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Klaus J. Herrmann, 1929 – 1998

Winter 1998

Klaus J. Herrmann, for many years a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council for Judaism, and in recent years a Vice President of the Council, died on January 23, 1998 in Berlin.  
Klaus was born July 21, 1929 in the German region of Pomerania, an area which became part of Poland in the post-World War II years. The family moved to Berlin where Klaus attended school until August, 1940, when it became clear that the rise of the Nazis and the increasing disabilities under which German Jews were forced to live made it necessary to leave.  
At the age of 11, Klaus and his younger brother Fritz traveled with their family by train, plane, Trans-Siberian Express and ship over Russia and Manchuria to Shanghai, where they lived through the years of World War II.  
In 1947 the family left for the U.S. and lived in Minneapolis. Klaus joined the U.S. Army in 1948, becoming a 2nd Lt., and was sent to Germany as a member of the Intelligence Section, interrogating deserters.  
Klaus received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1958 and became a professor of political science for the European division of the University of Maryland. He traveled to various U.S. military bases throughout Europe and North Africa. Later, he taught at Lakehead University in Canada and the American University in Washington, D.C.  
In 1965, Klaus married Shirley Mackie, formerly of New Zealand, and became a member of the political science faculty at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, later to become Concordia University. He retired in 1996 and was an Adjunct Professor at the time of his death.  
For many years, during the summer months, he was guest-Professor at the German University in Munich and he spent one summer teaching in Rostock, East Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also taught at the City College of Chicago and the Postgraduate Program of Boston University as well as in Brussels for NATO and in Italy for the U.S. Air Force.  
As a lay person, Klaus led religious services in various cities in Germany, in hospitals in Quebec, in Cali, Colombia and in Poland. At the time of his death, he was involved in a number of scholarly projects in Germany and Poland, including family genealogical research.  
His commitment to classical Reform Judaism, to a universal religion free of nationalism, was one of the guiding forces of his life. He saw first-hand what damage unbridled nationalism could cause and knew that the combination of religion and nationalism represented an explosive mix. His articles on this and related subjects appeared frequently in Issues and other journals.  
Particularly conscious of the blessings of liberty which he and his family found in the United States, Klaus was a staunch patriot. He understood that the fight against Nazism during World War II and the Cold War against Communism in the post-war period represented the price free men and nations must pay in order to resist the totalitarian forces which have plagued the twentieth century.  
His vision of a Judaism true to the philosophy of the l9th and early 20th century reformers never wavered. His encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history is a resource which will be sadly missed, as will Klaus’ boundless energy and infectious humor.  
Klaus lamented the many changes in Reform Judaism in recent years as the movement embraced nationalism, declared that Israel and not God was "central’ to their Judaism and replaced traditional Reform music, hymns and prayers with substitutes which reversed Reform’s earlier changes in the traditional Orthodox liturgy and approach to religious worship.  
In an article entitled "Can Reform Judaism’s Steady Retreat From Its Roots Be Reversed?" in the Winter 1994 Issues, Klaus declared that, "Reform Judaism, in recent years, has been in steady retreat from its universal and ethical spiritual roots." He believed that "the current period provides exactly the right atmosphere in which to move Reform back to the idealistic formulations of its bold pioneers."  
When Klaus attended our board meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, in October he was ailing, having recovered very slowly from surgery for cancer he had undergone a year earlier. His death came while he was in Berlin undergoing further medical treatment.  
Klaus is buried in the Weissensee Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe with 115,000 grave sites, but relatively little used in latter years due to its location in the former East Berlin.  
We extend our condolences to his wife Shirley, his daughter Stephanie and his son Marcus. He will be missed by all who knew him and, particularly, by those in the American Council for Judaism who valued his leadership and friendship so dearly.

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