Say ‘frankfurt’ to a Kiwi and they will probably envision a sausage. Or the more culturally informed may hark back to Dr Frank N. Furter and a former prime minister’s association with that pinnacle of the dramatist’s art, The Rocky horror show.
But perhaps that will all change now that New Zealand is guest of honour at the world-renowned Frankfut Book Fair in 2012. Writers, publishers and other cultural emissaries are representing our printed output and other cultural achievements over there this October.
Te Ara, New Zealand’s online encyclopedia, also celebrates the country’s links with the German-speaking world through its coverage of German immigration to New Zealand and its influence in many spheres.
Te Ara’s biographical section includes some 37 individuals (see the list at the foot of these search results) from the nations that were Austria, Bohemia and Germany, as well as some from other parts of German-speaking Europe. Only one of them was a native Frankfurter: a little-known figure in New Zealand today, but one of a family of prominent musicians of the time, the family of Aloys Schmitt, who is still remembered in musicological circles. Carl Gustav Schmitt emigrated to Auckland in 1859, where he founded the local choral society and taught music at the university.
His sister was the first wife of prominent geologist and explorer Julius von Haast, one of the German-speaking men who gave some of the South Island’s mountain peaks German names.
Some, like Schmitt and Haast, stayed; some, like Ferdinand Hochstetter, Karl Popper and Ernst Plischke, didn’t. Some were happy, some were not. Some are remembered, some forgotten. Perhaps New Zealand’s prominence at Frankfurt this year, and the events surrounding this, will prompt an increased interest in the connections. There are some fascinating stories.