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Banned Book, Interrupted Movie

1930 Movie Poster
Universal Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
1930 Movie Poster

Banned Book, Interrupted Movie

by Michael Roberts

All Quiet on the Western Front was quite controversial after publication in January of 1928. If book sales, however, had been a sign of success All Quiet… would have been enshrined on the New York Times best seller list. In Germany, sales exceeded one million copies in the first year. In both Britain and France 600,000 copies were purchased. And even in America sales of the now famous novel sold over 200,000 copies. But alas, the popularity of the narrative also caused the newly formed Nazi party to lash out and do whatever it took to keep the German people from reading the book or watching the movie.

When the movie was scheduled to open at one of Berlin’s music halls, the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels entered the building and led the Brownshirts, Nazi youth, in throwing stink bombs, filling the air with sneezing powder and releasing mice into the crowd. Pandemonium ensued with Nazi invectives of “Judenfilm” screamed intermittently. The book had become a rallying point for the Third Reich and a benchmark for promoting Nazi patriotism.

Ironically, in Poland, the book was banned with the reasoning being that Remarque’s prose was “too pro-German,” hence its banishment in that region of Eastern Europe.

The book was also banned and often burned in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Italy. In particular, Hitler’s Nazi ideology detested the narrative as they strove to brainwash the German public in their desire to promote war in Europe. Eric Remarque’s German citizenship was revoked and he fled to Switzerland and eventually the United States.

Sadly, a member of his family was sacrificed for his controversial but accurate portrayal of WWI. His youngest sister was tried (Nazi trial) and found guilty of “undermining morale” and later beheaded after declaring “the war (WWII) was lost.”

With his sister’s death, we see Remarque’s comments about the book being “neither a political statement nor an accusation at any individual or group” being cast aside. His desire was simply to show how young men could be destroyed physically and emotionally by the experience of war. The Nazi’s, however, could care less; they needed war to promulgate their toxic ideology.

I am not a fan of war and might even be called a pacifist. I can say, however, that members of my family served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. Some wars must be fought in order to save humanity but others, like the police action of recent conflicts might have been better served by détente and negotiation.

Perhaps my feelings are best defined by General Dwight David Eisenhower’s (Supreme Allied Commander) comments: “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

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