Heinrich Ross was born on August 10, 1870 in Rokytno, Austria-Hungary (now a part of the Czech-Republic).   Around 1905-07, he began work at the Rotophot postcard publishing company in Berlin, Germany as the head of distribution.   He started the postcard company that bore his name, Ross Verlag, in 1919.  

The following article was published in German Film Magazine FilmWoche (Film Weekly) #33 1930

Article and English translation supplied by Werner Mohr:

The Father of the Artist Postcard

Artist postcards are collected enthusiastically around the world.   All filmfans will be interested to hear, that the man whom you have to thank for the cards of your favorites, has celebrated his 60th birthday on August 10:   Heinrich Ross, senior boss of Ross-Bromsilber-Vertriebs-G.m.b.H and member of board of directors of Rotophot-A.G. and Rotophot-Bromsilberdruck-G.m.b.H.   In 1912 he founded the publishing firm, which since then constantly gained bearing and volume.   Even today, Heinrich Ross is the soul of the firm, and tries hard with youthful freshness and energy to constantly extend the worldwide volume of his company.   E.H.

(E.H. is Edith Harmann, columnist for Filmwoche and other publications. She did most of the larger stories of the stars).

Jewish Persecution

Unfortunately, Heinrich Ross was the head of a Jewish business during the Nazi reign in Germany.   After Adolph Hitler came into power in 1933, the persecution of German Jews began; in 1935, they were stripped of their citizenship.   By 1937, Ross Verlag was no longer in its founder's control, having been forced out by the National Socialists through their Arisierung (Aryanization) program (no Jews could own a business.)   Interestingly enough, they retained the Ross Verlag name until 1941 (just before the Nazi's implementation of "The Final Solution.")   Perhaps the name did not seem too Jewish (since it also meant "horse" in German), and the business was so well known and apparently prosperous under the Ross name.   No doubt, the contracts Ross Verlag had with the various studios for the rights to publish the movie star photos played a part in their holding onto the name for awhile.   The distribution contracts they had around the world may have also contributed.   The change in name to Film Foto Verlag coincided with the USA declaring war against Germany in 1941.

Henrich was a widow by this time, but he did have two living children:   a daughter named Edith and a son named Egon.   Both Egon and Edith had escaped Nazi Germany by fleeing to Japan at some point in the late 30's.   Although Germany and Japan were allies in WWII, Japan did not support the Nazi's in their "final solution" plan for the Jewish Race, and Japan became a refuge for many Jews seeking to escape the Nazi controlled countries of Europe.   Eventually, later during WWII, many of the Jews living in Japan ended up in an internment camp in Japanese controlled Shangai, which still offered better chance for survival than the concentration and death camps in Europe.

Edith Ross was traveling with her future husband, the Opera/Concert singer, Gerhard Pechner (who later gained renown in the USA as a Metropolitan Opera singer.)
Edith and Gerhard immigrated to the United States in July of 1940.   Both had received German Quoto Immigration Visas for the USA.   They departed from the port city of Yokohama, Japan on the S.S. Kamakura Maru on July 13 and arrived in San Francisco sometime around July 21.   (The Kamakura Maru was turned by the Japanese Navy into a transport carrier later in WWII, and was eventually sunk by a U.S. submarine.)

On the passenger manifest, Edith Ross listed her profession as a manager of a Film Publicity Office, so it seems probable she worked at her father's business.

Gerhard and Edith stayed in San Francisco for a year, with Gerhard performing in the San Franciso Opera.   They then moved to New York City, where Gerhard joined the Met.   At some point, they were married.

Egon Ross sailed from Yokohama, Japan on July 22, 1940 aboard the M.S. Hikawa Maru (the high class decor, service and food of the ship gained it the nickname of the "Queen of the Pacific".   The Hikawas Maru became a hospital ship during WWII, and was the only Japanese passenger liner to survive the war).   The ship arrived in Seattle Washington on August 3, 1940.   Egon had also received a German Quoto Immigration Visa.   He listed his occupation as Former Manager of a Printing Office (also probably his father's firm).   After arriving in Seattle, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, to be near friends.

The Voyage Of the St. Louis

As for Heinrich Ross himself, he boarded the passenger ship the S.S. St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany on May 13, 1939.   The ship was bound for Cuba with 937 passengers, most of them German Jews.   When they arrived at their destination, the Cuban government refused to allow the passengers to disembark.   After many unsuccessful attempts, they next tried to dock in the USA.   The United States goverment also refused them entry into the country.   Both countries had immigration quotas that had already been filled.   Having nowhere else to go, the St. Louis and it's passengers were forced to head back to Europe.   They disembarked in Belgium.   The passengers were split up into four groups and granted refugee status in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and England.   When war was declared with Germany in each of these countries, many of these same German Jews who had been forced to flee their country because of persecution, were considered enemy aliens and were placed in internment camps.   When Germany took over France, Belgium and the Netherlands, many of them were put in concentration camps and later into extermination camps.   Around 254 of the former St. Louis passengers perished in the Holocaust.  

Postcard of the German ship St. Louis that was denied entry
into Cuba and the U.S.A. and sent back to Europe.

(Photo credit: USHMM, courtesy of Julie Klein, Photo by Max Reid.   "The views or opinions expressed on this website, and the context in which the image is used, does not necessarily reflect the views or policy of, nor imply approval or endorsement by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.")

For more information on the voyage of the St. Louis visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or read the excellent book "Refuge Denied" (No details are given in the book in regards to Heinrich Ross).   The 1976 movie "Voyage of the Damned" is also about the story of the St. Louis.

(The S.S. St. Louis became a German transport ship during WWII, then later a hotel ship after the war, and was scraped in 1952.)


Luckily for Heinrich Ross, he was among the group of 276 passengers of the St. Louis who had been allowed passage to England as refugees, where they were able to avoid further German persecution.   Heinrich spent three years in England, probably supported by the Jewish Refugee Committee.   Finally, on October 6, 1942, he boarded the passenger ship the S.S. Pacific Enterprise in Cardiff England and crossed the Atlantic to America.   On the passenger manifest, Henrich listed his nationality as "stateless" -- a man without a country.   He listed his occupation as "none."   The ship docked in New York City on October 29.   By this time, Heinrich's daughter Edith had married Gerhard Pechner and were residing in New York City.   Mr. Ross joined them there.

Eventually, Mr. Ross moved to Chicago, Illinois where his son Egon was living.

All three of the Ross's and Gerhard Pechner became naturalized citizens of the USA.   Gerhard on March 11, 1946; Edith on June 3, 1946; Heinrich on December 8, 1947.   Egon's naturalization card does not list a date; however, it does state "soldier" so perhaps he served in the US Military in WWII and was naturalized then.

Heinrich had lost his fortune through Nazi confiscation, paying a "flight tax" to leave, as well as the payment of his ship's passage.   His personal property had been put in storage in Germany, but was lost to theft before he left.

Reportedly, at the age of 73, Heinrich started working again in a machine shop in Chicago, up to the age of 84.   In 1945 he was living in an apartment in the Hyde Park area of Chicago.   In 1956, he and his son received compensation from Germany for the loss of their Berlin company in the amount of 50,000 Deutsche Marks (which would have only been the equivalent of $5,000, I believe).

On August 3, 1957, at the age of 86, Heinrich Ross passed away at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois of a stroke and pneumonia.   His death certificate listed his business as Printing.   He was buried in the Oakridge Jewish Cemetary in Hillside, Illinois.

Gravestone of Heinrich Ross at Oakridge Jewish Cemetary in Hillside, Illinois
Photo taken by myself.

His daughter, Edith Pechner died in New York City on Jan. 14, 1966 at the age of 67.   Her husband, Gerhard, died on Oct. 23, 1969 at the age of 66.   They had not had any children.

Egon Ross died on December 10, 1978, at the age of 78, in Chicago.   He had never married, and presumably had no children.   He was also buried in the Oakridge Jewish Cemetary.

Thanks to Werner Mohr, an online forum with Detlef Krenz, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for some of the above information.   Also special thanks to my brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Kathy Goffee, for driving me around Chicago for my research.

Ross Verlag postcard of Heinrich Ross' future son-in-law, Gerhard Pechner.
Photo from collection of Klaas Dierks

International Jewish Magazine Aufbau of August 17, 1945 that mentions Heinrich Ross's 75th birthday and his residence in Chicago.   Taken online from this source:   Aufbau

A recent photo of the former residence of Heinrich Ross at 1446 E. 56th St. in Chicago, Illinois.   Now a condominium.

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