Portraits of the Tragedy Victims

BySue Masterman and Merlin Koene

July 27, 2000 -- They came from all walks of life, with a common purpose: the vacation of a lifetime, a trip on the world’s fastest and most luxurious passenger aircraft followed by a cruise on a posh ocean liner.

Some were well-to-do, some had saved for years.

Today, flags around Germany continue to fly at half-staff for those who lost their lives in Tuesday’s deadly Concorde tragedy. Memorial services are scheduled, including one organized by the Peter Deilmann cruise line — which chartered the doomed plane.

The tragedy wiped out a building dynasty, killed a well-known soccer coach, and claimed two teachers finally taking the honeymoon they never had — leaving behind forever three young children.

The oldest victim was 91, the youngest 7 and 8. A rags-to-riches couple from East Berlin survived the horrors of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall only to lose their lives in the fiery wreck.

Also killed was a retired postmistress who had saved for years for the treat of a lifetime.

Death came to them all mercifully fast: 80 seconds after takeoff.

Generations Lost

Andreas Schranner, 64, a retired multimillionaire from Munich, wanted to celebrate his 65th birthday on the luxury cruise. His wife Maria, 62, daughter Andrea Eich, 38, son-in-law and BMW manager Christian Eich, and his grandchildren Maximillian, 10 and Katharina, 8, were all with him for what was to be a celebration.

Father and son-in-law shared a love of classic cars. Christian Eich ran BMW’s museum. The grandchildren left school a few days early for the trip.

On Wednesday, the last official day of school, teachers carefully broke the news to the other children: some of their classmates would not be coming back.

“The whole school is in tears,” said one mother. A memorial service will be held today there, too.

Famous Soccer Coach

Most people in Germany know the name Rudi Fassnacht, 65. Fassnacht, a former trainer for the Fortuna-Koeln soccer club in Cologne, was aboard the flight along with his wife, Sigrid, 43.

“He wanted to fulfill a dream,” said former Fortuna goalkeeper and German national team player Wolfgang Fahrian. “He wanted to slide into retirement gently, but he was still very active.”

Other friends of the popular soccer executive were in close proximity to where he died. They were driving down to the South of France for a vacation when they got stuck in a traffic jam outside Paris — a jam caused by the crash.

They switched on the radio and heard the news — then turned around and headed straight back home.

The Fassnachts leave two grown children.

Carl-Hermann Fuhr, 49, traveling with his wife, 48, was the owner of an old and successful locksmith’s firm, in its fourth generation.

Now, responsibility for the family business falls to the fifth generation, their 17-year-old son who was on holiday in France.

A Life Spent Saving

Doris Madry, 68, traveling with husband Rolf, 64, was a postmistress most of her working life. Friends said she had skimped and saved, turning over every penny, for years — just for this trip.

Christian Goetz, 60, a prominent Trade Unionist from Dusseldorf, and his glamorous wife, Irene Vogt-Goetz, a society photographer, were looking for a new lease on life. Both had recently battled cancer and wanted to celebrate its remission.

Movers and Shakers

Angela Stuehn, 58, was also on a dream holiday, partly a gift from the staffs of the five restaurants she ran in Cologne. She just wanted to be pampered for a few weeks, her associates said.

Her “Oergelchen,” a small, exclusive restaurant, was favored by stars of German stage and screen.

“I will never forget her smile,” said one shocked customer.

Stuehn was traveling with Friedrich Werth, 62, and his wife Helga, 59, known to everyone as “Peggy.” The couple had been on the MS Deutschland before and persuaded Angela to go with them.

Friedrich Werth, founder of ABWA — one of Cologne’s most prominent advertising agencies — was known to his employees as “Old Fritz.”

“We are all just paralyzed,” said business partner Dieter Assenmacher. “If hits us extra hard because we are like one big family here.”

Second Honeymoon

Love came late to Rolf Steck, 67, and his wife Ingrid Nusser Steck, 66. Both were widowed when they met, fell in love, and married in Las Vegas in 1995.

This was to have been the second honeymoon.

At 91, Heinrich Wehrhahn, a retired director from Hanover, was the oldest passenger. Friends and neighbors said that despite his age, he was always traveling and had looked forward to his annual cruise.

Waiting for Mom and Dad

In Moenchengladbach, the hardest-hit town with 13 victims, three youngsters wait for their parents. The children don’t know that mom and dad won’t be coming home.

Their father’s den is decorated with pictures of the Concorde.

Klaus and Margaret Frentzen, both teachers in their mid-30s, had saved for years for the honeymoon they could not afford when they got married. His dream was to fly with the Concorde just once.

“He loved that plane,” a colleague said. “Loved it to death.”

Werner Heuer, 64, spent most of his life in East Berlin, and could only dream of traveling anywhere.

He lavished love on his car, a Fiat. When the wall came down, he became a Fiat dealer, made a fortune, retired rich, and decided to treat himself and his companion, Sabine Bernt, to the journey that once seemed impossible to them.

Another East Berlin couple, Helga, 64, and Wolfgang Schnitter, 59, of Potsdam, were also fulfilling a lifelong dream of luxury.

Until the wall came down, she was running a butcher shop in East Germany, where meat was scarce and rationed. Wolfgang Schnitter, a stonemason badly injured in an accident, saw his scant invalid pension before German unification suddenly translate into real Deutschmarks.

Her business boomed. They saved hard for this trip of a lifetime.

There are flowers leaning on the Steglitz door through which Martin, 69, and Barbara Marx, 64, carried their heavy cases.

He was a retired accountant, she had just retired from a long career as a kindergarten teacher. He wanted to celebrate his 70th birthday in style. Their family had chipped in to help make the trip possible.

And so the list goes on, each name on it representing a life, a dream.

Now relatives and friends are making the sad journey to Paris to identify their bodies, bring them home one last time, and lay them all to rest.