Missouri schools pull several Holocaust books, including ‘Maus’

“What could be more fascist than forbidding people from seeing books that teach about the horrors of fascism?”

By World Israel News Staff

Missouri schools have pulled hundreds of books from their shelves, including Art Spiegelman’s Maus and several other titles on the Holocaust, since the beginning of the school year.

Spiegelman, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Lois Lowry, are among the authors and illustrators who signed an letter of protest published by the free-expression advocacy group PEN America.

The ban in Missouri schools districts represents “a grave threat to the freedom to read and will affect students across the state,” the group said.

PEN America’s director of free expression and education programs Jonathan Friedman said a “climate of fear” was to blame for the ban.

A Missouri state law was recently amended to prohibit “any visual depiction” of a range sexual acts. Graphic novels, Holocaust literature, and a collection of photography by Annie Leibovitz were affected.

Violation of the law can result in jail time for or school officials.

“What could be more fascist than forbidding people from seeing books that teach about the horrors of fascism?” PEN cited Spiegelman as saying.

Along with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, other Holocaust titles for young readers that were pulled include three by Craig Blohm, “Holocaust Camps and Killing Centers,” “Holocaust Rescue and Liberation” and “Holocaust Resistance”; Don Nardo’s “Life in a Nazi Concentration Camp”; “Hitler’s Final Solution” by John Allen; “Apparatus of Death — The Third Reich” by Thomas Flaherty.

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Earlier this year, a local Tennessee school board drew an outcry from Jewish groups after Maus was removed from its curriculum.

The school board had cited “nudity” and “inappropriate language” as justification for the ban.

Spiegelman said at the time that he pored over the transcripts of the McMinn County school board meeting where the decision to ban Maus was made and that he did not believe “it’s the dirty words that are really scaring them.”

“At first I thought it was joke…because to complain about these relatively mild words” seemed like a minor detail in a book which recounts genocide, mass imprisonment, and other realities far more disturbing than profanity.

According to Spiegelman, the real reasons the book was banned stem from parents’ unease with the ugly realities of the Holocaust and a resistance to facing the dark and evil side of humanity.

“Even if they say they’re willing to teach the Holocaust, they want a fuzzier, warmer, gentler Holocaust that shows how great the Americans were,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. was reluctant to take measures to stop the extermination of Jews at death camps and that Russia liberated prisoners at Auschwitz, where Speigelman’s father had been incarcerated.

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“This is a dangerous world. It’s getting more dangerous. Are you going to try to confront it in a way that’s useful, or hide your head in myths and stories that are heartwarming?” he asked.

The author said he is against censorship in all forms and that forming one’s own opinion based on a diverse array of books is a crucial step towards developing critical-thinking skills.

“Banned books are the books to seek out first,” Spiegelman said. “Keep your nose in a book, and keep other peoples’ noses out of which books you choose to stick your nose into.”