The image at right is a chilling one. Most people, if they can identify it as an iconic symbol of the rise of the Nazis, imagine that the books being burned are those of Jewish authors, or others considered enemies of the Third Reich. Many of the authors of the books were Jews. But that’s only partly why they were being burned.
This image, part of the public domain and held in the U.S. National Archives, is of newly empowered Nazi Party members burning the contents of the library of the Institut fÃ¼r Sexualwissenschaft (or Insititute of Sex Research) in Berlin on May 10, 1933.
The Institute was the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, a German Jewish physician and a pioneer of the gay rights movement (Wikipedia entry on him here). In 1897, he co-founded what is considered to be the first gay rights organization in history, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. More Wikipedia-sourced synopses here:
In 1919, Hirschfeld had also co-founded the Institut fÃ¼r Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research), a private sexology research institute. It had a research library and a large archive, and included a marriage and sex counseling office. In addition, the institute was a pioneer worldwide in the call for civil rights and social acceptance for homosexual and transgender people.
I’ve been working something up in honor of Banned Books Week, which starts at the end of next week. But this news item was worth passing along as a not-so-savory appetizer.
From Worth The Trip (a fantastic kids & teens book blog that’s been gracing my Queer Parenting Resources links list for a coupla weeks), we hear of a woman in Lewiston, ME who took it upon herself to decide what patrons at two area libraries ought not to read. Here’s the story.
Kathleen, at Worth The Trip, tells us that the woman
wrote to the directors of both libraries, telling them she was not going to return Itâ€™s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris, and she enclosed a check for $20.95 to cover the cost of each book. She complained in her letter that the book had â€œamoral and abnormalâ€ contents.
We know what that means.
The book treats homosexuality as a normal part of human sexuality. In fact, both of Harrisâ€™s childrenâ€™s books about sex are exemplary in this regard. Thatâ€™s not always the case.