara Maas ship manifest 1940
Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6466; Line: 1; Page Number: 34

On April 9, 1941, Klara filed a Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen; she was working as a houseworker at the time and living in Forest Hills, New York. She was not yet twenty years old.

Klara Maas declaration of intention
New York, Southern District, U.S District Court Naturalization Records, 1824-1946,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99HD-TVB7?cc=2060123&wc=M5PF-PTG%3A351624701 : 22 May 2014), Petitions for naturalization a

On August 2, 1945, Klara petitioned for naturalization; at that time she was working as a nursemaid and living back in Manhattan on Fort Washington Avenue. Her petition was supported by statements from two people, including Liselotte Goldenberg, the wife of Klara’s uncle Julius Goldenberg, who was also living on Fort Washington Avenue although at a different house number.

Petition for Naturalization “New York, Southern District, U.S District Court Naturalization Records, 1824-1946,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99HD-TVBP?cc=2060123&wc=M5PF-PTG%3A351624701 : 22 May 2014)

Klara was sworn in as a US citizen on February 18, 1946.

After that, I lost track of her. In 1946 she would have been 25 years old.  If she married after that, I could not find her in the NYC marriage index or elsewhere.

But then I went back to look at the documents I had to see if there were any clues I’d missed. And there was one: when she’d petitioned for naturalization, she’d petitioned to change her name from Klara to Claire.  I really didn’t think that this would make a difference in my search results since I knew that in my searches for Klara on both Ancestry and FamilySearch the search engines picked up women named Clara and Claire as well. But I figured, what the heck, let’s search for Claire Maas.

And this time Ancestry turned up something new, something important. It was an entry in the New York City Marriage License Index, 1907-1995, database that indicated that a Claire Maas had married a John Lind on March 21, 1949. Could it be my cousin Klara? I wasn’t sure. I had the names, date, and license number, so I contacted Allan Jordan, who generously offers to retrieve NYC documents for just his travel costs and the cost of the document. He said he hoped to get to the Clerk’s Office in the next week.

Claire Maas in NYC marriage license index
New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 10  Year Range : 1949 Ancestry.com. New York City, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995

While waiting for the marriage license file, I spent hours and hours searching for John Lind, Claire Lind, Claire Maas, and any other combinations I could dream up on newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com, Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Google. And the only real clue I came up with was a 2015 story about a group of senior citizens living in a Jewish nursing home in New Jersey who called themselves the Senior Jax Pack because they had become avid fans of a contestant on American Idol known as Jax.

One of the women in the Senior Jax Pack was named Claire Lind. She was 93 years old, and the article stated that she had escaped from “pre-war Germany as a child.”  Klara Maas would have been almost 94 in 2015, and she had been a teenager when she left Germany in 1940. Could this be my Klara Maas?

I wasn’t sure, and the article gave no more details except to mention that Claire Lind had recently passed away. I found an obituary for Claire Lind, who died on July 29, 2015, but it did not provide her birth name, her birth date, or the names of her spouse or survivors. I called the cemetery where she was buried and learned that she must have been the Claire Lind who married John Lind because he is also buried there.  I found a few other articles about the Senior Jax Pack that mentioned Claire Lind, but they also did not reveal any additional information about Claire’s identity.

And so I waited for Allan to send me the marriage license documents. While I waited, I watched the videos of Claire Lind from the first article I’d found and fell in love with her, hoping she would prove to be my cousin. Listen to her sing in the first one, and listen to her advice to Jax in the second.

And then Allan sent me the marriage certificate:

Marriage license for Claire Maas and John Lind


There it was—Claire Maas Lind was the daughter of Jakob Maas and Rosa Goldenberg. She was born in Giessen, Germany on October 22, 1921. The woman who had married John Lind was my cousin; my cousin Klara/Claire Maas Lind was the woman who at age 93 was a member of the Senior Jax Pack.

A little research into John Lind revealed that he also had been a recent German refugee when he married Claire Maas in 1949. He was born Hans Levi in Luenen, Germany on February 27, 1913, and was the son of Emil Levi and Helen Herzberg (the family had changed its surname from Levi to Lind after arriving in the US). He died in 1977.

And so Klara Maas, whose parents had been murdered in the Holocaust, making her the sole surviving descendant of Johanna Katzenstein and Simon Maas, had lived a full life in the US. She became Claire Lind—singing into the last days of her life despite the heartbreak she must have experienced as a young woman.

I am so glad I found her story.