TJMHC Hosts Banned Book Club Amid Flashes of the Past in Today’s Headlines

Why is the Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center (TJMHC) hosting a book club that is reading Beyond Magenta: Transgender and Nonbinary Teens Speak Out?

This question was posed to me recently and honestly, it’s a question that I was happy to answer. Why is an organization that focuses on educating about Jews of Southern Arizona, Judaism, and the Holocaust reading a book about transgender teens?

To answer this question today, we must look back almost exactly ninety years. In May of 1933 university students from across Germany came together at the urging of the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, to burn tens of thousands of books. The authors were the likes of Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Ernest Hemingway, and Magnus Hirschfeld.

In fact, the Nazis wouldn’t just burn Magnus Hirschfeld’s books but on May 6, 1933, they would destroy his life’s work as they raided The Institute for Sexual Research and burned more 20,000 books in the institute’s irreplaceable scientific collection. Of course, the Nazis justified this act and the many other book bans and burnings that would follow as a need to protect German youth from depraved and immoral learning that would hinder the growth of the strong Aryan family.

Jewish authors, disabled authors, political and economic scholars all soon found their books on the pyres as well. Helen Keller, whose writings ran counter to the Nazi argument that disabled individuals needed to be purged to build a true master race, sent an open letter to the people of Germany saying, “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds.”

When Arizona’s state legislature codified a law in the fall of 2022 to allow parents to choose books for removal from school libraries, we saw the beginnings of history repeating itself right here in our state. At Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center, we cannot look away when we hear the same rhetoric and propaganda that we know led to genocide not even 100 years ago.

When we began TJMHC’s Banned Book Club, to read books that have been removed from libraries across Arizona, we started with an amazing panel discussion of Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Now, on May 4, 2023, almost exactly 90 years to the day of the destruction of The Institute for Sexual Research, we come together again to read and discuss world-café style the book Beyond Magenta: Transgender and Nonbinary Teens Speak Out.

Please make plans to join Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center for this book selection and the many others that will address issues of common concern among our allied communities.

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