During World War II, Literature Reigned Supreme

Books symbolized freedom. Posters of 1942 quoted the president: “Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons.” During the Blitz, Muriel Rukeyser recalled, “newspapers in America carried full-page advertisements for The Oxford Book of English Verse, announced as ‘all that is imperishable of England.’” For the first and only time in history, protecting books in war zones became an official aim of armed forces. | The Writers’ War Board, founded two weeks after Pearl Harbor as an independent propaganda agency, spotlighted modernist books as the targets of Nazism. American publishers gladly joined the crusade. To buy a book, particularly a “modern” book, was to defend liberty. —Literary Hub

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