"Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings," an exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., about the 1933 Nazi burnings of "un-German" books, opens today at the Laman Public Library in North Little Rock.
Some fascinating history about the American response to Nazi bookburnings from the exhibit website:
To remind people of the consequences of destroying books and of intolerance, the Writers’ War Board compiled lists of Nazi burned and banned books for wide distribution. The Writers’ War Board also sponsored student essay contests on such subjects as “What It Means To Be an American” in a time of crisis. Winners received war bonds as prizes. Many essays alluded to the enemy’s suppression of free speech, represented by images of the book burnings.
There were thousands of local commemorations of the book burnings. In 1943, the Hampshire Bookshop serving Smith College observed the book burnings’ tenth anniversary. Bookshop co-founder Marion E. Dodd wrote that Hitler, “so fearful is he of our merchandise,” had destroyed thousands of books, unaware that “you can’t burn a book—it will rise again as the Phoenix and smite the hands that set it afire.” The New York Public Library was an important leader of annual wartime observances of the Nazi book burnings. In November 1942, the library created the exhibition Books the Nazis Banned, which highlighted anthropologist Franz Boas’s words: “Banning and burning of books is the symbol of tyranny’s fear of the power of the free mind.” On Flag Day, 1942, a gigantic parade “New York at War” featured scores of floats, including one from the New York Public Library. City librarians marched under the banner “Fascism Burns Books, Democracy Reads Books.” An internal memo instructed male participants to avoid wearing brown suits, because “brown symbolizes fascism.
The press release from Laman quotes the director of the Holocaust museum as saying that while the book-burnings were the focus of American propaganda efforts to give support to involvement in the war, "the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews was not seen as a compelling case for fighting Nazism.”
The library, at 2801 Orange St. in North Little Rock, will hold a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 7 with music by Meredith Maddox Hicks, violinist with the Arkansas symphony. The exhibition runs through Oct. 28.
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