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Concordia Language Villages: German ambassador visit highlights Waldsee celebration

Klaus Scharioth, the German ambassador to the United States, writes "Freedom without walls; share the joy" upon a model of the Berlin wall during the 50th anniversary celebration of Waldsee, the German village at Concordia Language Villages. The celebration of Waldsee's birthday, which also was the celebration of CLV's 50th anniversary, included the tearing down of the. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Hundreds of former campers and counselors joined officials from throughout the world Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Waldsee, the German village at Concordia Language Villages.

Waldsee's 50th birthday also serves as the anniversary for CLV, which began in 1961 when Concordia College rented Luther Crest Bible Camp, north of Alexandria, for its inaugural two-week German camp.

Camp Waldsee, as it was called, had 72 campers aged 9-12 its first year. The idea came from Gerhard Haukebo, a Concordia College faculty member, who wanted children to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in another language and cultural.

"We're celebrating the 50th summer that kids have come to the northwoods of Minnesota to learn German," said Dan Hamilton, the dean of Waldsee. "It's a big celebration, not just for the German village, but the whole program."

Hamilton led a presentation outside of BioHaus, the first certified Passive House in North America. BioHaus, which is part of Waldsee, utilizes 10 percent of the energy typically used in a building.

Haukebo himself attended the presentation and was given a standing ovation from the audience.

Several individuals spoke during the presentation, which was highlighted by an address by Klaus Scharioth, Germany's ambassador to the United States. It was his second visit to CLV in three years; he also came in 2007 to see the BioHaus.

"I'm deeply impressed with what you're doing here and how you're doing it," he said of Waldsee and CLV.

He applauded actions that get young people immersed in other languages and cultures.

"And I'm not unhappy you picked German," he said, drawing laughs.

Scharioth applauded the work that gets people, particularly, young adults immersed in languages.

"Total immersion is not only language," he said. "Total immersion is also culture. Total immersion is also the trends in a country."

And for that reason, he especially applauded the development of BioHaus.

"Germans are almost crazy about their environment," he said, noting that the country is No. 1 in solar energy and efficiency and No. 3 in wind energy.

"Waldsee's BioHaus gives you the impression of what Germany in 2010 is like," he said.

He also professed the importance of having people learn a second, preferably third, language.

"I think it really does broaden horizons," he said.

Unsurprisingly, he also advocated for learning German, noting that as another Germanic language, German and English are similar.

He noted that many Germans were respected scientists, psychologists and philosophers.

Fourteen million people are learning German and 100million are native German speakers, he said.

"German is the key to Europe," he said, noting that the language is "by far, the most spoken language" in the continent.

One of the many components to Waldsee's celebration was the tearing down of a wall.

But this wall, modeled after the Berlin wall, was covered with graffiti meant to represent the walls that still divide humanity today: hate, poverty, prejudice, etc.

Scharioth, in leading up to that event, recalled the real tearing down of the Berlin wall on Nov. 9, 1989.

It was the result of a peaceful revolution, he said, the first successful peaceful revolution of the German people.

Scharioth took his turn, too, to write on the wall: "Freedom without walls; share the joy."

The celebration also included the naming of Waldsee as one a Peace Site.

CLV has a whole has been of about 1,000 Peace Sites recognized by Minneapolis-based World Citizen Inc., a nonprofit organization.

But on the 50th anniversary of Waldsee, it, too, became a designated peace site.