Thinking about censorship in history: The GiftSchrank


by Mack Freeman

The podcast 99% Invisible has released a new episode this week about the Giftschrank, a German concept that combines the word “poison” and “cabinet.” This was the place in German libraries throughout history where banned materials were kept so that they wouldn’t have to be destroyed but so that they could not be easily accessed. Previous types of materials keep in giftschranks include erotica, anti-Catholic doctrine, LGBT-oriented materials, and Nazi literature. Listen to this podcast to get an interesting perspective on one particular part of the world’s response to censorship over time and how it evolved as society changed.

Of course, the Office of Intellectual Freedom and the American Library Association are opposed to censorship wherever it rears its head, but this is a helpful reminder that censorship isn’t simply removing books from the shelves or burning them in the streets. Speech can be effectively censored by putting it behind locked doors and controlling access to who or what types of person can gain access to it.


John “Mack” Freeman is the Marketing and Programming Coordinator for the West Georgia Regional Library. He is a past recipient of the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Conable Scholarship, and a 2015 ALA Emerging Leader.

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