Mainz is a funny place.
State capital, 200+k population, 2 newspapers, but still with a small-town atmosphere.
The papers will sometimes pick up on a story and worry it to death, like a dog with an old slipper, especially if they can get a local politician on the ropes.And they do a pretty good job on local news.
I just wish that they show less lip service and a bit more honesty.
Back in September, a friend pointed me in the direction of a story with a strong Mainz link that featured on prime time national radio and TV in New Zealand – that of a leading Mainz Jewish family, the Schönbergers, and their escape from the Shoah to New Zealand and America.
I researched it further with the sterling assistance of Markus Würz, chairman of a local historical society and a research associate at Mainz University, blogged it and offered the story to the Allgemeine Zeitung.
After all – it’s not often that Mainz hits the headlines on the other side of the globe.
“Of COURSE they’d be interested” said one of the editors “and we have just the guy for you. Specialist in all things Third Reich”
Spoke to him, he’ll call me back at the end of the week.
Wait a few weeks, drop a mail to the Allgemeine Zeitung asking if they’re still interested before I offer the story to the Mainzer Rhein Zeitung.
Which I do later – big yawn from them…
Snotty reply from the local editor at the AZ: as far as they’re aware their specialist called me back, he’s on vacation and ending with an overly patronising “I’m sure you’ve got a week’s more patience”
Speak to the specialist when he gets back, he’ll call me back by the end of the week (Where have I heard that before….?)
That was in October and I’m not expecting the phone to ring any day soon.
I see it as a twofold lost chance.
Firstly to give Markus Würz’s Society for the Social History of Mainz some much deserved visibility.
And secondly to leverage the Schönberger exhibition at the Auckland Museum to get some positive press for modern-day Germany and its relationship to its immediate past in New Zealand where young German tourists being mocked for their accents and being branded as Nazis is more common than you’d like to think.
Never mind, though.
An American journalist and biographer of a Hollywood studio head read the story and approached me to help trace the family’s Mainz origins.
So far I’ve dug back 4 generations (Markus is visiting the archives next week to look for more detail), located the grandparent’s residence and can provide him with descriptions and images of what the family would have seen on the visits to the synagogue.
Even had coffee with a lovely lady who is STILL LIVING in the same house as the studio head’s mother where they used to play together as children. There are pictures….
And more importantly, we can trace their route as they left Mainz in 1938 on their journey to Hamburg and their subsequent escape to America.
Something for the New York Times, probably…..