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New play about the Gestapo based on real family history

Posted on 30/07/2013

Felix Ganz (left) with Adam Ganz's father, Peter

As Royal Holloway lecturer Adam Ganz researched his family history, the notes he discovered from minutes of Gestapo meetings inspired him to write a new play, due to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this week. 

The Gestapo Minutes, set in the German city of Mainz in the summer of 1945, tells the story of an imagined encounter between Michel Oppenheim and Gestapo officer Gerhard Schwörer. In real life Oppenheim survived the war after the Nazis made him head of the Jewish community in Mainz. The play sees Schwörer begging Oppenheim for a reference after the war, in order to save him from a US war crimes trial and execution.

Adam, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Media Arts, used research from uncovering his great-grandfather’s fate to make the play factually accurate and to give the audience a real sense of what people were subjected to at that time.  

“Before the Nazis rose to power, my great-grandfather Felix Ganz was a businessman in Mainz”, said Adam. “The family business was founded in 1830 with a department store and he traded carpets and other goods from the Middle East. Felix also had an impressive collection of oriental art and a substantial library.

“His children managed to escape the Nazis, with his son and grandson - my father - coming to England. But Felix himself, aged in his 70s, stayed. He was forced to leave his house and gradually all his belongings were taken from him before he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in 1944.

“In these extraordinary documents that I discovered in Mainz, I learned what happened to my great-grandfather, including how his art collection, his clothes and gramophone records were stolen by the Gestapo and how he was imprisoned for not wearing the Yellow Star, a badge that the Jews were forced to wear as a means of identification.

“Finding the details of his treatment by the Gestapo, no doubt indicative of many peoples’ fate, led me to consider the how this would play out in the chaos of post-war Germany. With the tables turned and the horrors still so fresh, would those affected take revenge?”  

The Gestapo Minutes will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on Wednesday 31 July. To find out more, click here.



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