I recently saw this posting at the Anne Frank House website (see link at the bottom of this page) about music that was banned by Hitler. After I read this, a question popped into my head: what was Hitler afraid of? Why did art scare him so much? Why did he need to control artists? The easy answer is that he did not want anyone to think or feel on their own. He wanted a purity of thought and certain artists would taint his idea of creativity. He did not want anyone exposed to Jewish writers, composers or musicians, performers or artists.
Reading this story made me think of the book burning that was conducted by the Nazis. It started in 1933 and the order was to destroy, by burning, books not only written by Jews but those books that were considered of an “Un-German spirit”.
Here are some examples of authors whose books were burned or at least removed from schools, libraries, bookstores and homes.
- Ernest Hemingway
- Jack London
- Victor Hugo
- Helen Keller
- Robert Louis Stevenson
- Louisa May Alcott
- Oscar Wilde
- Albert Einstein
The list of writers goes on and on. Imagine standing at a bonfire that has hundreds of books burning. You see pages and pages going up in flames. Books that you love and books you have still not read. It does not make a difference whether the book was your type of book, just imagine seeing a tower of books on fire.
As for music, Hitler banned all Jewish composers and musicians. He even banned composers who were not Jewish just because their music did not sound German enough.
When you find out that a book or piece of music has been banned, then that is the time to turn up the volume or pick up a book. That is the time that you pour water on the bonfire. Unfortunately, during World War II, nothing could be done to stop the German army and their shut down on creativity. Your risked your life to stand up to this regime.
Now the books can and should be read. The music must be played and heard. The art must be displayed and we must honor the freedom to express. It does not matter if it is the art that you like, it just matters that we respect the fact that it was created in the first place.
I think that art is extremely powerful and essential to our world. It can be very revealing and it sometimes challenges you to question authority. Art also takes us to places we may not normally go, it breaks down our fears. So you can see why Hitler wanted to control creativity, he did not want anyone thinking for themselves or asking questions. Art can be safe and yet it can be wonderfully dangerous. Live a little…read a book. Walk on the wild side and play some music. And don’t let anyone tell you no.