Christa Maar, the founder and managing director of the Felix Burda Foundation, died on November 4th in Munich at the age of 83. Your name stands for the most successful campaign for the prevention and early detection of colon cancer in Germany. Family, friends and companions said goodbye on Friday with a moving funeral service.
A good hundred close friends and companions came together last Friday at the idyllic St. Georg cemetery in Bogenhausen to say goodbye to Christa Maar together with Hubert Burda, Maria Furtwängler and Jacob Burda. A week earlier, one year after the 20th anniversary of the Felix Burda Foundation, its founder and board member died on November 4th at the age of 83 from a serious illness.
As the bells rang, the mourners entered the small, light-flooded baroque church. Stephan Sattler, a long-time companion of Christa Maar and board member of the Hubert Burda Foundation, welcomed those present in front of the wooden coffin decorated with red roses. Next to it were her favorite portrait and two large wreaths, one from the Burda family with red roses and one from colleagues at the Felix Burda Foundation with white and rose-colored roses.
In his speech, Stephan Sattler welcomed those present on behalf of Hubert Burda, who was married to the art historian from 1967 to 1972. And he explained that it was Christa Maar’s last will that she wanted to be buried here, next to their son. Felix died of colon cancer in 2001. The resting place is home to many prominent personalities and artists such as Erich Kästner, Bernd Eichinger and Helmut Dietl and today it was not only a place of appreciative words, but also a place with comforting music. At the request of the Burda family, a piano had been brought to the church the day before for the funeral. After the speech, the pianist Anna Gebhardt and baritone Jonas Müller, two young musicians from the Bavarian State Opera, performed Schubert’s song “Im Abendrot” and later Schumann’s song “Mondnacht”.
In the first speech, Prof. Josef Hecken, impartial chairman of the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA), whom Christa Maar was able to win over for her mission 21 years ago, paid tribute to her life’s work as a pioneer in colon cancer prevention and early detection. “It was her overall personality, characterized by a charming cosmopolitanism, cleverness and assertiveness as well as strategic skill, persuasiveness and – if necessary – also an unyielding willingness to deal with conflicts that enabled her to lead the foundation so successfully. And the art historian knew how to strategically use the media and prominent ambassadors for her good cause: “The first prerequisite for this grandiose success was that she courageously and offensively tackled the topic of colon cancer and colon cancer prevention, with a lot of empathy and charm from the previous ‘ taboo zone’ and thus made it ‘socially acceptable’. Screening colonoscopy, invitation procedures, better tests for occult blood: These are milestones that have significantly shaped and prompted Christa Maar and the foundation.” And he promised to continue her legacy: “It won’t be easy, because she was the heart, the brain and if necessary also the engine, the relentless driver when it came to advancing colon cancer prevention and thus the purpose of the foundation. And despite all the progress that has been made, the to-do list is still a long one.”
In the second speech, author and critic Michael Krüger, who has been a close friend of the Burda family since 1968, praised Christa Maar as a determined fighter “with bear nature”: “If the attribute ‘strong’ applies to someone, then to Christa. Until the very end, you couldn’t tell that she had to take a series of severe life and love blows in her life. Despite everything, she kept a motto in life: “Don’t whine for long, keep going!” Felix died in 2001, married, father of two children. Anyone would have understood if Christa had fallen into a lifelong agony. But even now, at the lowest point in her life, at the age of 62, she, with Hubert’s help, pulls herself out of the life-destroying swamp by her own hair and confronts her with bravura, intelligence and persistence and the active help of employees and friends last big project on her life track: the colon cancer foundation. The greatest and enduring achievement of her life was that she had the strength to turn the most intense pain of her life into a project that would benefit society as a whole. She, who had lost her child, (…) became a celebrated lifesaver. It is this (…) image that we should always have in mind when we think of her.”
Not only ex-Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, the President of the Jewish community in Munich and Upper Bavaria Charlotte Knobloch, actor and ambassador of the Felix Burda Foundation Erol Sander were present at the funeral, but also Prof. Dr. Michael Hallek and Dr. Berndt Birkner, gastroenterologist and member of the board of trustees of the foundation. And of course many Burda companions. These included director of corporate accounting and board member of the Felix Burda Foundation Heinz Spengler, chairman of the board of directors Paul-Bernhard Kallen, member of the board of directors Andreas Rittstieg, board member Holger Eckstein, board member Katharina Herrmann and board member Philipp Welte. In addition, Bunt e editor-in-chief Robert Pölzer, BurdaVerlag CPO Kay Labinsky, head of the Burda school of journalism Nikolaus von der Decken, DLD founder Steffi Czerny, former Bunte boss and board chairwoman of the Tribute to Bambi foundation Patrica Riekel and Ex-Focus editor-in-chief Helmut Markwort. People who have known and appreciated Christa Maar for years.
After the funeral, the mourners met in the private rooms on Schwabinger Schackstraße, where Hubert Burda commemorated Christa Maar in a very personal speech and recalled their last encounter and their time together with Felix in their home at the time. He paid tribute to her as a person and her life’s work with the deepest respect: “Despite our divorce, Christa Maar remained a good confidante throughout her life. And in her fight for preventive medicine, she was a great role model in terms of determination and implementation. The Felix Burda Foundation was her life theme, she overcame the pain of Felix’s death by becoming active, by wanting to help others. And Christa would have been delighted with the recognition she received today.”
Since 2002, the Felix Burda Foundation, together with the German Cancer Aid, the Network Against Colon Cancer e.V. and the LebensBlicke Foundation, have been initiating Colon Cancer Month in March. Darmkebs is the second most common cancer in Germany. But the campaign month makes it clear that this cancer can be prevented. Everyone over 50 is entitled to the free intestinal check.
By Angelika Otto and Verena Schenk-Welker
Note: Like the Felix Burda Foundation, FOCUS online belongs to Hubert Burda Media