top of page

Attacks on Knowledge from Ashurbanipal to Trump

Video from Gresham College

"This lecture explores the destruction of libraries, archives and other knowledge, from Babylonian times until now, and its implications for society today. What are the motivations for destroying knowledge, and how have libraries and archives responded to these threats? What must we do now that knowledge is digital, and controlled by a small number of very powerful companies? A lecture by Richard Ovenden The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:" from video introduction.

"On 10 May 1933, a bonfire was held on Unter den Linden, Berlin’s most important thoroughfare, close to the Berlin State Library. It was a site of great symbolic resonance: opposite the university and adjacent to St Hedwig’s Cathedral, the Berlin State Opera House, the Royal Palace and Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s beautiful war memorial. Watched by a cheering crowd of almost forty thousand, a group of students ceremonially marched up to the bonfire carrying the bust of a Jewish intellectual, Magnus Hirschfeld (founder of the ground- breaking Institute of Sexual Sciences). Chanting the ‘Feuersprüche’, a series of fire incantations, they threw the bust on top of thousands of volumes from the institute’s library, which had joined books by Jewish and other ‘un-German’ writers (gays and communists prominent among them) that had been seized from bookshops and libraries. Around the fire stood rows of young men in Nazi uniforms giving the Heil Hitler salute. The students were keen to curry favour with the new government and this book-burning was a carefully planned publicity stunt. In Berlin, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s new minister of propaganda, gave a rousing speech that was widely reported around the world: “No to decadence and moral corruption! Yes to decency and morality in family and state! . . . The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you . . . You do well to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed.” Similar scenes went on in ninety other locations across the country that night. Although many libraries and archives in Germany were left untouched, the bonfires were a clear warning sign of the attack on knowledge about to be unleashed by the Nazi regime. The Nazi regime would move this act of destruction from the merely theatrical to the industrial scale and it has been estimated that over 100 million books were destroyed during the Holocaust, in the twelve years from the period of Nazi dominance in Germany in 1933 up to the end of the Second World War. But the staged book-burnings provoked a response among those who saw the need to defend the freedom of expression. In fact, two new libraries were formed as a counterblast. A year later, on 10 May 1934, the Deutsche Freiheitsbibliothek (German Freedom Library, also known as the German Library of Burnt Books) was opened in Paris. The German Freedom Library was founded by German-Jewish writer Alfred Kantorowicz, with support from other writers and intellectuals such as André Gide, Bertrand Russell and Heinrich Mann (the brother of Thomas Mann), and rapidly collected over 20,000 volumes, not just the books which had been targeted for burning in Germany but also copies of key Nazi texts, in order to help understand the emerging regime. H. G. Wells was happy to have his name associated with the new library, which became a focus for German émigré intellectuals and organised readings, lectures and exhibitions, much to the disgust of German newspapers. Following the fall of Paris in 1940 the library was broken up, with many of the volumes joining the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The Brooklyn Jewish Center in New York established an American Library of Nazi-Banned Books in December 1934, with noted intellectuals on its advisory board, including Albert Einstein and Upton Sinclair. The library was proclaimed as a means of preserving and promoting Jewish culture at a time of renewed oppression...' from the Transcipt (link)

Current Attacks on Knowledge

"When the Llano County Library shuts down for three days this week, starting Tuesday, it won’t be for the holidays.

Instead, a group of six librarians in this small Central Texas county will be conducting a “thorough review” of every children’s book in the library, at the behest of the Llano County Commissioners Court. Their mission will be to make sure all of the reading material for younger readers includes subjects that are age-appropriate. A new “young adults plus” section will be added to separate books written for an older teen audience from those geared toward younger readers.

The three-day closure of the library system in Llano County, about 80 miles northwest of Austin, also means a temporary shutdown of its virtual portal through the online book provider Overdrive.

“I think we owe it to all parents, regardless if it’s a school library or a public library, to make sure that material is not inappropriate for children,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said...“I think it definitely ramped it up,” said Wendy Woodland, the TLA’s director of advocacy and communication, of the late October investigation into school library reading materials launched by state Rep. Matt Krause in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating.

In response to Krause’s inquiry, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped the Texas Education Agency to investigate the availability of “pornographic books” in schools. In the weeks since, school districts across the state have launched reviews of their book collections, and state officials have begun investigating student access to inappropriate content.

As more residents began turning their sights on local libraries, the state library association set up a “peer counseling” helpline for librarians to get support from others more familiar with book challenges..."

What About Actual Pornography??

With theses attacks on knowledge I must ask what about the actual "pornography" in which many children and teens are becoming addicted too? What about the hypocrisy of many who no doubt secretly view pornography while attacking books in the public schools? What has happened to free speech?

I would also suggest that the actions of the Texas Governor display the very totalitarian and draconian measures He so rails against.

Are we moving toward a fascist group of people burning books? Think about it.

Do we want moral change? We must start at home with prayer, confession, repentance and raise our children by example, not by exhibitions of hate and ignorance. - Andy

4 views0 comments


bottom of page