Saturday, June 26, 2010


Dear Readers,

I think that it's time we had a talk.
This may come as a shock, so if you need to take a second to sit down and prepare yourself, now would be a good time. (uh...just in case you are one of those people who casually browse through blogs while standing?)

Alright, here goes: Not all blog posts are happy. Or funny. Or clever.
I know this seems to be the overwhelming trend of every single blog on the market, the tendency to be at least one of these, but, just for today, this is going to be a serious post. What can you do? I'm a rebel.
Whoo. I'm so glad we had that talk.

So, there are numerous reasons for this sudden change in tone.
#1. The U.S. lost out of the world cup last week. To those non-soccer fans out there this may not seem like the worst thing ever. But seriously. It's the worst thing ever.
#2. My official German dictionary, Nick Kramer, has officially left the country. (note the double use of variations on the word "official." this is pretty serious.) He had to head back to the states earlier than the rest of us to work. (I always feel so well-traveled and classy when I call it "the states," as if this summer WASN'T the first time I have ever left America) So, the real problem with this is, I still am far from fluent in German and have been abandoned to translate these peoples strange ramblings on my own. A task I don't really have high hopes about, seeing as how a few weeks ago I asked my host-mom if I could use their "cake" instead of their "kitchen." (it's not my fault the two words are so similar in Deutsch. You need to work that one out yourself Germany. Besides, I really wouldn't have minded using their cake, should they be so willing.) Anyways, Americans, if you happen to see this kid wandering around, tell him I am not pleased:

#3. Okay, okay. So this is the actual serious part of the post. I went to Sachsenhausen concentration camp this weekend and had a pretty great experience with what I learned there.

It was a painful experience, but a necessary one.

One of the greatest things I've learned here in Berlin is the power of first-hand experience. I have spent over 3 years of my life learning the German language but it wasn't until I came to this country, until I met the people and felt a desire to know them, to question them and learn from them, that the language became relevant. Sachsenhausen was a similar experience. I remember classes in middle school, high school, even elementary school where we learned about the Holocaust. I have read books, seen pictures, watched movies. I know all the facts. But it wasn't until I walked through their gate, until I stood on their thresholds and saw the distant trees between the barred windows that it felt real to me. And even then, standing at the scene of a thousand murders, I didn't understand it.

In 2003 a construction worker found a glass bottle at the site of the camp. Inside there was a note. "When will I see my family again? When will I see my love again?" it said. "But I am alive. I am perservering."

I've been thinking today about language.

I have spent the last two months attempting to assimilate the German language into my life.
And then I come to Sachsenhausen, and for all the words I know, English or German, there is nothing to say. I could learn a thousand languages and never be able to understand what happened there. I keep going back to the words behind it all. How at some point, those people who gave the orders for it all to happen, Hitler himself even, learned those words for the first time. I think about the mothers who taught them the words. If they could have known what their children would do with them, the way they would form them into sentences and orders, they way they would form them into murder, would they have ever taught them to speak?

There is a language to hate and it is a godless language.
And it was written all over the grounds at Sachsenhausen. Even if the sun is shining, even if they grow a million flowers to cover every inch of the never-ending camp.

The entrance gate to the camp says "Arbeit macht frei," which translates to mean "Work makes you free."
The sleeping room.

The wash room.

I don't want to put too many pictures up, or even say too much.
Words are for the explainable.
And this is something I will have to wait a long, long time to understand.

All I know is my prayers the past few nights have been for the living,
may we learn the lessons of the dead.



  1. katie,

    you're profound you make me think and you make me cry. i am grateful and appreciative of the thoughts you shared with me in this post. the eye opening you made me feel. dear girl. you will change the world with your mind. your fervor and your knowledge. your ability to make a person feel with words. words alone. language.

    i don't know what to say.
    i just don't.

    but thank you.
    and what an awe shocking and revealing moment.
    to see what you saw.
    feel what you felt.
    and share what you shared.

    love tif.

  2. i dont want to overload you with too many comments--since i know you memorize them--but i thought this was a good entry! i like when you are serious and bring up good thoughts and perspectives. there are a lot of entertainers but there are few who establish genuine, original,profound, and mind-nourishing thought. also glad to finally see some pictures of me. did it really have to require me leaving though to get you to put a picture up of me?! oh well, keep up the growth as a writer! Nicholas J