Saturday 17 May 2014

Banned Books in Nazi Germany

The German girls in our story would have been deprived of some reading material. Authors who were banned include such well-known figures as Bertolt Brecht, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Engels, Ernest Hemmingway, Erich Kästner, Franz Kafka, Helen Keller, André Malraux, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx Rudolf Steiner, and H.G. Wells amongst many, many others.
Librarians were given a list of criteria for deciding which books should be destroyed: 

a) All writings that ridicule and belittle the state and its institutions, or that attack or question its moral foundation.
b) All writings that attack or attempt to dissolve the order of the community of the Volk and its moral foundation, specifically those against the race and biological requirements of a healthy Volk (marriage, family, etc.).
c) All writings that ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy to the healthy sentiments of the Volk.
d) The writings of the so-called "Asphalt" literature whose characteristics are superficial witticism and a quick intellectualism. These writings may be presented with virtuoso facility, but in its relativity lacks any adherence to the values that provide the basis for the common national, moral and religious life. This literature makes no attempt to strive for these values and goals; it fancies itself in its free-floating intellectualism and thus leads to the total negation of all values and commitments (Literature of intellectual Nihilism).
(Source: Stadtbibliothek Koblenz, 1993; pp. 5-7)
Students were instructed that books and intellectual activity should be free of anything to do with Jews as shown in the following extract:
Theses Against the Un-German Spirit:
A Propaganda Campaign of the German Students' Association
(Twelve Book-burning Slogans)

as printed in the
Volkischer Beobachter, April 14, 1933 The German Students' Association (Main Office for Press and Propaganda) is conducting a propaganda campaign named "Against the un-German Spirit" between April 12 and May 10, 1933.   The Jewish mind, as it reveals itself in its unrestrained worldwide malicious agitation, and as it has already penetrated into German literature, must be eradicated together with all liberalism. However, the German Students' Association wants to do more than just voicing empty protests; they want a conscious return to values inherent in the German Volk. These values are defined here in these 12 Propositions, which will be publicly posted as of April 13:
1.  Language and literature have their roots in the Volk. It is the German Volk's responsibility to assure that its language and literature are the pure and unadulterated expression of its Volk traditions.
2.  At present there is a chasm between literature and German tradition. This situation is a disgrace.
3.  Purity of language and literature is your responsibility. Your Volkish-ness has entrusted you with faithfully preserving your language.
4.  Our most dangerous enemy is the Jew and those who are his slaves.
5.  A Jew can only think Jewish If he writes in German, he is lying. The German who writes in German, but thinks un-German is a traitor, the student who speaks and writes un-German is, in addition, thoughtless and has abandoned his duties.
6.  We wish to eradicate lies, we want to denounce treason, we want for us students, institutions of discipline and political education, not mindlessness.
7.  We want to regard the Jew as alien and we want to respect the traditions of the Volk. Therefore, we demand of the censor: Jewish writings are to be published in Hebrew. If they appear in German, they must be identified as translations. Strongest actions against the abuse of German script. German script is only available to Germans. The un-German spirit is to be eradicated from public libraries.
8.  We demand of the German students the desire and capability for independent knowledge and decisions.
9.  We demand of German students the desire and capability to maintain the purity of the German language.
10.We demand of German students the desire and capability to overcome Jewish intellectualism and the resulting liberal decay in the German spirit.
11.We demand the selection of students and professors in accordance with their reliability and commitment to the German spirit.
12.We demand that German universities be a stronghold of the German Volk tradition and a battleground reflecting the power of the German mind.
Research should start at first principles and should not be reliant anyway on the writings of other intellectuals. This is an issue raised in C.P. Taylor’s play Good.  

Food for thought:

Are all of the proposals to librarians and by the students bad?
Why do you think they had these ideas?
Is it useful for us to read literature from other cultures? Why or why not?
Is it ever right to ban what is written?  

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