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Banned in Berlin

Banned in Berlin: Literary Censorship in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918

Gary D. Stark
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 342
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Banned in Berlin
    Book Description:

    Imperial Germany's governing elite frequently sought to censor literature that threatened established political, social, religious, and moral norms in the name of public peace, order, and security. It claimed and exercised a prerogative to intervene in literary life that was broader than that of its Western neighbors, but still not broad enough to prevent the literary community from challenging and subverting many of the social norms the state was most determined to defend. This study is the first systematic analysis in any language of state censorship of literature and theater in imperial Germany (1871-1918). To assess the role that formal state controls played in German literary and political life during this period, it examines the intent, function, contested legal basis, institutions, and everyday operations of literary censorship as well as its effectiveness and its impact on authors, publishers, and theater directors.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-903-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  7. Introduction Censorship, Society, and Literary Life in Imperial Germany
    (pp. xiv-xxviii)

    “Nobody these days holds the written word in such high esteem as police states do,” remarks a character in Italo Calvino’s 1979 novelIf on a winter’s night a traveler. “What statistic allows one to identify the nations where literature enjoys true consideration better than the sums appropriated for controlling and suppressing it? Where it is the object of such attentions, literature gains an extraordinary authority, inconceivable in countries where it is allowed to vegetate as an innocuous pastime, without risks.”¹ Calvino is certainly not the first writer to suggest that when artists enjoy total freedom of expression they are...

  8. Chapter 1 The Law
    (pp. 1-38)

    Like their counterparts throughout Europe and North America in the nineteenth century, anyone engaged in literary or theatrical life in the German Empire did not enjoy absolute freedom to say, publish, or publicly perform whatever they wished. The law limited what subject matter writers could treat and the language they could use; it shaped and restricted institutions that mediated between writers and the public, such as the theater, press, and book trade; and it helped determine which audiences had access to which literary works or performances, and under what conditions. Some legal constraints were enacted by a popularly elected legislature,...

  9. Chapter 2 The Censors
    (pp. 39-85)

    Few occupations are as detested as that of the censor. Like the despised medieval hangmen to whom some Germans frequently compared them,¹ modern censors are “literary executioners” with a thankless job. In performing their duties censors meet with near universal condemnation and have long been objects of ridicule and vilification.

    To most writers and liberal-minded citizens the very institution of censorship is anathema and those who exercise it personify blind reaction and ignorance in action. If one believed their most outspoken critics in imperial Germany, police censors fell into one or more of the following categories: uncultured, inartistic petty functionaries...

  10. Chapter 3 Defending the Political Order
    (pp. 86-114)

    Although the German Empire was born amidst military victory and booming economic growth, its ruling elites quickly came to regard the new order as precarious and insecure. The initial optimism at the empire’s founding in 1871 soon gave way to pessimistic uncertainty as it became clear Bismarck’s complex new polity contained many internal structural instabilities and tensions and as the economic crash of 1873 ushered in two decades of depression. By the end of the 1870s many imperial leaders had adopted a crisis mentality and were driven by profound fear of subversion and revolution. Believing the imperial order was threatened...

  11. Chapter 4 Defending the Social Order
    (pp. 115-149)

    While conservative elites worried about securing the political order, many Germans were more apprehensive about the threat posed by the “social question.” The social question—by which was meant a nexus of social problems related to the polarization of modern society into two antagonistic social classes, the miserable working and living conditions endured by workers, and increasing alienation of the working classes from both traditional values and bourgeois life—predated the empire. But it became more acute after 1871 when the economic crash of 1873 and rise of the socialist movement threatened bourgeois society with imminent social revolution, or so...

  12. Chapter 5 Defending the Religious Order
    (pp. 150-188)

    Since religion was not only vitally important for many Germans but also functioned as an “ideology of legitimation”¹ in the German Empire, authorities were keenly interested in literature dealing with religious subjects. The alliance between throne and altar grew close in Germany during the nineteenth century; in return for the state’s promotion of its interests, orthodox Christianity became a pillar of traditional secular authority and social hierarchy. Church and state were most closely identified in Protestant territories like Prussia, where the ruling princes served as head of a state church staffed and governed by state-appointed officials and financed by state-levied...

  13. Chapter 6 Defending the Moral Order
    (pp. 189-232)

    Besides combating literary subversion of the political, social, and religious orders, after 1880 German censors had to confront a radically new threat: the Sexual Revolution. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, across Europe and North America one finds a new, obsessive interest in sexual behavior and an unprecedented debate over the medical, sociological, political, psychological, and moral dimensions of human sexuality. Fascinated with and yet fearful of sexuality as a controlling force in life, thinkers from diverse disciplines focused increasing attention on such issues as the dramatic increase of “private vices” (prostitution, pornography), venereal disease, sex-related crimes, and...

  14. Chapter 7 The Censored: Authors’ Responses to Censorship
    (pp. 233-260)

    In Thomas Mann’s short story of 1903 about the artist’s problematic relation to bourgeois society, the aspiring young writer Tonio Kröger, after an absence of thirteen years, returns to his hometown for a brief visit. There he is confronted by a policeman who, suspecting Kröger to be a swindler wanted by the law, questions him about his identity and occupation. Kröger, although recognizing this guardian of civic order is acting within his rights, is nevertheless reluctant to reveal who he is. Unable to provide the requisite identity papers, he finally shows the policeman proof sheets of a story of his...

  15. Conclusion Imperial Censorship: An Appraisal
    (pp. 261-282)

    Despite complaints by some that the German Empire was dismissive of writers and literature, the vehement debates about censorship chronicled above indicate that literature was highly esteemed, received much state and public attention, and that imaginative writers and their works were taken very seriously indeed. Cultural reactionaries and avant-garde artists, conservative government officials and radical socialists, traditionalist Catholics and liberal-minded Protestants, the marginalized and vulnerable Jewish community, the emperor, aristocrats, military commanders, and broad segments of the educated and propertied middle classes—all assumed reading literature and performing dramas had enormous power to transform people and social institutions. Those who...

  16. Archives Consulted
    (pp. 283-285)
  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 286-302)
  18. Index of Censored Authors, Titles, Periodicals, and Publishing Firms
    (pp. 303-309)
  19. General Index
    (pp. 310-316)