Will Schaber, Heilbronner by birth, was editorial volunteer at Erich Schairer's "Sonntags-Zeitung". Later he became an editor at Heilbronn "Neckar-Echo", the Social Democratic Press Service in Berlin, the Saalfeld "Volksblatt" and, after the Social Democratic Party split 1931, the "Socialist Workers' Newspaper" in Berlin. He emigrated to 1933 in May. In Brno (Czechoslovakia) he was a member of the "Monday morning" and co-editor of the "Press Service"; in New York twenty years head of British Information Services and later editor of the weekly newspaper "Aufbau".
The Schwabe remains true to New York too
The publicist Will Schaber turns ninety
By Stefan Berkholz
In Manhattan, fifth floor, overlooking the Hudson River, one of the German journalists reads the Levites. "The press should not serve the taste of the masses - the press should lead the broad masses." The old man sits upright in his swivel chair, his eyes sparkling aggressively. Ninety years Will Schaber these days - from retirement no trace.
Schaber lives in New York since October 1938; still in Washington Heights, the neighborhood north of Manhattan that they once ironically called the "Fourth Reich" because so many Germans lived around the corner, after their expulsion. Schaber has become indigenous and quite satisfied. But when the aged, tall man begins to speak, his origins are undeniable. Schaber has remained Schwabe, "yes, of course," he reacts with amusement, "I am Heilbronner!" And after a pause he adds: "But I'm also American, I'm also a New Yorker." He is a cosmopolitan, and he is a little proud of it, too.
He comes from a down to earth family home. 1905 was born in Heilbronn, on the "Labor Day of Labor". The father was a Social Democrat and Ziseleurmeister, the mother came from an old Weingärtnerfamilie. Memories? Most of it is extinguished. His family died in one of the Allied airstrikes, in December 1944. "Seven thousand people died in the Inferno in Heilbronn," he says quietly, shaking his head.
Schaber learned journalism from the bottom up, as people say in Berlin. First as a volunteer at Erich Schairer's "Stuttgarter Sonntagszeitung". 1923, of all things, in the year of inflation. An independent, socialist newspaper. "Schairer was my great teacher," enthuses Schaber. "He taught me the basics of journalism, building a newspaper, how to edit, and so on. He was a great editor, a great stylist, and, "he adds," he also did not hesitate to cut and edit manuscripts of even the most prominent authors.
It was probably also Schairer who instilled in him something of the ethos of free journalism. In 1928 Schaber laid down some principles in a slim pamphlet ("Zeit und Zeitung"). Some of it is still right today, Schaber ponders, “above all: the protest against the commercialism of the press”. Even today he is firmly convinced of the power of the word, of its effect - even if writing failed so badly back then, before 1933 and after ... "Yes," he insists, "the word can change the world."
Until 1928 he was a reporter and feature editor for the social democratic "Neckar-Echo". In 1929 Schaber followed the trend of the times: Berlin. His first wife, the actress Else Rüthel, got a job in the cultural metropolis, and he became a news editor for the social democratic press service, and later for the “Sozialistische Arbeiter-Zeitung”. Schaber mainly reported from the Reichstag. “Back then, Berlin was the pulse of the republic,” he enthuses, “I'll never forget it. You have to experience it to know what it meant ... “In the evening until nine in the editorial office, hectic, work, a lot of work, then to night life, artist festivals, late night shows, theater, cinema. Max Reinhardt, Piscator, Chaplin. “The role of the Jews at that time was particularly strong and positive” - positive, he says, now using an American expression again - “in the theater and in the press. Of course that is missing in Germany today. "
And the end of the republic? "The Weimar state was too young," he summarizes the epoch, "too young and too short-lived." And a realization leaves him no peace today. "Politically we are all guilty of the rise of Hitler," says the old man in a firm voice. And he emphasizes: "I say: politically! The criminal guilt, the six million dead Jews - that's another problem. But we are politically guilty of all that we have not done enough to fight Hitler. "The failure of the fractured left, then, more than sixty years ago, has had a lasting effect on his journalistic work.
Schaber's odyssey started in March 1933. He was arrested in Munich - "by mistake". He was released, went to Estonia - "there lived my father-in-law". He found no work, wanted to go to Vienna - landed in Brunn. The Austrian border guards did not allow more emigrants. For five years he prevailed in the Moravian town; When the political situation became more threatening, he managed to get to New York with the help of friends.
Schaber got support, among others from the Bavarian Volkserzähler Oskar Maria Graf, moved to the country in front of the gates of New York, lived in the foreign, finished a book, "an anthology of German democratic thinking from Thomas Munzer to Thomas Mann". 1941 publishes under the title "Thinker versus Junker", five years later in German as "Weinberg der Freiheit". Not available today.
Schaber managed to gain a foothold in the metropolis. 1941 he was hired at British Information Services. German-language radio broadcasts were to be heard. A task that still causes him discomfort today: "Yes, it was a strange feeling." When Germans work for the British government in the USA. He still does not like it. But he stayed there for more than twenty years. Survival strategy of a survivor.
Later he designed television programs for Peter von Zahn, from 1967 to 1972 he was an editor at the New York “Aufbau”. In his “declaration of love” to the little Jewish-German weekly it says: “The 'structure' was like an anchor. He helped to form a community out of us, the bunch of the stranded and isolated. He became a friend and guide in the new country. It was something like home. ”Schaber still has his regular columns in the paper today, he still presents exile literature - the series is called“ pivotal points in exile research ”- he still remembers forgotten companions, and he still dedicates himself to his Hobby, music, and writes articles on composers, performers, new CDs.
Does Germany still touch him today? Is he homesick sometimes? "Oh no," he says, that is really over. He comes to the Federal Republic regularly. And he only saw a real chance to return once, shortly after the end of the war. His old friend Fritz Ulrich, the former editor-in-chief of "Neckar-Echo", had received a license offer for the "Stuttgarter Zeitung". "And if Fritz Ulrich had written to me, come back, we'll both do the 'Stuttgart Newspaper' together, I would certainly have said yes." But Ulrich became Minister of the Interior of Baden-Württemberg, Schaber did not receive another offer from Germany, " and I never wanted to enter a va-banque game ”. So the Swabian Schaber preferred to stay in New York and is not at all sad about it today. "I would probably have been crushed in internal party struggles, in Germany," says the old social democrat, who is now a member of the Democratic Party of America.
And does not he want to put his legs up? Does not he think about his deserved retirement? Reluctantly Schaber looks into the bright courtyard of the brick settlement. Although he is still a bit under attack from all the anniversary activities around "Hausblättle" (sixty years of "construction" last fall), he admits, "that was a lot of small work", exhibitions, lectures, a book was indeed created. But he had to deliver his columns once a week. There's nothing helping.
"But!" And his gaze clears up again, "my Frankfurterin!" And he points to the next door, where wife Gerda again provides for dinner. The golden wedding they have long behind - 1942 was married. But in August is celebrated again. "Then Gerda turns ninety." And he breaks once more the iron American law that says nothing about age.