The Herald erhält bizarre Brief auf Deutsch

Reporter Joshua Sterling was perplexed by a letter sent to the newspaper from Germany. The 120-page document was written in German, and appeared to proclaim a battle between German officials and the Church of Scientology. The strangest aspect of the letter is likely the fact that the untranslated tome was mailed to news agencies across the U.S., with sporadic and old dates on the cover letters.

jsterling@titusvilleherald.com

Typically, mail that comes into The Herald office and finds its way to my desk ranges from letters to the editor to… well, pretty much just letters to the editor — which only need typeset for publishing.

Last week, I came into the office to start my evening shift and found something that seemed anything but typical. Peculiar would be more appropriate.

A manila envelope, with a cardboard backside, sat on my desk calendar.

The Herald's address appeared in the usual spot — typed on an address sticker — but the return address seemed a bit out of this newspaper's coverage range: Ellerndamm 11, 21423 Winsen, Deutschland.

My initial thought was, what strange junk mail is this? I assumed the strangeness would end there.

Then, I opened it.

The top cover letter was dated Jan. 30, 2008.

I was instantly satisfied that I'd just discovered evidence that time travel was not only possible, but that someone had used it to contact The Herald.

Then, I noticed that the letter was so honestly from Germany that nothing but The Herald's address was in English.

And, of course, the word "Scientology," which was typed in all caps throughout the 120-page document.

Yes, 120 pages of German language, front and back, single spaced, with no paragraph breaks.

Fun.

Behind the top cover letter was a second cover letter — this one addressed to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, dated March 29, 1999.

The time traveling letter has had many stops, apparently.

To satisfy my journalistic curiosity, I did what any journalist throughout the history of newspapers would do.

I used Google Translate to decipher a few lines.

The cover letter stated:

"Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sending you a few documents and facts about the Church of Scientology and other organizations to withhold or may be and could be of interest."

Yes, the Church of Scientology.

Since I was already in the mood for science fiction, following the logic that the letter time traveled to my desk, I was riveted.

What great news about Titusville's sci-fi connection to Germany does L. Ron Hubbard have up his sleeve this time?

After some more thorough Googlejournalism, it became apparent that the letter's writer, Karsten Sasse, is imploring the United Nations to… well, it's all German to me.

But, from the opening lines of the actual 120-page tome, it's evident that Sasse is not happy with the treatment of Scientologists (not to be confused with scientists) in Deutschland.

The Google translations of the first few sentences are a bit choppy, but here they are:

"I you liked about the states in Germany, the discrimination, destruction of livelihoods of Scientologists and peeping stories against the Scientology Church and Scientologists in Germany, by government officials, authorities, politicians, who are also still function exchanger of the two German official churches and other stakeholders at the same time, parties make the press, radio, television and other stakeholders attention.

"Such a comprehensive discrimination and destruction of a small religious-ideological minority in the history of the liberal democratic state is without precedent.

"Here PUBLIC funds or tax money for goods and discrimination campaigns are used against German State Burger, the only members are simply a religious community, which are clearly parallels to the Hitler era."

I didn't know Germany had a "State Burger," but I'm very glad they do. I wish we did. Do we? Now I'm sidetracked.

Why was this letter addressed to the U.N. in 1999 and to The Herald in 2008?

Then, on Wednesday, while speaking with our publisher, I noticed the very same envelope on his desk — this one addressed to The Tionesta Forest Press, also owned by our publisher.

This Scientology guy has some weird time travel business with the Oil Region.

After bringing this strangeness to the publisher's attention, he called The Corry Journal. They, too, received the letter.

So, I decided to dig deeper (thanks, Google).

This thing was sent everywhere (approximately), and spans several years.

The Jamestown Sun, in Jamestown, N.D., received the exact same packet, and published a story, written by Logan C. Adams, on Sept. 21, 2010. The date on their cover letter was Feb. 20, 2007.

The Cadiz Record, covering Cadiz, Ky., received an identical document, and staffer Franklin Clark published a story about it on Sept. 28, 2011.

The LaGrange Standard and News, of LaGrange, Ind., received their identical bizarre German mail and published a story, written by Guy Thompson, on Nov. 19, 2011.

The document was also received by The Sun Chronicle, covering Attleboro, North Attleboro, Mass.

Sun Chronicle staffer Mike Kirby published a story on June 23, 2013.

The Daily Journal, of Park Hills, Mo., published a story written by Pat Pratt, Oct. 19, 2013.

The most recent news story I could find on the letter was published just a month ago, on Oct. 12, by the Kinston Free Press, in Kinston, N.C., written by staff reporter Wes Wolfe.

Every publication appeared to have fun with the oddity, with headlines reading, "From the pile: Anyone speak German?" to "We've got (weird) mail."

My favorite, however, was the story published by the Daily Journal, which read, "Letter to Daily Journal Editorial from Germany is, uh, strange."

All seem to be in agreement that it is a bit of a stretch of hope to send an unknowable number of letters across the entire United States to newspapers large and small, in German, and expect… who knows what?

However, the closing line of the letter may shed a little light on the intent.

"Scientology," Sasse writes, "is a game where everyone wins. So, we help to win the world."

Another plausible end to this story comes in the form of a quote from the founder of the Church of Scientology and acclaimed science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, who once said, "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion."

How much did this cost Sasse?

Translation of the headline: The Herald receives bizarre letter in German

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