The centrality dependence of (multi-)strange hadron abundances is studied for Pb(158 AGeV)Pb reactions and compared to p(158 GeV)Pb collisions. The microscopic transport model UrQMD is used for this analysis. The predicted Lambda/pi-, Xi-/pi- and Omega-/pi- ratios are enhanced due to rescattering in central Pb-Pb collisions as compared to peripheral Pb-Pb or p-Pb collisions. A reduction of the constituent quark masses to the current quark masses m_s \sim 230 MeV, m_q \sim 10 MeV, as motivated by chiral symmetry restoration, enhances the hyperon yields to the experimentally observed high values. Similar results are obtained by an ad hoc overall increase of the color electric field strength (effective string tension of kappa=3 GeV/fm). The enhancement depends strongly on the kinematical cuts. The maximum enhancement is predicted around midrapidity. For Lambda's, strangeness suppression is predicted at projectile/target rapidity. For Omega's, the predicted enhancement can be as large as one order of magnitude. Comparisons of Pb-Pb data to proton induced asymmetric (p-A) collisions are hampered due to the predicted strong asymmetry in the various rapidity distributions of the different (strange) particle species. In p-Pb collisions, strangeness is locally (in rapidity) not conserved. The present comparison to the data of the WA97 and NA49 collaborations clearly supports the suggestion that conventional (free) hadronic scenarios are unable to describe the observed high (anti-)hyperon yields in central collisions. The doubling of the strangeness to nonstrange suppression factor, gamma_s \approx 0.65, might be interpreted as a signal of a phase of nearly massless particles.