Lessons not Learned

By Markus Ziener

There is a wonderful spot west of the city of Frankfurt in Germany. It’s in an area well known for its excellent white wine, its charming hilly landscape, and its welcoming people. It’s called The Rheingau. Once you make your way up a hill from Rüdesheim, maybe comfortably using the cable car, a fantastic view over the river Rhine opens up. From there, the Niederwald landscape park, you can see for miles to the West, overlooking the tranquil Rhine valley and even have the illusion that you actually see France.

“Germania” | photo credit: Markus Ziener

When I was there not long ago my daughter asked me about the statue named Germania that is hovering over the platform where people are gathering for the view. The 34-foot figure is called Germania. In her right hand the lady holds the emperor’s recovered crown; in her other she displays the Imperial Sword. I explained that the monument’s message was not a peaceful one. Only a few years before the inauguration of the statue in 1883, Prussia had just fought another war with France, uniting the German principals for the first time into a single nation state. The Germania was nothing else but a warning to the French: Stay where you are, don’t even think about coming here. This is ours.

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Transgenerational Transmission of Holocaust Memories and Survival: An Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Ethan Bensinger (Part II)

By Sabrina Völz

Ethan Bensinger speaking to a group of students in an upper-secondary school in Lüneburg, Germany. | Photo credit: Sabrina Völz

The following is the second part of an interview with film director Ethan Bensinger in which he answers questions about the challenges of making his prize-winning Holocaust documentary, REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home,  educational projects, and fighting anti-Semitism today.

 

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Transgenerational Transmission of Holocaust Memories and Survival: An Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Ethan Bensinger (Part I)

By Sabrina Völz

Ethan Bensinger (middle) during a 2015 podium discussion with Holocaust scholar Professor Sven Kramer of Leuphana University (left) and Dr. Jens-Christian Wagner, Director of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation. | Photo credit: Christopher Rieckmann

When I first invited film director Ethan Bensinger to come to Leuphana University Lüneburg, I knew that 2015 would be a special year for Holocaust commemoration. It marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps all over Europe, among them Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. In light of the human rights violations around the globe and the all-too-familiar topic of genocide, Ethan Bensinger’s one-hour documentary, REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home (2012), is as timely as ever. This important documentary weaves together expert commentary, archive material, and the memories of six residents of the Selfhelp Home in Chicago, which was founded to give shelter and a loving environment to those fleeing persecution. These last generations of eyewitnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust recall the experience of Central European Jews before, during, and after “The Final Solution.” They tell of events (The Night of Broken Glass, Kindertransport), places of terror and genocide (Theresienstadt and Auschwitz concentration camps), spaces of refuge (Shanghai ghetto, Selfhelp Home) as well as share personal insights about loving families, survival, tearful reunions, and healing.

In the first installment of this two-part interview, Ethan Bensinger speaks candidly about his heritage, the relationship of the Holocaust to his hybrid identity as well as his motivation for making a documentary about the Selfhelp Home.

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AWP: In Love with Words, at a Loss for Words

By Daria Radler

awp

Writers are a special breed. Constantly shifting through their perception of the environment with detailed attention, they store and analyze any piece of information on the endless shelves of their flourishing mind. Everything is of value. The way the grumpy barista was holding the pen as he scribbled their name on their cup of take-away coffee; the momentary silence before a daughter answered her mother, assuring her that she would be home in time for dinner; the way he brushed her cheeks ever so slightly, tracing the outline of her cheekbone with the tip of his thumb as they sat on the park bench next to each other, their eyes drinking in each others’ presence.

Writers are like magicians. They turn to the world for inspiration to create a universe of their own, using a handful of words to later engage their readers. They feed the pages of a satirical play, a lost romance, or a spectacular crime. I’ve always found writers fascinating.

When I came to America as an exchange student in the spring of 2015, I was burning with curiosity but rather shy of expectations. Little did I know that the U.S. would be my literary haven.  Read more »

Hiking in the Anthropocene

By Michaela Keck

Cobalt Lake | Photo credit: Michaela Keck

This past fall, my travels and work obligations had me fly into Calgary. I took the opportunity to spend five additional days in spots I consider breathtakingly beautiful: Waterton and Glacier National Park. I crossed over the Canadian border and into Montana on a late afternoon in September and drove past herds of bison toward the village of St. Mary just as the last rays of the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the mountain ranges that rise so abruptly from the grassy plains.

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