Law for the Protection of Youth Against Trash and Filth

(Schund- und Schmutzgesetz)
   Through Article 118 the Weimar Constitution* permitted special measures to regulate film* distribution, to counter "trash and filth literature," and to protect youth from depraved exhi-bitions. Guided by Germany's churches and represented politically by the Center Party* and the DNVP, lay groups entered into coalition in November 1924 to form the Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Volksgesundung (Alliance for National Health), a lobby dedicated to German values. One of its six committees launched a crusade against "trash and filth literature." But while Germans of all political persuasions were alarmed by signs of rampant moral change, there was no una-nimity on how to control access to "trash and filth"; indeed, definition of the terms proved contentious.
   A draft of the Schund- und Schmutzgesetz was placed before the Reichstag* in August 1925 by Interior Minister Wilhelm Külz,* a member of the DDP. Since the DDP opposed censorship on principle, such sponsorship signified the Party's desire to avoid a rigid bill. Requiring months of deliberation, the law of November 1926 (passed on 10 December) was largely the work of Gertrud Baumer* and Theodor Heuss,* both of the DDP. A majority of the DDP voted against the bill; indeed, that any Democrat supported censorship mortified most Party members. The law prohibited distribution or sale of "indexed" literature to youth under age eighteen, and all governmental agencies were accountable for removing such materials from public institutions.
   Although churches and related groups were disappointed with limitations im-posed upon the Schund- und Schmutzgesetz, they were vigilant in seeking its enforcement. The artistic and literary communities were nearly unanimous in opposing the measure, and the liberal press denounced it (Theodor Wolff* pro-tested by resigning from the DDP). Most dedicated to restraining the law's impact was the Aktionsgemeinschaft fur geistige Freiheit (Alliance for Intellec-tual Freedom), founded in 1928 by Alfred Doblin.* By the end of 1932, how-ever, a total of 183 books and periodicals appeared on the censorship index. Historians generally maintain that the law helped prepare Germans for the in-famous book burning of 10 May 1933.
   REFERENCES:Petersen, Harmful Publications (Young Persons) Act"; Peukert, Schund- und Schmutzkampf."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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