Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy
cathy_edgett

Wide Awake -



I am wide awake tonight.  I continued cooking and so now I am with Thomas Merton.

Here are some words of his from "Auschwitz, a Family Camp," circa 1967.

    "Language itself has fallen victim to total war, genocide, and systematic tyranny in our time.  In destroying human beings, and human values, on a mass scale, the Gestapo also subjected the German language to violence and crude perversion.

     .... The language of Auschwitz is one of the vulnerable spots through which we get a clear view of the demonic.

    Gestapo double-talk encircles reality as a doughnut encircles its hole. "Special treatment," "special housing." We need no more than one lesson, and we gain the intuition which identifies the hole, the void of death, in the heart of the expression. When the circumlocution becomes a little more insistent ("recovery camps for the tired") it brings with it suggestions of awful lassitude, infinite hopelessness, as if meaning had now been abolished forever and we were definitely at the mercy of the absurd.

     "Disinfectants,"  "materials for resettlement of Jews," "Ovaltine substitute from Swiss Red Cross" - all references to Zyklon B!  When a deadly poison gas is referred to as a soothing restorative, a quasi-medicine to put babies to sleep, one senses behind the phrase a deep hatred of life itself. The key to Auschwitz language is its pathological joy in death.  This turns out to be key to all officialese.  All of it is the celebration of boredom, of routine, of deadness, of organized futility.  Auschwitz just carried the whole thing to its logical extreme, with a kind of heavy lilt in its mockery, its oafish love of death.

     "Work makes free" - the sign over the gate of Auschwitz - tells, with grim satisfaction, the awful literal truth: "Here we work people to death." And behind it the dreadful metaphysical admission: "For us there is only one freedom, death."

    "To the Bath," said the sign pointing to the gas chambers.  (You will be purified of that dirty thing, your life!)  And as a matter of fact the gas chambers and crematories were kept spotlessly clean.  "Nothing was left of them (the victims), not even a speck of dust on the armatures."

    "Assigned to harvest duty" - this, in the record of an SS man, meant he had been posted to Auschwitz.  The double meaning of  "harvest" was doubtless not random.  It has an apocalyptic ring."

          Thomas Merton



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