Whatever stereotypes or prejudices her parentage might conjure would be entirely misplaced; Kurt von Hammerstein was a fascinating character, a man of strong opinions and succinct words, a friend of progressive trade unions, an aristrocrat, and an outspoken opponent of Adolf Hitler. He also praised laziness in intelligent men, feeling that such fellows bring 'clarity of mind and strong nerves to make difficult decisions'. He parented a large brood of remarkable, strong-willed, and free-minded children, all of whom made, or attempted to make, their mark on German history.
Marie Therese was clearly such. The mere fact of an aristocratic woman riding a motorcycle in 1933 is exemplary, but with such a father, her motorcycle became a tool for an entirely more serious purpose. That General von Hammerstein survived Hitler's rise to power is remarkable, especially as he made no secret of his hatred of Hitler, and attempted to lure the Fuhrer to his fortified compound in Cologne, to kill him. Hitler demurred every time. As Hammerstein learned of Nazi plans to arrest and kill Jews, he supplied Marie Therese with the names of the targeted, and she rode her motorcycle as far afield as Prague (still independent) to ferry Jewish intellectuals to safety. One plucky duck.
Marie Therese and her husband John Paasche fled to Japan, as Paasche had studied Asian languages in college. They lived out the war there, 'with the police camped out across the street, watching'. In 1948 they moved to San Francisco, where Marie Therese died in 2000, aged 90.
Would that I had seen this photo many years ago.