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Radio IQ launches 'Memory Wars' podcast

Mallory Noe-Payne and Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams
Mallory Noe-Payne
Podcast co-hosts Mallory Noe-Payne and Michael Paul Williams

Reporter Mallory Noe-Payne and Radio IQ have launched a new podcast.

‘Memory Wars’ is the result of her spending years covering events in Virginia with ties to the region’s scarred past, like the 2017 Unite the Right rally, and protests over Confederate monuments.

Mallory also spent 2021 in Germany, asking residents how they’ve confronted their country’s dark history, and how the US could learn from it.

Joined by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the two will discuss how Virginia, and the US, can reconcile with its racist past and learn from what’s happened in Germany.

“The challenges we face in America we face are not unique to the United States, and I think it’s really important we look outside our border for lessons,” Noe-Payne said.

A Virginia Tech graduate, she was advised by the International Studies Department about the opportunity to work in Germany via a Fulbright Grant.

“So I started thinking about what it is that we could learn from that country, and the idea, honestly, just really smacked me over the head. I had heard people say to me – in the course of my reporting about Confederate monuments – you know, Germany doesn’t have statues of Hitler.”

Williams learned about the podcast on social media, saying the analogy between Germany and the Confederate states of American has always been there.

“When Mallory later brought the idea of podcast to me as a means of connecting the dots, I was absolutely thrilled,” he said. “I think we as Americans, in general, are just way too myopic. It fascinates me that we were willing to impose on them certain things that we weren’t willing to do ourselves.”

Noe-Payne said her goal for Episode one of the podcast was to look at Germany immediately after World War II, and comparing ‘the two Reconstructions.”

The first includes three generations of one family in Munich, women who range in age from 11 to 83. They’re Catholic, not Jewish, so they weren’t persecuted by the Nazis. The oldest, Hildegarde, was 6 years old when World War II ended.

“So during the reign of Hitler, parents didn’t talk about anything with their kids because they were afraid that if they said something negative and the kids would tell it to some neighbors they would have to face the consequences, so they were used to not talking about politics with the kids and after the war people didn’t say anything either,” she said.

Hildegarde’s daughter, Claudia, who’s 50, said she remembered hearing about the Holocaust in school, and told Noe-Payne she wasn’t really proud to be German “because we still feel all that guilt.” And 11-year old Magdalena said she is proud to be German, because she has friends and classmates who are refugees.

“It was really wild and revealing to see the changes over time,” said Noe-Payne, “It was immediately glaring how long this process takes – how it doesn’t happen overnight. And that’s really what I walked away with.”

First arriving in Germany in January of 2021, she said much of the country was still shut down due to the pandemic. That gave Noe-Payne time to read, teach a class over Zoom, and find people willing to talk with her.

Williams calls the 5-episode podcast ‘layered’ and ‘textured’, touching on a number of areas he hadn’t thought of.

“Germany has its reunification of East and West. (The US) had a physical and technical reunification after the Civil War, but I’m not sure it ever truly took between North and South. We are still fraught with those competing visions today,” he said. “If we can look at this American problem through the German lens, maybe we can help come up with some solutions.”

The prologue and first episode of "Memory Wars" are now available wherever you get your podcasts.