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Neues Deutschland: "American Cultural Barbarism Threatens our Youth" (1950)

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It can therefore come as no surprise to anyone that, in keeping with these object lessons, two boys of eleven and thirteen in Springfield (U.S.A.), masked with handkerchiefs and armed with a revolver taken from the father’s desk, stopped a car on a country road and shot the driver to death. In juvenile court, the youthful murderers explained that they had gotten the idea for this holdup from reading “crime comics.” They had read thirty of these illustrated crime stories every week.

In another case, also in the U.S., a girl suffered such serious burns that both of her legs had to be amputated: a gang of adolescent playmates had tied her, as a “girl detective,” onto a pyre in the manner of one of these gangster stories.

But why and to what end this unparalleled glorification of acts of violence and crimes? Why and to what end this education of “perfect murderers?” This is not a random “manifestation of the times,” whose explanation lies in the “public’s taste,” but rather a conscious and systematic education to brutality, to disregard for human life, to indifference toward injustice and despotism, a systematic education to inhumanity, in short, the ideological preparation for a new madness of war.

Because resistance to a new genocide, the horror of which would surpass everything that has come before, is growing stronger in all peoples, even in the country of the American warmongers themselves, the most clever means are used for the purpose of an ideological education to war. New “heroic figures” are rapidly placed front and center wherever one looks: people who shy from nothing, adventurous criminals, gangsters; behind their “heroic deeds,” their acts of violence and crimes, the new war-mongering of America’s military interests, camouflaged as cosmopolitanism, conceals its bloody face.

But how can and must one counteract the poison of this murderous education?

The task is to wage the fight against American war-mongering and cultural barbarism in all areas. We must put better books into the hands of young people. It is one of the most urgent tasks to create good and suspenseful books for our young people’s thirst to read, and to make those that already exist truly available and accessible to them.

Our youth need books that teach them respect for life and humanity. This is not a new demand, but it is one that cannot be raised often enough – especially to our writers.

Source: Alice Stettiner, “American Cultural Barbarism Threatens our Youth” [“Amerikanische Kulturbarbarei bedroht unsere Jugend”], Neues Deutschland, April 4, 1950.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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