Roosevelt Hits Nazi Intolerance, Book Burnings
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Roosevelt Hits Nazi Intolerance, Book Burnings

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In an unmistakable reference to Nazi Germany, President Roosevelt yesterday attacked the turning back of the clock of civilization by book-burning, exiling and censorship, and asserted that “if the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own.”

The President’s address, made to 25,000 members of the National Education Association at the site of the New York World’s Fair, did not mention any country by name, but its description of “intolerance,” the dispersing of universities and other aspects of Hitler’s regime was so pointed, that many quarters interpreted the speech as one of the most vigorous attacks that the President has made on the policies of the Reich. The statement assumed added significance by the fact that it was made less than a week before the opening of the Evian refugee-aid conference called by President Roosevelt.

At the conclusion of his address, the President asserted:

“I have spoken of the twin interlocking assets of national and human resources and of the need of developing them hand in hand. But with this goes the equally important and equally difficult problem of keeping education intellectually free. Freedom to learn is the first necessity of guaranteeing that man himself shall be self-reliant enough to be free.

“Such things did not need as much emphasis a generation ago; but when the clock of civilization can be turned back by burning libraries, by exiling scientists, artists, musicians, writers and teachers, by dispersing universities, and by censoring news and literature and art, an added burden is placed upon those countries where the torch of free thought and free learning still burns bright.

“If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep it free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance, we must provide a safe place here for their perpetuation.

“Yes, there may be times when men and women in the turmoil of change lose touch with the civilized gains of centuries of education; but the gains of education are never really lost. Books may be burned and cities sacked, but truth, like the yearning for freedom, lives in the hearts of humble men and women.

“The ultimate victory of tomorrow is with democracy, and through democracy with education, for no people can be kept eternally ignorant or eternally enslaved.”

The New York Times, devoting its leading editorial to the President’s address, said: “It is true that in a day when the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance in other lands we must provide a safe place here for their perpetuation… He could not have chosen a more appropriate theme about which to talk to the teachers of today, on the site of a great fair which is to envisage the world as free men hope it will exist tomorrow.”

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