web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When Helen Keller Confronted The Nazis

The outcry around the world against Nazi book burning included a moving letter from Helen Keller.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller

June 27 is Helen Keller Day – the annual occasion when students across America learn about the disabilities activist whose remarkable achievements inspired her generation, and every generation since. Less well known, but no less deserving of commemoration, was Keller’s powerful outcry against the Nazis.

One of Adolf Hitler’s top priorities when he became chancellor of Germany in 1933 was to prevent schools from using books that the Nazis regarded as “degenerate.” Eighty years ago this spring, Germany was transformed into one huge funeral pyre for any books that differed from the Nazis’ perspective on political, social, or cultural matters, as well as all books by Jewish authors.

The Hitler regime chose May 10, 1933 as the date for a nationwide “Action Against the Un-German Spirit,” a series of public burnings of the banned books. The gatherings were organized by pro-Nazi student groups under the supervision of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

The largest of the 34 book-burning rallies, held in Berlin, was attended by an estimated 40,000 people. Books by German Jews such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud were burned, as well as books by the British science fiction writer H.G. Wells (author of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds) and many American writers, including Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Jack London (Call of the Wild), and even Helen Keller.

“No to decadence and moral corruption!” Goebbels declared in his remarks at the rally. “Yes to decency and morality and state!.… The soul of the German people can again express itself. These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new.”

A New York Times editorial sarcastically suggested that the Nazis might next begin “burning microphones” to stamp out free speech. Time magazine called the Nazis’ action “a bibliocaust,” and Newsweek described it as “a holocaust of books.” This was one of the first instances in which the term “holocaust” (an ancient Greek word meaning a burnt offering to a deity) was used in connection with the Nazis.

The outcry around the world included a moving letter from Keller, addressed to “the Student Body of Germany.”

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote. “Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.”

“Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here,” she added. “God sleepeth not, and He will visit his Judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung round your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.”

Various foreign leaders also criticized the book burnings, but the Hitler regime ignored such protests. Perhaps if the words of condemnation had been accompanied by diplomatic or economic consequences, the Nazis would have had to reconsider.

Five years later, protests by American college students helped prevent another mass book burning by the Nazis, this time in Austria. Shortly after Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, the Nazis gave the Austrian National Library a long list of books to be removed and burned.

Students at Williams College in Massachusetts sent a telegram to the Austrian library, offering to buy the books. Riots broke out on the Williams campus when anti-Nazi students tried to burn Hitler in effigy, and pro-Nazi students used fire hoses to stop them.

Yale University’s student newspaper urged the school administration to purchase the Austrian books, which it said would both add to Yale’s “intellectual equipment” and “administer a well-justified backhanded slap” to the Nazis. Unfortunately, Yale’s chief librarian disagreed, claiming the book-burnings in Germany were just “students letting off steam.”

Nevertheless, the protests by students at Williams, Yale, and other universities appear to have had an impact. The Austrian National Library announced that the books in question would be locked away rather than burned.

Helen Keller is not known to have commented specifically on the student protests. But one may assume she was deeply proud that at a time when too many Americans did not want to be bothered with Europe’s problems, these young men and women understood the message of her 1933 letter – that the principles under attack by the Nazis were something that should matter to all mankind.

(JNS)

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “When Helen Keller Confronted The Nazis”

  1. Rafi Medoff & Wyman Institute do wonders in their research. I want to know more about the economic boycott led by Col. Mendelson of JWV – and how the Jewish college fraternity reacted / acted /kept silent?

  2. Rafi has done great work again. The problem is why the world didn't hear about this protest when it happened. What can we do to be more effective in the future?

  3. Anonymous says:

    TO all those leading the fight against the holocaust claims conference.. They just want the bad news to go away. We cannot allow this. Feel free to use my name and title anyway that will help..I BELIEVE I AM THE ONLY RABBI OUT IN FRONT. I HAVE SENT REQUESTS FOR HELP TO HUNDREDS OF RABBIS. THEY JUST DO NOT CARE OR DO NOT WANT TO GET INTO I SEEK NOTHING IN RETURN. MY PARENTS HAVE BEEN LONG DEAD. THIS FIGHT IS FOR THE SURVIVORS AND IN MEMORY OF MY PARENTS AND RELATIVES MURDERED BY THE NAZIS.. We are DAVID FIGHTING GOLIATH. SOME OF YOU HAVE MAJOR CONTACTS I DO NOT HAVE AND MANY OF YOU WRITE BEAUTIFULLY.. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Photo from campaign of Robert Rensdell for US senator from Kentucky.
US Senate Campaign Used to Spread Hatred of Jews (and Masks Hatred of Blacks)
Latest Indepth Stories
ISIS-strat-3

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

The Iron Dome was called on for the first time in 2013 to intercept a missile fired by terrorists in Sinai at Eilat.

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

For too long the media and international community have been preaching that “Palestinians” bear no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and they are passive victims of the conflict.

Iron Dome intercepted over 1,000 rockets aimed at Israel with a success rate of over 90% in 2014

We talked about the responsibility that comes with the pen, its potential to influence and inspire.

Amnesty International:The crippling of the power station was “collective punishment of Palestinians”

Originally scheduled to be held elsewhere, the hotel canceled, pressured by local missionary groups

It’s likely that some of the rebel factions, including US clients, have indeed made pacts with ISIS

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau Sr. pictured in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

Jan de Hartog

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

Sulzberger, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust.

Meryl Streep condemned Disney for associating with extremists while doing the very same thing.

In 1943, just before Yom Kippur, some 400 rabbis marched to the White House.

When Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September to make the case for U.S. intervention in Syria, he offered a historical analogy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-helen-keller-confronted-the-nazis/2013/06/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: