The best-known book burning happened under the Nazi regime in 1933.
Books deemed “un-German” were burned ceremoniously in 34 towns and cities. The literary purge was called a “säuberung,” or cleansing by fire.
After World War II, Germans prohibited books in their occupied countries. They created an index of 1,500 prohibited authors in occupied Poland.
It’s even happened on North American soil. The Puritan government burned William Pynchon's pamphlet, “The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption,” in October 1650. Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, was accused of heresy and returned to England.
In America in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower urged citizens not to join the book burners. “Censorship,” he previously told an Associated Press luncheon, “is a stupid and shallow way of approaching the solution to any problem.”
To oppose censorship, our free country now observes Banned Books Week every year. The national event was launched in 1982 during a surge in challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.
Here in Enid, our public library is raising awareness throughout September, promoting some of the most challenged, removed and restricted books from 2018. This year’s theme for Banned Books Week, which runs Sept. 22 to 28, is to “keep the light on” because “censorship leaves us in the dark.”
The Public Library of Enid and Garfield County’s dramatic display, front and center on the first floor, features the 11 most challenged books in 2018. Propped up on top and alongside, their titles are hidden, their covers wrapped in paper bearing bullet points outlining where and how they crossed the line. The reasons why they're best left unread, according to whomever.
They say things like "too graphic," or "promotes 'controversial racial and political issues.'"
Believe it or not, 347 "challenges" were leveled in the United States against books just last year. Challenging a book is a first step in the process toward censoring it.
"Keeping people from sharing ideas, keeping words contained, shutting beliefs out of the public's eye, is scary,” said Jenny Regier, library director.
Such censorship is un-American. Banning books is a dangerous, close-minded form of censorship that threatens our American freedom.