Paris, 19 May (IPS) "We recall in this days with shame that 75 years ago - not just here in Berlin, but in all of Germany – people, in tens of thousands, applauded and cheered as the books of Erich Koestler, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Kurt Tucholsky and many others were thrown into the fire by the Nazis", said the German President, Horst Koehler, in a speech at Berlin's Academy of Arts, on the occasion of (Bücherverbrennung) “book burning” of the Nazi regime.
The so-called "degenerate" books were burning on 10 May 1933, under Hitler's dictatorship. It started from the capital of the third Reich, Berlin, with 20,000 books and went on in other German cities; the ordered was called (Säuberung) or "cleansing". The Nazis burnt books with "non-German" ideas. Books written by Freud, Einstein, Thomas Mann, Jack London, H.G. Wells and many others go up in flames as they give the Nazi salute.
The target of this historically symbolic action was the suppression of free thoughts and ideas. The action was a tactic of Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda with the target of brainwashing a whole nation. The works of leading German writers such as Berthold Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Alfred Kerr were consigned to flames. The promotion of "Aryan" culture and the suppression of other forms of artistic production was yet another Nazi effort to "purify" Germany.
The Nazis were neither the first nor the last book-burners in history. Christianity has a longer history of defending an all-powerful deity by shielding the mind from strange ideas.
Like the Nazis, Islamic Republic of Iran's book burning and censorship are aimed at stamping out ideas of freedom and also a more nefarious purpose in a line with the early Muslim invaders: suppressing Persian ancient culture and civilisation.
The “Dark Ages” of the Middle Ages in Europe is full of religious atrocity , many scientists were burnt with their ideas and books: Jean Calvin was probably the most efficient: in 1600, when he burned Michael Servetus at the stake for heresy, and around his waist were tied a large bundle of manuscript and a thick octavo printed book. Another notorious illustration of this was in July of 1562, when Bishop Diego de Landa burnet five thousand idols and many thousands of their written works.
Scientific inquiry had virtually no support in Western society from the 7th to 15th centuries. Bigoted Ecclesiasticism dammed the flow of free thought, blocking the seepage of knowledge within Western societies. Book was branded as magic and treasonous, and the writer or reader was punishable by torture or death. Bruno was burned at the stake for the crime of claiming that the earth rotates about its axis.
Several decades after the event of Islam in Arabia, Muslim invaders galloped in new territories. They brutally destroyed great civilisations and of course libraries, the symbol of knowledge and wisdom of these culture. This early book-burning of primitive Muslims paved the way for 1400 years of darkness and backwardness in the Middle East.
Muslim invaders arrived with sword in one hand and the Koran in the other. Since they believed the Koran was a divine revelation, it became the starting point. The Koran instructed them to seek knowledge in all fields. It was in this perspective and under the shadow of Islamic influence that Muslim scientists, philosophers, poets and writers wrote their works. Even worse than the censorship, their works were influenced by their own self-alienation.
Centuries later, Muslim scientists, most of them Iranians, upheld the civilisation in the world when the West was in its lowest era of moral and intellectual obscurity. However, the Islamic civilisation appeared in a limited framework of progress due to its own religiosity too.
Today, the heritage of the Nazi's and early Muslims' book burning became the political Islam with its shocking results in the last three decades in the Islamic world, especially in Iran and Afghanistan.
Recalling not only the book-burning of 1933 by the Nazis, but also the early invasion of Islam in Iran, the regime launched in 1980 a cultural revolution to alienate Iranians from their pre-Islamic great civilisation by islamo-arbising the whole Iranian culture. Following the cultural revolution, bands of Hezbollahis and Islamists attacked, destroyed and burnt libraries in Iran. Millions of books were destroyed, and thousands of allegedly readers of such books were imprisoned or executed.
Not only the Islamic Republic of Iran's Ministry of Islamic guidance and Culture now censors some of Iran's best contemporary writers and researchers, such as Sadegh Hedayat, Sadegh Choobak, Ebrahim Golestan, Gholamhossein Sa’aedi, Ahmad Kasravi, Ali Dashti, Ebrahim Poordavoud, Zabih Behrouz, and others, but even in the recent years, they removed parts and whole pieces of works by well-known poets such as Souzani Samarghandi, Omar Khayam, Molana Jalaledin Rumi, Nezami Ganjavi, Abid Zakani, Iradj Mirza, and even some lexicons from Ali Akbar Dehkhoda and Farhang Mo’in as non-Islamic.
Like the Nazis in 1933, the Islamic Republic of Iran had also it's own version of book burning and censorship, as thousandsof titles of books are banned from publishing, as hundreds of thousands of books are destroyed by unfortunate publishers who have not been authorised of distributing the books.
The ruling ayatollahs are not solely aimed at stamping out ideas of freedom but for a more nefarious purpose and in a line with the early Muslim invaders: suppressing Persian ancient culture and civilisation.
Samuel Beckett was right when he said that one day people would read all the burned books and hatred for the book burners would abound.
Editor’s note: Mr. Rashidian is a political analyst and human rights campaigner writing for several Iranian internet publications, including Iran Press Service.
On the same subject, Mr. Masoud Behnoud, the veteran Iranian journalist and writer wrote the following article for the London and Paris-based internet newspaper “RoozOnline”
The anniversary of Book Burning
London (RoozOnline), 15 May Recently we passed the 75 anniversary of Nazi book burning and on the occasion, a ceremony was held in Berlin, among other German cities. Last week I saw a poster in Berlin on the occasion that invited the public to the event. What caught my attention was the poem by a German poet on top of the poster, which read: Wherever they burn books, one day they will also burn humans.
At the very least, the Nazis showed that this was not just a slogan but also the reality.
A few days ago a film on book burning in Hitler’s Germany was shown to the public. What is frightening about the film is that the individuals who are shown to be tossing books into the flames are decent-appearing people, and not outcasts or drifters. Goebbels says something in the film that is striking: “If perished milk is given to children is schools, the government is accountable; if expired medicine is given to patients, the government is accountable; corrupt books are worse that perished food. We will not allow injurious food to be given to German children.”
Goebbels words sound similar to those who these days defend censorship and condemn people for their views. What is even more frightening is that the public book burnings in the film were only part of the bigger picture and events that took place outside the public view. And sometimes this issue does not even need books, censors or flames. By simply telling people not to read a book or that it should not be in a library simply because I do not like it or its views is in practice doing what Goebel was prescribing and preaching.
Governments that create conditions for book publishing and designate pre-viewers to read books before making them available to the public, in fact view themselves as self-appointed guardians of the public. They do the same thing with newspapers. Governments that have money and power but deny the Internet and bandwidths to the public too are doing what the book burners were doing. While people around the world read Sovaschi’s book, those in Burma are not allowed to, or Chinese language books abound all over the world except in China. These events and practices are no less than the book burnings that have taken place.
So as the 75 anniversary of book burning passes and the event is condemned worldwide, other forms of book-burning flourish. These events and views need to be condemned as well. Anyone who bans a reading material because he or she does not like its contents needs to be rebuked. Stalin did the latter without actually burning any books.
Robert Mugabe did this in yet another way. With seventy percent illiteracy, a 10,000 percent inflation rate, there is no money or desire to buy books for anyone. There are also some countries that do not have a Mugabe but their illiteracy policies and rates amount to a form of book burning.
But regardless of how the goals are accomplished, whether through Nazi book burning or Stalin’s methods, Mugabe’s practices, the colonels polices in Burma, etc one thing is clear: Book burning indicates a fear, the fear of free thought and ideas. Book burners know that they have nothing to say and his fear drives him to book burning. Samuel Beckett was right when he said that one day people would read all the burned books and hatred for the book burners would abound. If human progress and advance could be contained and checked, then the Church with its threats, Nazism with its zeal, Stalinism with its arrogance would have succeeded. But none of them did. ENDS BOOK BURNING 17508