Staying Put in New Orleans In New Orleans, an encounter with a lawyer whose parents barely escaped Germany before the Holocaust offers insight on why it's hard "to leave the place you've called home."

Staying Put in New Orleans

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


One of the best things about being a reporter is learning something new with every story. Sometimes, the things you learn have nothing to do with the story you're working on as NPR's Ari Shapiro discovered on a recent trip to New Orleans.

Here's a page from his Reporter's Notebook.

ARI SHAPIRO: For Jewish kids growing up in America, Holocaust education is a fact of life. And there comes a certain plateau, or there it did for me anyway, where I thought I pretty much knew everything I was going to learn about the Holocaust. And if I was going to have any kind of a revelation, I certainly didn't expect it to be in New Orleans.

Ms. MARTHA SCHNABEL (Lawyer, New Orleans): Hi. I'm Martha Schnabel and I am a lawyer in New Orleans. I've been a lawyer here for about 25 years.

SHAPIRO: She was head of the Louisiana Bar Association for a year after Katrina. It seems like almost every interview in New Orleans eventually turns to the question of why people have decided to stay. This one did, too.

Martha told me she thinks about her teenage children and whether they have a future in New Orleans. And when I asked why she hasn't relocated her family, she said, it's so hard to think about leaving your home.

Ms. SCHNABEL: I'm a child of folks who left Germany as Jews shortly before World War II, actually in 1939. And the decision to leave was postponed by my family for so long. So they got out just before the invasion of Poland.

SHAPIRO: She told me she often criticized her parents' decision not to leave earlier.

Ms. SCHNABEL: You know, historically, thinking back on it, and so many of the other family members who died, this is probably a terrible analogy. But I can understand it now.

SHAPIRO: I know the quickest way to turn people off is by comparing anything to the Holocaust. But I thought this was actually a really good analogy.

Ms. SCHNABEL: One considers all kinds of options but to make the actual choice is to leave a place that you have called home for a very, very long time is difficult. Your emotional ties, your personal ties, your professional ties are all in this place, and you love it. I love living here, just as I'm sure my father's family loved living in Hamburg.

SHAPIRO: Years of Holocaust classes in Sunday school and I never understood why so many Jews in Europe who could have left before World War II didn't, even when the writing was on the wall.

To me, Hamburg, Warsaw and Berlin are all just cities, like New Orleans. To Martha Schnabel, New Orleans is home.

SIMON: NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.