Monday, 14 July 2014

Book Burning...7 Authors The Nazis Didn't Want To Be Read....

Nothing enrages a bibliophile more than book-burning, that tried and tested tool of oppressive regimes since books first came into existence. Far from being the first (or sadly the last) the Nazi regime in 1930's Germany was simply adapting a much used method of suppressing the dissemination of ideas when, in 1933 the German Student Union began it's literary purge.


I recently watched The Book Thief, (I know, I should have read the book first) the movie adapted from Australian author Markus Zusak's novel of the same name. As well as the issues it tackles of the oppressive nature of the Nazi regime for the average German civilian, there is of course a theme of the repression of the written word. 

In Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels Of Our Nature, posted about here recently, the author puts forward the theory that the spread of the written word and literacy across our species has been one of the defining areas of the 'civilisation' process. Reading gives us the ability to walk in another's shoes, to share ideas, and experiences we might not otherwise be exposed to. I'm a firm believer in this theory, and by extension, the theory that repression of literature is always a backwards step for humanity.

Obviously the Nazis disagreed, or thought that such a wonderful tool as a book might allow people to 'think' their way out of accepting the horrors of fascism.

Some of the authors below are not surprising from the perspective of the regime, others, more so...

Albert Einstein:
Being jewish, arguably the greatest scientific mind of the early 20th century was simply unacceptable reading in Nazi Germany. Fleeing to the U.S. in 1933, Einstein was able to become quite possibly the world's most famous scientific name in spite of the repression his writing suffered at home.


Sigmund Freud:
The founding father psychoanalysis, Freud was an Austrian by birth. In 1930 he was lauded as one of German literature's greatest contributors, three years later under the Nazis his books were being burned. He later famously quipped... "In the Middle Ages they would have burned me, now they are content with burning my books..."

Vladimir Lenin:
Long dead before the rise of the Nazis, Lenin's past role as leading figure of the marxist movement and one of the father's of the Russian revolution, unsurprisingly put him high on the list of undesirable authors.

Jack London:
American author, journalist and social activist, London was also dead long before the Nazis came to power. His powerful advocacy of unionism, socialism and workers rights soon put classics The Call Of The Wild and White Fang on the Nazi no-no list...

Karl Marx:
No big surprise here, Marx may have been one of the principle architects of modern social science, but his writings also went on after his death, to fuel the rise of social doctrines and dictatorships that opened the flood gates for more atrocities against humanity than even the Nazis managed to tally up.

H.G. Wells:
The War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man. None of these sic-fi classics could keep Wells off of the Nazi banned list, thanks to his socialist and pacifist leanings.

Ernest Hemingway:
Hemingway had famously been on the anti-fascist side during the Spanish Civil War but even before he munched on cigars whilst whistle-stop touring the front lines of Communism, he was banned by the Nazis for his socialist leanings.


Book burnings have sadly continued to take place since the Second World War. Though much less common, they are still occasionally a part of the arsenal of oppression. There is a reason. 
Books and literacy are oppression's strongest enemy.

Stevie at B.L.M.