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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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Literature Circles Rock!

By Sabrina Völz and Jennifer Kühl

Image credit: Tim Geers

As we all know, more and more adults are reading less and less in their free time. That’s not a judgment, just a fact. Budding bookworms might even be considered an endangered species, so a few years ago, I started looking for a different approach to teaching literature to students of all majors and backgrounds. While looking for inspiration, I came across the literature circle, an approach that might just engage even the most skeptical university student who’d rather be writing code for an app or starting his or her own business. While it has become an integral part of the English classroom from elementary school upwards in the United States, this student-centered activity is relatively unknown in Germany. At least it was to me. During my research, I found out that literature circles come in all shapes and sizes and can be structured in many different ways, so there’s no one “right” way of doing it. That very fact appealed to me and led me to explore unchartered territory.

In a nutshell, a literature circle is made up of a small group of individuals who read the same text. Together they explore the text’s content and style while reflecting, asking questions, and sharing feelings, just as any literature circle would do. Sounds simple, right? It is and that’s exactly the point. When I first started adapting the literature circle to fit my university’s curriculum, I didn’t realize how this method would revolutionize my classroom – at least for a day.

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A New National Holiday – A Riddle

By Maria Moss

By all rights, I should be a national holiday in the United States.

I am not as politically incorrect as Columbus Day which Native Americans are not really crazy about (who can blame them?);

I’m not as solemn as Veterans Day, which is more a day of remembrance for those who served in the wars than a day of celebration;

I’m not as general as Presidents’ Day that was originally supposed to only commemorate George Washington’s birthday but now has become the generic holiday for all U.S. presidents;

and I’m certainly not as cruel to the unsuspecting turkey as Thanksgiving Day is (although the tons of food that are consumed on my special day are certainly not vegetarian either).

Despite all of these discouraging facts, I feel hopeful since the people who like and endorse me will soon be in the majority – at least in California. And we all know what happens once it has happened in California, right?

Curious? Read more.

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