Shaped by the trauma of his family’s experience of being uprooted from Germany in the years preceding the Holocaust, Ethan Bensinger created his first film in 2012, Refuge: Stories of the Selfhelp Home.
Refuge explores the experiences, perseverance and resiliency of the last generation of victims of Nazi persecution. These residents of Selfhelp share a history of separation from family, place and of loss, but also of rebirth in America—a story similar to that of Ethan’s family.
Ethan’s Fulda-born mother and Frankfurt-born father found it necessary to leave Germany in the mid-1930s. His family’s experience as refugees, first in Palestine/Israel and then as new immigrants to the United States, led Ethan to become an immigration lawyer. For over 25 years, Ethan served as the Managing Director of the Chicago office of a global immigration law firm. When he retired from law, Ethan became a filmmaker to give a voice to the last eyewitnesses to life as it was before, during and after the Holocaust.
With his latest film–The Righteous Man From Fulda– Ethan widens the lens by using a small town, not unlike most other German towns and villages, to examine how “a common man” reacted within the framework of the Nazi regime. Though Fulda had its share of perpetrators and bystanders, Ethan uses the re-gifting of two tablecloths to his family to explore the deep friendship between his great-uncle, Hugo, and Hugo’s non-Jewish friend, Paul, during the darkest days for the town’s Jewish community.
Ethan has also deeply explored the history of the paternal side of his family, culminating in his co-authorship of the book: The Bensingers–A Two Hundred and Fifty Year History of a German–Jewish Family. Ethan continues to share the history of his family as a speaker for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and with students in Germany.
Growing up in Bad Salzschlirf, Anja Listmann came into contact with the Jewish history of her home community as a child through stories told by her grandmother.
Her research of the Jewish history in Bad Salzschlirf was published in 2000 under the title “Beinahe vergessen–Juedisches Leben in Bad Salzschlirf.” In this book Listmann describes in detail the individual biographies of the families, some of whom fled Germany, but most of whom were murdered.
Through her research, she first made contact in 1999 with members of families who fled and who at the time had little or no knowledge of the fate of their loved ones. Driven by these blank spots in the family histories of former Jewish residents, she devoted her free time to search for information. Over the decades, this resulted in numerous contacts with first-and second-generation survivors and a family tree of more than 15,000 names of Jewish families in Fulda that dates back to the 14th century.
Since 2011, Listmann has led the project “Jewish Life in Fulda,” which enables young people to engage intensively with Fulda’s Jewish history and the fates of Fulda’s persecuted and murdered citizens. In excursions with students to the Auschwitz memorial, she introduces these young people to the incomprehensible atrocities of the Shoah and focuses on the individual fates of men, women, young people and children from Fulda.
As the representative for Jewish life in Fulda since 2021, Anja Listmann is the contact person for all questions concerning the Jewish heritage of the City of Fulda as well as the primary resource for descendants of former Fulda families who would like to learn more about their ancestors.
Listmann has published portions of her research on the website https://juden-in-fulda.org/. This is constantly being updated and can serve as a sound knowledge base for all those who would like to delve deeper into Fulda’s Jewish history.
Felix Rudolph-von Niebelschütz
Felix Rudolph-von Niebelschütz, born in 1979, is a media educator and filmmaker. He grew up in a small town in the Allgäu region in southern Germany. In 2000, he began studying social pedagogy in Fulda, focusing on media education with children and adolescents. Creating short films with school classes and youth groups formed the core of his work. Alongside his educational work, he began producing films, such as documentaries about union youth action days. After completing his studies, he co-founded the company “filmreflex” in 2006 with three colleagues, thereby professionalizing his work as a media educator and filmmaker. In the following years, they produced numerous promotional films, educational films, and documentaries. His main areas of focus are in education and social work. He lives with his wife and two children in Fulda.