“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings” – Taken from the 1821 play “Almansor” by Heinrich Heine
There is an old adage that states those who do not remember their history are condemned to repeat it. If that is indeed the case, it appears that Pastor Terry Jones and part of his Dove World Outreach flock in Gainesville never cared much for history class.
Pastor Jones started threatening to burn the Quran back in July 2010. He courted the media for weeks with a siren’s song that incited a firestorm of controversy. On March 20, 2011, he made good on his threats. Pastor Jones’ actions have since caused over 20 deaths and sparked days of violent protests in Afghanistan.
Book burning and the consequences thereof are not new. It is an activity that has been going on in America since 1650 when a court order sent William Pynchon’s book “A Meritorious Price of Our Redemption” up in flames. The reason behind the book’s burning was religious differences between the writer and those in power at the time.
According to the First Amendment Center’s website, the burning of Pynchon’s book may have been America’s first, but it certainly wasn’t the world’s last. Here are three more book burnings that have impacted the world beyond causing rising smoke and burning embers.
Sarajevo’s National Library Book Burning
The dubious distinction of having the largest book burning in history goes to the Serbs. In 1992 they launched a three-day all-out campaign against Sarajevo’s National Library, sending more than 1 million books to their fiery death. The burning was an attempt to erase the country’s heritage and successfully caused the senseless destruction of many priceless cultural artifacts.
Nazi Germany Student Rally Book Burnings
Though it was not the largest book burning in history, Germany’s student rally book burnings of May 1933 may well be one of the more notorious because of its back story. Roughly 20,000 books, many written by Jews, were burned in the process. It was just one of many book burnings that besieged Germany during Hitler’s reign of tyranny. The ruler used the events to indoctrinate the country’s youth on his message of hate.
Jesus Party and Harry PotterBook Burnings
Hoping to create a maelstrom against magic in 2002, the Jesus Party called for the mass burning of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. The party’s actions, however, did nothing more than to fuel people’s love of the novels and usher in more sales. According to an MSNBC report from July 18, 2005, Rowling’s sixth Potter book alone broke records in when 6.9 million copies were sold within the first 24 hours of the book’s release.
Ken Paulson, “Book-burning in America: when wizards go up in smoke” First Amendment Center
MSNBC, “New Potter book topples U.S sales records” MSNBC
American Library Association, “Book Burning in the 20th Century – 1933” American Library Association
Kevin Sieff, “Florida Pastor Terry Jones’s Koran burning has far-reaching effect” The Washington Post