Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century
Lurking behind the academic prose of this historical survey is a compelling, provocative analysis of""libricide,"" the systematic destruction or robbery of books and other cultural artifacts as part of an ideological campaign against a group or nation. Focusing on five case studies--Germany, Bosnia, Kuwait, China and Tibet--Knuth, a professor of library and information science at the University of Hawaii, argues that libricide often coincides with, or even precedes, genocide. The earliest modern example of such a pattern occurred in Germany, where the Nazi regime""purified"" national libraries of Jewish content and selectively""looted, destroyed, and pulped"" libraries of German-occupied countries as part of their program to create a homogenized, Aryan state. Similarly, during Hussein's six-month occupation of Kuwait in 1989-90, Iraqis destroyed 43% of the book stocks in school libraries even as they subjected the resident population to""the horrors of torture, rape, and summary execution."" The Serbs, Knuth documents, destroyed a good part of the cultural heritage of Bosnian Moslems, Croats, and Slovenes; the Chinese conducted not only the appalling Cultural Revolution, but also the near obliteration of traditional Tibetan culture. The opening three chapters of this book, which offer a theoretical framework for the libricide-genocide connection, and the conclusion, which sets Knuth's argument in context of other genocide studies, are written in a much drier, more academic style than the five case histories. However, Knuth's argument is powerfully drawn and deserves a wider audience than the scholarly and library professional readership for which it seems rather clearly intended.