Allied Censorship in Post War Germany

The Greatest Campaign of Book Destruction in all of History

After Adolf Hitler, as chairman of the strongest political party, had taken charge of forming the new German government, the German students - acting with reference to the burning of papist literature by Martin Luther, and to the Wartburg Festival, where revolutionary students had thrown symbols of reactionary politics (including publications) onto pyres - publicly burned books of "un-German spirit". These acts were intended to be demonstrations, and had nothing to do with book banning. Bans were first assigned in un-coordinated manner by various governmental and non-governmental offices, until the Ministry of Public Education and Propaganda, under the leadership of Joseph Goebbels, issued the only legally binding book bans via the Reich Chamber of Publications. Those black-lists of the Reich Chamber of Publications also included titles that had been on the police lists of obscene and offensive material during the Weimar Republic, but these decreased steadily in number. Instead, the literature produced by emigrants ("traitors to the people"), Marxist, Soviet authors, and others were included. In 1939 "pornographic items" constituted only 10% of the banned books. According to the standard work on "National Socialist literary policies" ("Nationalsozialistische Literaturpolitik", by Dietrich Strothmann; 3rd ed. Bonn: Bouvier, 1985; the first edition appeared in 1960), "almost 12,500 books were banned in the course of the twelve years of National Socialist rule in Germany." However, in his extensive study of the indexing of "harmful and undesirable writings" in the Third Reich ("Die Indizierung 'schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums' im Dritten Reich"), published in 1971 in vol. XI of the Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens (Buchhändlervereinigung, Frankfurt/Main, 1st ed. 1968), Dietrich Aigner states, on the basis of his research findings, that this figure is "greatly overestimated". He has found that by the end of 1938 the Reich Chamber of Publications' list of banned books encompassed a total of 4,175 individual titles and 565 comprehensive bans, i.e. bans of all the writings of 565 authors. This number skyrocketed in 1941 when the war against the Soviet Union began and 337 additional comprehensive bans were issued against authors that were in some way positively connected with the Soviet Union.

It is common practice at public events and in publications to make emphatic reference to the book- banning during National Socialist times, without, however, making any mention of the book destruction engaged in by the victorious powers after Germany had lost the Second World War - a destruction that was more rigorous and extensive in every respect.

In 1989, when the publication of the German book trade ("Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel", Frankfurt) devoted several issues to "the history of book censorship", the account given was broken off in May 1945 and resumed with the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, glossing over the intervening years with the sweeping comment that "another enormous control apparatus came onto the scene" after the war. But no details were given.


Yet it would not have been difficult to do so. Drawing on a September 15, 1945 order given by the Supreme Chief of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, the victorious powers issued Control Council "Ordinance No. 4" only a few months later, on May 13, 1946, "regarding the confiscation of literature and works of National Socialist and militaristic character". The German Administration for Public Education in the Soviet Occupation Zone cooperated with the Office for the Review of Publications to release, via the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, lists of literature to be proscribed, which also found official use in the western occupation zones. The first such list from 1946 was followed by three supplements, totaling 34,645 book titles [VHO counts altogether 32826 books, cf. Books letter Z, and together with Journals 35743, cf. Journals letter Z]. Beyond that, a comprehensive ban without individual title listing was applied to all school textbooks from 1933 to 1945. The lists of proscribed literature were reprinted a few years ago as volumes 1-3 and 8 of the "Toppenstedter Reihe" of Uwe Berg Pub., D-21442 Toppenstedt (1983f.). To make this interesting source readily available to everyone, VHO has decided to publish it here on the Internet. This way anyone can get an idea of what sort of literature of the victors deemed "National Socialist and militaristic".

Whereas during National Socialist times banned books were collected and deposited in libraries with archival function, the Allied Control Council decreed that all publications and materials mentioned in the order were to be "released to the Commanders of each Zone, to be destroyed." And indeed, all books containing "National Socialist propaganda, racial teachings and calls to violence, or propaganda directed against the United Nations" were removed from the "former government and city libraries", from the "universities, the establishments of higher and middle education, from all research institutes and academies, from all technical or academic societies", and even from the elementary schools, from all bookstores and publishing houses - and then destroyed. This was no doubt the greatest campaign of book destruction of all time.

The confiscation of banned books in private homes was not called for, but instances of this certainly did take place, as demonstrated by a file memo from the community administration of Feldberg in Mecklenburg, in the Soviet Occupation Zone. Dated June 19, 1945, this memo records that the Mayor appointed by the occupation power ordered a house search to be carried out "in the house Sassmannshausen, Fürstenbergstrasse 11". In the course of this search, "two National Socialist books were found in a shoe closet standing in the hall of the residence of Köhler-Schücke. Specifically, and they were the book 'Brest-Litowsk' by Theodor Krüger and the book 'Kriegsdichter erzählen' [Narratives by War Writers] by August Friedrich Velmede, (...) for this reason I sentence Mrs. Hirchert to 48 hours' imprisonment. The sentence commences on June 19 at 12:00 o'clock noon and ends on June 21 at 12:00 o'clock noon. The two books found are confiscated. The Mayor, Ditzen." This Mayor was none other than the author Hans Fallada, who always wrote his books in the spirit of whichever regime was at the helm and who had immediately offered his services to the Red Army after they had occupied his town.

Even Ulrich von Hutten and the "Pferdefibel"

Anyone who supposes that the lists of proscribed literature put out by the victorious powers contained only works of National Socialist bent will find a look at them rather enlightening: works by Friedrich Nietzsche are represented just as are works by Gottfried Benn; one comes across the authors Ernst Jünger, Ernst-Moritz Arndt, and Helmut von Moltke; Bismarck's "Ideas and Recollections" had to be destroyed, as well as a book by Otfried Preussler, who would go on to become a highly popular children's author. Everything about the Olympic Games of 1936 was banned. Books by Friedrich the Great were banned no less than books by Ulrich von Hutten (1511-1546). The reader notes with astonishment that the book "Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen" [The Reign of the Inferior], by Hitler-opponent Edgar J. Jung - a book that had been banned under the Third Reich regime and whose author had been killed for his work by National Socialists in 1934 - remained banned. One asks oneself what could possibly have been so threatening to the Allies in the 1919 book "Die Aufgaben der Gemeindepolitik" [Responsibilities of Communal Politics], but the limits of bafflement are reached when one finds in the list of banned books, all editions of the "Deutsche Bauernkalender" [German Peasants' Calendar], the book "Unter den Tuaregs" [Among the Tuareg] by one Belz, a "Pferdefibel" [Horse Primer], Carl von Clausewitz's "Vom Kriege" [On War] - of course! - but also such books as "Der Diplom-Volkswirt", "Der Diplom-Landwirt" and "Der Diplom-Kaufmann" [books about advanced agricultural practice and trade].

That the book "Gewinnbeteiligung der Gefolgschaft" [Profit- Sharing for the Labor Force] had to disappear is logical, since that was a typical National Socialist concept. But what was the reason for banning a book about the history of the plumbers' guild in Königsberg? The work of people's poet Heinrich Lersch went the way of the shredder, as did the books of Artur Maraun, which had also been banned under National Socialist rule. The books of Moeller van den Bruck shared the same fate: they had been banned before 1945 and remained so after 1945 as well. In 1933 Hermann Pongs had written a book about "general education at technical college". It was banned, as were 10 titles by Carl Schmitt - of course! But Ina Seidel was also on the Index, as well as the "Tennisfibel" [Tennis Primer] of 1941. And just imagine: the occupiers deemed the poems of Walther von der Vogelweide so dangerous that they too had to be destroyed. It is intriguing that books by Jewish authors were evidently also banned - specifically, the books by Boris Germansky, published in 1938 by the "Eretz-Israel Press" in Jerusalem and titled "Der autonome und nationale Mensch" [The autonomous and national man] and "Der absolut nationale Mensch" [The absolutely national man]. And to top it all, the list includes a book about the protection and conservation of hedges and hedgerows, published by the Reich Association for the Protection of Birds (which still exists today as the National Conservation Association of Germany), as well as an instruction book on how to build an igloo, published by Berg-Verlag.

The books were not burned, so that Heinrich Heine's statement "where books are burned, men also, in the end, are burned", which is commonly quoted in connection with the demonstrative book burnings by the German student body, does not apply here. However, it is difficult to see a real difference between the public burning of books and their million-fold destruction by other, more modern means. The end result is the same.

(From: Martin Lüders, Nation & Europa, 47th year, issue 9/1997, pp. 7-11.)

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