Intellectual Freedom Buried Yet Again

Eileen F. Toplansky

In third century B.C. China, Emperor Chi'in Shi Huang Ti "buried in the Great Wall, up to their necks, numerous scholars, writers, and artists who wrote poems, history books, and painted pictures, and sliced off their heads."  This barbaric act "deprived China of intellectual motion-of continuing education and left her millions to wallow in unchanging ignorance and misery for centuries to come."[1]

Torquemada in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition burned people alive if they dared disagree with the Church. Thus, "the Iberian light of learning and tolerance went out in 1492" [and] "Spain struggled in isolation for four hundred and fifty years."[2]

Lenin and Stalin of the 20th century purged the landscape of the poets and the "lucky ones froze in Siberia" while the others were shot.  The Soviet Union lasted less than 75 years."[3] Anatoli Kutznetsov in his book Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel wrote, that "books are always being burnt.  The library at Alexandria went up in flames, the Inquisition had their bonfires...books were burnt under Stalin....There are always more people to burn books than to write them... this is the first sign of trouble-if books are burned, that means things are going wrong.  It means that you are surrounded by force, fear and ignorance, that power is in the hands of the barbarians."

Under Hitler's Nationalist Socialist movement in a "symbolic act of ominous significance, on 10 May 1933, students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of 10 May, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades 'against the un-German spirit.' The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, 'fire oaths,' and incantations. In Berlin, some 40,000 people gathered in the Opernplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: 'No to decadence and moral corruption!' Goebbels enjoined the crowd. "Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner."

Verily, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

As Western leaders delude themselves that the Arab Spring is a step toward democracy and genuine human rights, "approximately 192,000 rare books and manuscripts belonging to the Institute of Egypt in Cairo went up in flames, destroyed by a rampaging Muslim mob."

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 18th century, the Institute of Egypt housed priceless chronicles and was an example of the modern era in Egypt.  This is precisely why it had to be destroyed by jihadists who want to return to the 7th century and barbarism and totalitarianism.

Consequently, it is Islamic supremacy that "equals a massive setback for the human enterprise and a victory for the forces of ignorance and darkness." 

Exquisitely prescient, nineteenth-century German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote in his 1820-1821 play "Almansor" the famous admonition, "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen": "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."

Currently, Egypt's Coptic Christians are grievously suffering and yet the world remains mute in the face of the carnage. 

The only question is how long will this descent into hell last?

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com 

 

[1] Leonard Everett Fisher, "Censorship and the Arts," in the Signet Book of American Essays, 2006, p. 158.

[2] Ibid., p. 159.

[3] Ibid., p. 159.


In third century B.C. China, Emperor Chi'in Shi Huang Ti "buried in the Great Wall, up to their necks, numerous scholars, writers, and artists who wrote poems, history books, and painted pictures, and sliced off their heads."  This barbaric act "deprived China of intellectual motion-of continuing education and left her millions to wallow in unchanging ignorance and misery for centuries to come."[1]

Torquemada in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition burned people alive if they dared disagree with the Church. Thus, "the Iberian light of learning and tolerance went out in 1492" [and] "Spain struggled in isolation for four hundred and fifty years."[2]

Lenin and Stalin of the 20th century purged the landscape of the poets and the "lucky ones froze in Siberia" while the others were shot.  The Soviet Union lasted less than 75 years."[3] Anatoli Kutznetsov in his book Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel wrote, that "books are always being burnt.  The library at Alexandria went up in flames, the Inquisition had their bonfires...books were burnt under Stalin....There are always more people to burn books than to write them... this is the first sign of trouble-if books are burned, that means things are going wrong.  It means that you are surrounded by force, fear and ignorance, that power is in the hands of the barbarians."

Under Hitler's Nationalist Socialist movement in a "symbolic act of ominous significance, on 10 May 1933, students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of 10 May, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades 'against the un-German spirit.' The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, 'fire oaths,' and incantations. In Berlin, some 40,000 people gathered in the Opernplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: 'No to decadence and moral corruption!' Goebbels enjoined the crowd. "Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner."

Verily, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

As Western leaders delude themselves that the Arab Spring is a step toward democracy and genuine human rights, "approximately 192,000 rare books and manuscripts belonging to the Institute of Egypt in Cairo went up in flames, destroyed by a rampaging Muslim mob."

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 18th century, the Institute of Egypt housed priceless chronicles and was an example of the modern era in Egypt.  This is precisely why it had to be destroyed by jihadists who want to return to the 7th century and barbarism and totalitarianism.

Consequently, it is Islamic supremacy that "equals a massive setback for the human enterprise and a victory for the forces of ignorance and darkness." 

Exquisitely prescient, nineteenth-century German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote in his 1820-1821 play "Almansor" the famous admonition, "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen": "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."

Currently, Egypt's Coptic Christians are grievously suffering and yet the world remains mute in the face of the carnage. 

The only question is how long will this descent into hell last?

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com 

 

[1] Leonard Everett Fisher, "Censorship and the Arts," in the Signet Book of American Essays, 2006, p. 158.

[2] Ibid., p. 159.

[3] Ibid., p. 159.