Monday, June 4, 2012

One Big Ball of Depressing

Today, after listening to presentations on various Holocaust memorials and giving my own, the subject moved slightly to the topic of Holocaust literature. We looked at two writers, Paul Celan and Wolfgang Borchert. The former, a poet whose parents were killed in an extermination camp, wrote a particularly well known poem called Todesfuge or Death Fuge. It was incredibly difficult to make sense of, in part because of the language barrier and in part because it uses somewhat surreal language like "black milk of daybreak." However, the rhythm and imagery it evokes is powerful stuff.

Borchert, who was born in 1921 and died 1947, apparently helped to reshape the writing style after the war. Earlier, it was common to use long, opulent sentences. With piles of ash and dead bodies lying everywhere, opulence doesn't really fit. Instead, Borchert uses direct and compact sentences in his works. The short story we read from him was so sweet and simple and complicated that I would give it a hug if that were possible.

After class, I attended a presentation on the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. My day has been one big ball of depressing. Even so, I've found it fascinating. I had not known before that the families of the SS officers lived with them in houses built around the concentration camps. I was equally unaware of just how much thought went into the psychological terror aspect of the camps. That wasn't a byproduct of what was going on. They were intentionally designed to create a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in the prisoners.

Maybe tomorrow will have more upbeat subject matter...

(p.s. It's getting harder to remember how to write properly in English. If my grammatical structure stops making sense, please tell me so I can fix it.)

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