Upton Sinclair

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 Upton Sinclair. 

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Political sovereignty has been taken out of the possession of private individuals and made the property of the whole community, to be shared in by all on equal terms; but industrial sovereignty is still the property of a few. A man can no longer be put in jail or taxed by a king, but he can be starved and exploited by a master; his body is now his own, but his labor is another's.
The Industrial Republic, Upton Sinclair, 1907

Which of Upton Sinclair's Works were Burned?

The Brass Check (Der Sündenlohn)
100%: The Story of a Patriot
Boston: A Documentary Novel of the Sacco-Vanzetti Trial
Jimmie Higgins: A Story
The Jungle
(Der Sumpf)
Oil (Petroleum)
The Profits of Religion; An Essay in Economic Interpretation (Religion und Profit)
Mammonart (Die goldene Kette)

Who was Upton Sinclair?

American author Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) is best known for his popular 1906 work The Jungle, a depiction of the corruption, filth, and cruelty he witnessed while undercover in the Chicago meatpacking industry. In this and other "muckraking" works including The Brass Check and King Coal, Sinclair exposed social injustice and economic exploitation. He advocated reform in American society.

In later years, Upton Sinclair would relinquish his socialist views and support the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt; but his prominence as a socialist writer in the 1930s induced the Nazis to include his works in their book burnings.

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?

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