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It's time to remember history, lest we repeat it

Curt Clonts

In 1933 the Nazi university student association labeled works by political and literary authors as “un-German” and then burned the books under the guidance of the Nazi party.

This effort to control Germany politically and culturally also extended to works of art. A list of rules separated “good” art—suitable for the Aryan people—from “bad” or “degenerate” art. Many works were confiscated—including pieces by Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh—and then exhibited so the public could mock and scorn the work under the watchful eye of party members.

Some artists escaped the Nazi regime, but there were many—along with authors, performers, and intellectuals—among the 6 million murdered in concentration camps.

The Nazi book burning happened 90 years ago, yet the “un-German” label eerily echoes some of the un-American war cries we hear today. Americans are more divided today than we have been since the civil war. Scores are being settled in the name of religion, backed by politicians. Our nation’s capitol was attacked. During the 21-22 school year, 1600 books were banned in school libraries across America. And during the first half of the current school year, almost 1500 have been banned.

And artists from all disciplines are beginning to be “managed”.

I think it’s time to remember history, lest we be damned to repeat it.

Curt Clonts is a Wichita-born artist who volunteers as KMUW's art reviewer. When Curt isn’t working in his College Hill studio he is usually spending time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He also spends the spring and summer months kayaking and camping.