Sandra Hüller, Klaus Maria Brandauer and now Lina Beckmann: One of Germany’s most important acting awards is presented at Bergstraße every year. The foundations for the award were laid by the City of Bensheim, the German Academy for the Performing Arts, film and theatre critic Wilhelm Ringelband—and by the story about a unique friendship.
Was it love? Berthold Mäurer, former head of the cultural affairs office of the City of Bensheim, smiles when you ask him this. He slides two letters across the table, as if offering you an answer. One is from the year 1945, the other from 1952—both of them written by Wilhelm Ringelband and both of them addressed to Gertrud Eysoldt. And yet, with very different tones: “Dear Madam!” is the form of address he chose for the first letter to Berlin to the famous theatre actress, written in the last days of the war. Seven years later he called her “You, my love and dear one.” Was Wilhelm Ringelband in love with Gertrud Eysoldt?
This question doesn’t matter so much for those of us today who know about the significance the Gertrud-Eysoldt-Ring has, because its meaning is this: The award is awarded to the most important German actors and actresses [D1] by the City’s Ringelband Foundation and the German Academy for the Performing Arts every year. It was presented to Sandra Hüller, Corinna Harfouch and Klaus Maria Brandauer, among others, for their outstanding performances on stage. However, the award would probably never have existed without the special ties between Gertrud Eysoldt and Wilhelm Ringelband. And certainly not here in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region.
Wilhelm Ringelband lived in Bensheim from 1944 to 1981. “But he used to feel rather reserved towards the town,” says Berthold Mäurer, who was one of the organizers behind the introduction of the Eysoldt-Ring award in 1986 after Ringelband had died. The journalist Ringelband laid down in his 19-page will that three million German marks should be granted to the City of Frankfurt as prioritised recipient, alternatively to the City of Munich or finally to the City of Bensheim. The first two recipients graciously refused the gift because of the extremely stringent conditions he imposed on the gift. His long-standing place of residence located at Bergstraße stepped in and in the end created an award that would be reminiscent of the actress Gertrud Eysoldt, who was so much admired by Wilhelm Ringelband. “Yes, maybe there was a kind of love between them,” Berthold Mäurer suspects—but certainly only of a platonic kind, because the critic, who was 50 years younger, and the actress never actually met.