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Library hosts exhibit on Nazi Book Burnings

Second only to the burning of the flag, perhaps no image incites more fury in Americans than seeing a book burn.

In 1933, when a group of fascist college students lit pyres outside the University of Berlin to destroy some of the most prominent books in the modern canon, including books by Helen Keller, Jack London and Sigmud Freud, Americans were outraged.

"It was an attack on modernity, freedom of speech and freedom of expression," said Steven Luckert, curator of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. "It resonated very deeply with people in the United States. There was a great deal of sympathy for authors whose books were burned."

The Park City Library is hosting "Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings," a traveling photo and multimedia exhibit from the Holocaust Museum. It is free and open to the public until Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The exhibit features four audiovisual kiosks and two computers, according to Adult Services Librarian Merry White, who will be available to provide tours and information.

The German Students Association framed the burnings as an attack on Jewish intellectuals, but destroyed many books simply because they were considered "un-German," Luckert said. Destroyed texts also included pacifist novels such as "All Quiet on the Western Front" and the work of Ernest Hemingway.

Students spearheaded the book burning movement in Germany at least partially because they had been the target of relentless Nazi propaganda."It became a symbol of German intolerance in the 1920s and 30s," Luckert said. "The Germans were being increasingly radicalized toward the right."

White said that for librarians the burning of a book is one of the darkest things to affront freedom of expression. "That image of burning books is so powerful because it really is an image of destroying the culture," she said. "It galvanized people to understand that the Nazi threat was very real."

Censorship remains relevant to Americans today, White said, because they must contend with the Patriot Act at home and oversight abroad. "In this country our information is coming from fewer and fewer sources, "she said. "We just have to be paying attention, and I think an exhibit like this reminds us of that."

"Fighting the Fires of Hate" sparked a huge reaction when it opened in 2003. Today, it is one of six exhibits from the Holocaust touring the country. "There was always the notion from the beginning of the Museum that we would reach out to people who couldn’t come to Washington," Luckert said.

The Park City Library is located at 1255 Park Ave.

Holocaust Museum Fact Box

Since opening in 1993, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has welcomed more than 27 million visitors from all walks of life and reached millions more through a growing range of outreach programs.


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