Wolfgang Maehler (1912-1963)
Wolfgang Maehler was born in Gronau, Germany on December 15, 1912. When he was seventeen years old, he immigrated to the United States and lived with relatives in Locke, New York. A natural linguist, he was fluent in English, German, Russian, and Spanish. In the years prior to World War II, he traveled the Northeastern United States on his motorcycle and worked at Atlantic States Gas (today, Mohawk), Agfa Ansco, and Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Maehler was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1945. His fluency in German made him a useful recruit for the MFAA Restitution Branch in Germany in November 1945. During his service as a Monuments Man, he participated in the restitution of looted works of art and other cultural items to the countries from which they had been stolen. In addition to his work at the collecting points in Wurzburg and Nuremberg, he assisted with the evacuation of stolen works from the Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria.
Following his discharge in October 1946, Maehler briefly returned to the United States. He reenlisted in April 1947 and was assigned to the 599thENGR Base Depot of the 7742 Engineer Base in Hanau, Germany. There, he taught European History and German to Army personnel at the Wolfgang Kaserne in Hanau. He was also involved with the German Youth Activities Program (GYAP), a program created to help German children adjust to postwar life. Inspired by his own childhood spent in Germany before the war, Maehler undertook the management of the organization from his office in Hanau. He developed the program into four regions: Grossauheim, Steinheim, Kesselstadt and Wolfgang, all of which were staffed by denazified German civilians. The GYAP provided a safe haven for German youth to participate in crafts, sports, music, drama, dance, religious celebrations, and even field trips to sporting events. In 1950, as a special Christmas gift to the local children, the Hanau Base Depot donated three playgrounds. The ceremony was attended by multiple high-ranking military officials; Maehler served as the German interpreter.
For his devoted service to the United States, Maehler was awarded the European African Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal of Germany with Germany Clasp, and Good Conduct Medal.
After his final discharge from the U.S. Army in 1952, Maehler traveled to Canada. In Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he worked as a systems engineer at Dominion Tar and Chemical. He later settled down to a quiet life along the nearby Goulais River with his wife and two children. There, he purchased one hundred acres of vacant land and started a chicken farm with over 750 chickens. Maehler and his family became Canadian citizens in February 1963.
Wolfgang Maehler died on May 1, 1963.
Photo courtesy of the Maehler Family (private collection).