My main reason for being in Berlin this past week has been to work on some new research relating to genocide, memory, and place. The roots of the project are in my own questions about the power of places like concentration camp sites–the scenes of so much suffering, death, and evil–and in my search for richer language with which to describe and assess genocide in the classroom, for students who are responding intellectually, but also morally and emotionally, to what they’re learning.
So off I went to the site of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, along with my dear wife Colleen, who periodically pays a price for being married to a historian of Nazism and genocide. In terms of my project on “Evil Places as Sacred Spaces,” what I’m trying to understand is the layers of meaning at a place like Sachsenhausen, through an understanding of the events, landscape, ruins, memories, memorials, rituals, emotions, and the ways people make and/or consider the space to be sacred in some way or other.
During our visit on Friday, I took all kinds of field notes about the impressions the camp made on me, Continue reading