Johann Nowak

born 06.02.1912 Recklinghausen
ermordet 06.05.1942 Metze

Profession Tailor
Last place of residence Lissa


Johann Nowak was born on 6 February 1912 in Recklinghausen. His father was German and had acquired Polish citizenship in 1918, while his mother was Polish.

In the winter of 1939/1940, Johann Nowak arrived in the small village of Metze near Fritzlar as a Polish prisoner of war where he worked for a farmer. It was here that he met the maid Marie Mäding. She, born in 1920, came from the neighbouring town of Kirchberg and also worked for this farmer. Shortly afterwards, Johann Nowak returned to Poland, as "half-German" Polish people were allowed to return to their homeland beginning in 1940.

In 1941, Marie Mäding had her and Johann Nowak's child, thereby violating the ban on contact between German women and Polish men. Johann Nowak was then located in Poland and imprisoned in the Breitenau "labour education camp" (AEL). It is possible that Johann Nowak was offered German citizenship while still in the Breitenau AEL so that the proceedings against him could be dropped. However, Nowak refused. On 6 May 1942, the Kassel Gestapo took Johann Nowak from Breitenau to Metze where he was hanged shortly afterwards. As a deterrent, other Polish forced workers in the region were made to pass by the hanged man and look at him. In 1942, Johann Nowak's wife Helene enquired about her husband with the institutional management of Breitenau but did not receive an answer. Marie Mäding remained in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until 1944 where she worked in the laundry. She then returned to her hometown. She died shortly after the war in a hospital in Kassel. Marie Mäding and Johann Nowak's child only lived to become five years old because of lung disease.

In 1988, Hilary Nowak, Johann Nowak's son, contacted Breitenau Memorial. He had recently found an article in a Polish newspaper about the fate of Maria Mäding and Johann Nowak. To get more information about his father, he visited Breitenau Memorial in April 1988. In Kassel, he met two former Polish forced workers who had been imprisoned with his father in Breitenau. They were able to tell him a lot about his father. In addition, Hilary Nowak was able to meet with the family of the farmer for whom Johann Nowak had worked.