In the nineteen thirties, the German Student Union, with the backing of the Nazi state (ushering in the beginning of relentless state censorship) started to burn books, targeting those deemed as subversive, representing ideologies opposed to the Nazis.
These included books written by Jewish, communist, socialist, anarchist, liberal, pacifist, religious, as well as sexologist authors. It was proclaimed as a crusade against the “Un-German Spirit” thus a “cleansing” by fire was needed. The first books burnt were books by Karl Marx and Karl Kautsky. The exclusion of the Left, democratic, and Jewish literature was first on their list, blacklisting Einstein and Freud, and many more, such as Walther Rathenau, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Friedrich Engels, and Felix Mendelssohn. German writers weren’t the only victims of these purges. French author Victor Hugo, American writers Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, English author Aldous Huxley, Irish writers James Joyce and Oscar Wilde; Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and many more, such as H.G Wells, were pronounced persona non grata.
Libraries were instructed to stock their shelves with books that defended Hitler’s hateful ideology and destroy anything else which did not. And when the Nazi watchdogs ran out of books in their own libraries to burn, they turned to independent bookstores.
Any authors, artists, or scientists whose oral or written opinions were opposed to Nazi ideology were targeted. They were banned from working and publication. Their works were verboten, no longer found in libraries or in school curricula. Deprived of citizenship, some were driven into exile, some self-exile, some despaired and committed suicide, others died or were executed in concentration camps.
This happened all in the name of cleansing the impure, erasing history and culture to fit the narrative, signifying that only their viewpoint was fit for print, and those who strayed from this path were to be banished, deprived of their livelihoods, destroyed, simply for what they believed in.
Back then the Nazi state sanctioned the book burnings and the destruction of lives, while in today’s America, corporations, social media, and social justice warriors, allegedly fighting for inclusion, diversity, and equity against racism, scream from their righteous perches about what is right and what is wrong, what should be allowed and that which should be cancelled.
To them, censorship is okay, justified because the ends justify the means.
Yet embracing censorship as supposed defenders of democracy and of what they consider as past wrongs is ill-conceived, because their behavior, their mindset, makes them enemies of free speech, free society, healthy debate, diversity, inclusion, and equal treatment.
Ironically. all which they purport to be seeking.
But they are wrong.
And we must stand up and tell them so.