America doesn’t burn books. It bans them as neo-Nazi sentiment takes hold

The Nazis burned books in 1930’s Germany.

School district in Tennessee doesn’t burn books. It bans them. Political book bannning in 21st century America catches fire as an increasingly intolerant neo-Nazi sentiment spreads its toxicity over the country.

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Book burning in Nazi Germany began in 1933

Video link of Josef Goebbels exhorting Nazis to burn books

Excerpted from The Tennessean 1.24.2022

A Tennessee school board’s decision to remove Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Maus” from its curriculum has drawn international attention, including coverage from CNN, BBC and Times of Israel.

The McMinn County School Board voted 10-0 to ban the book in a Jan. 10 meeting, citing concerns over “rough” language and a nude drawing of a woman, according to meeting minutes posted to the district website. The book was part of its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum.

The book, written by comic artist Art Spiegelman, is a graphic novel that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland. It follows them through their internment in Auschwitz. Nazis are portrayed as cats, while Jewish people are shown as mice. The novel also includes conversations between Spiegelman and his elderly father as he convinces him to tell his story.

Visitors stand near the entrance to the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

The book was published in 1986, and Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer for it in 1992.

“The values of the county are understood,” McMinn County Director of Schools Lee Parkison said during the meeting. “There is some rough, objectionable language in this book.”

School board debates ‘Maus’ removal, defends decision

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Eight “curse words” and the nude drawing were at the forefront of the concerns over the book, according to the board minutes.

Board member Tony Allman said he was also concerned about scenes in the book where mice were hung from trees and children were killed. The book also depicts suicide.

“Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff?” he said. “It is not wise or healthy.”

Instructional supervisor Julie Goodin, a former history teacher, said that she believes the book represents the brutality of the Holocaust.

“There is nothing pretty about the Holocaust and for me this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history,” she said.

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The school board released a statement Thursday afternoon defending its decision, citing the “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide” in the book.

“Taken as a whole, the Board felt this work was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools,” part of the statement read.

As news spread about the school board’s decision, the US Holocaust Museum posted about “Maus” on Twitter Wednesday.

“Maus has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors,” the post read. “On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history. Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today.”

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) released a statement Thursday condemning the board’s decision, calling it reminiscent of the Scopes Monkey Trial. The 1925 trial centered on young high school teacher John Thomas Scopes, who was accused of violating state law by teaching evolution.

Cohen, who is Jewish, helped create the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and has been an advocate for Holocaust education in schools and other institutions.

“Art Spiegelman’s novel opens minds to the history of the Nazi genocide we’re remembering on today’s anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in 1945,” Cohen said. “I look forward to seeing the school board decision reversed.”

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