In 1933, Nazi students at more than 30 German universities pillaged libraries in search of books they considered to be "un-German." Among the literary and political writings they threw into the flames were the works of Morris Hillquit.
The days of the actual usefulness of the capitalist class in the social economy of the nation are rapidly passing. And like so many other classes in history under similar conditions, the capitalists have become reactionary, and the regime developed by them has become irrational, unjust, and oppressive.
—Socialism in Theory and Practice, 1909
Socialism in Theory and Practice (Der Sozialismus)
Morris Hillquit (1869-1933) was born Moses Hilkowitz in Riga, then part of the Russian Empire. At age 17, he immigrated to the United States. He worked for the Socialist Labor Party, co-founded the Socialist Party of America (1901), and helped establish the United Hebrew Trades, a trade union for Jewish garment workers.
Hillquit was a prominent theoretician of the socialist movement in the United States, writing such works as Socialism in the United States and Socialism in Theory and Practice. He opposed U.S. involvement in World War I on the grounds that it would hinder the spread of socialism worldwide. Hillquit ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for Congress and for mayor of New York City. He also served as defense lawyer in espionage cases brought against communists and socialists.
The German translation of Socialism in Theory and Practice was banished and burned, along with works by other socialist authors, in Nazi Germany in 1933.
Critical Thinking Questions
- If Jews were the principal target during the Holocaust, why were books written by non-Jewish authors burned?
- How did the German public react to the book burnings? What were some of the reactions outside of Germany?
- Why do oppressive regimes promote or support censorship and book burning? How might this be a warning sign of mass atrocity?