Sunday, March 9, 2014

How can you know so much, and yet so little?

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

I knew everything about this war. Except, I knew nothing. And, it was not until I read this book that WWII became real. Zusak gave me insight into a war I had never studied. For the first time, I did not see numbers, I saw people. I felt wounds that will never close, and I saw scars I had never seen. There are no victors in war. Everybody loses. 

War is ugly:'(

Books. We read them. They pass time. They entertain us. Enlighten us. At times, they anger us. They too may stifle us. One thing is sure…they all teach us something. Stories allow us to know people who never lived, and those we will never meet. They take us to places that have never been seen. They let us experience emotions we may never otherwise feel.

I have read a great deal about WWII. I may have even called myself a bit of an expert. I know all the numbers. I can give you dates. For instance, World War II was the most destructive conflict in history. It cost more money, damaged more property, killed more people, and caused more far-reaching changes than any other war in history. Russia lost more men than any other country, almost 21 million soldiers.  The US lost the most men in the Battle of the Bulge.  55 million men people died in WWII, half of those women and children.  One in four men that served on U-boats never came home.  Normandy beach was stormed on June 6, 1944.   Stalingrad was the beginning of the end.  The US was prepared to drop a third bomb. The target was Tokyo.  The US used the Navajo language as their secret code and the Japanese never cracked it.  Auschwitz was the only place Jews were tattooed with a prison number. 6 million Jews were slaughtered. 

The story is one that profoundly touched my heart. 

A tale narrated by death, and brilliant it its own regard is also a tale of war, and the impact it has on those that survive. Or the victors, as we like to call them.  It is raw. It is gut wrenching.  If it does not change you, I dare say you did not read the words. 

Death speaks of his experience and says this, “It’s the leftover humans. The survivors. They’re the ones I can’t stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprises. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs. Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It’s the story of one of those perpetual survivors –an expert at being left behind.”

I bought a book of WWII photos in Salem, Mass in 10th grade, and this was in it.  It's one of the first pictures I saw that really made me want to take pictures.
That is the powerful of language. Books. The imagery is fantastic.

You will glimpse the life of a German. 

I lived in Germany. I lived on Himmel Strasse, literally.  I often describe Germans as cold, stoic, and a somber people.  Let me explain.  I do not use those terms harshly.  The Germans that survived were the leftover humans.  Families destroyed.  Innocence lost.  Children forced to survive in a world void of emotion.  People afraid to love.  My heart aches for that country. Hitler destroyed people.  He did not just kill the Jews. He crippled generations.  I saw it.  I felt it.  They are still healing.  It will take generations.  They are allowed to be cold.  They get permission to be somber.  They have earned it. 

Read it. 

Favorite quotes from the book:

-A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY-Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.

-So much good, so much evil. Just add water.

-Two weeks to change the world, fourteen days to destroy it.

-Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.

-He collected her punches as if they were presents… and more important, he was able to hold her down.
-Five hundred souls. I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I'd throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.

-“When death captures me,” the boy vowed, "he will feel my fist in his face."

-Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night.

-To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible.

-Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?”

-[Death speaking of men in war]
 I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me.

-Don’t make me happy. Please, don’t fill me up and let me think that something good can come of any of this.

-It was raining on Himmel Street when the world ended for Liesel Meminger.

-The sky was dripping. Like a tap that a child has tried its hardest to turn off but hasn’t quite managed.

-Can you spell Arschloch for me?

-They breathed. German and Jewish lungs.

-Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me.

-In the basement of 33 Himmel Street, Max Vandenburg could feel the fists of an entire nation.

-What great malice there could be in allowing something to live?

-Snowflakes of ash fell so lovingly you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only, they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.

-There must be a place in heaven for those who have been where I have been.

-The world did not deserve such a river.

-The paper landed on the table, but the news was stapled to his chest. A tattoo.

-On the breast pocket of the robe sat an embroidered swastika. Propaganda even reached the bathroom.

-The poor... they ignore the reality that a new version of the same old problem will be waiting— the relative you cringe to kiss.

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