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 Theodore Dreiser.
And out of Russia, as out of no other country today, I feel, are destined to come great things, mentally as well as practically.
—Sowjet Russland (Dreiser Looks at Russia), 1929
All works published before May 1933
American author Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945) grew up in a German-speaking environment in Terre Haute, Indiana. One of ten children born to an impoverished German immigrant family, he was largely self-educated. Censorship and bans accompanied him all of his life. He began his writing career as a reporter for a number of Chicago and St. Louis newspapers. Dreiser was a pioneer of American naturalist fiction and a lifelong foe of censorship. In 1900 his first novel, Sister Carrie, was withheld from general distribution by the publisher due to the work's perceived amoral content. Later novels were censured by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and banned in Boston. Dreiser's work became increasingly political, as his interest in socialism and Communism deepened. His works were banned and burned in Nazi Germany.
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?