One of the most effective weapons to fight antisemitism and racism is critical thinking. What scares me though, is that there seems to be less and less people who have this ability. Or maybe it is just a case that those who think critically are silenced.
This blog will be about a historical event , but I can’t ignore the fact that it has similarities to what is slowly creeping in today’s society. Often critical thinking gets confused with criticizing news reports or studies etc., but that is an incorrect assessment. Critical thinking is merely not accepting everything you hear automatically, but rather analyse the data and ask questions where needed.
One of the key ingredients for critical thinking is knowing history. There is currently a trend in several countries, to take history out of the school curriculum. However if you forget your history, you forfeit your future.
In April 1933 German Student Association called for German university students to destroy all “un-German” literature. Basically they wanted to sanitize history to suit their own traditions and philosophies. According to them everything which was not in line with the Germanic ‘values’ ,and especially anything Jewish,was deemed tainted and had to be purged.
They published what they called “Zwölf Thesen wider den undeutschen Geist,-twelve Theses Against the Un-German Spirit”. The document was published in several German media. Below is an English translation of the text.
” Twelve Theses Against the un-German spirit!
1. Language and literature have their roots in the people. It is the German people’s responsibility to assure that its language and literature are the pure and unadulterated expression of its Folk traditions.
2. At present there is a chasm between literature and German tradition. This situation is a disgrace.
3. Purity of language and literature is your responsibility! Your people have entrusted you with the duty of faithfully preserving your language.
4. Our most dangerous enemy is the Jew and those who are his slaves.
5. A Jew can only think Jewish. If he writes in German, he is lying. The German who writes in German, but thinks un-German, is a traitor! The student who speaks and writes un-German is, in addition, thoughtless and has abandoned his duties.
6. We want to eradicate lies, we want to denounce treason, we want institutions of discipline and political education for us the students, not mindlessness.
7. We want to regard the Jew as alien and we want to respect the traditions of the Folk.
Therefore, we demand of the censor:
Jewish writings are to be published in Hebrew.
If they appear in German, they must be identified as translations.
Strongest actions against the abuse of the German script.
German script is only available to Germans.
The un-German spirit is to be eradicated from public libraries.
8. We demand of the German students the desire and capability for independent knowledge and decisions.
9. We demand of German students the desire and capability to maintain the purity of the German language.
10. We demand of German students the desire and capability to overcome Jewish intellectualism and the resulting liberal decay in the German spirit.
11. We demand the selection of students and professors in accordance with their reliability and commitment to the German spirit.
12. We demand that German universities be a stronghold of the German Folk tradition and a battleground reflecting the power of the German mind.
The German Student Association.”
Although these theses did not themselves expressly call for book burning, it is what triggered the book burnings across Germany and Austria in May 1933. This was only a few months after the Nazi party had taken power.
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