On the Saturday of the recently concluded Frankfurt Book Fair, Casemate’s stand was subjected to an interrogation by both the book fair’s security guards and then the Polizei for a book, Totenkopf, published by Histoire & Collections and distributed internationally by Casemate, which was displayed on the Casemate stand. The book is a facsimile of an extremely rare photographic record compiled by SS-Totenkopf photographers during the invasion of France in 1940.
After many years of being told to cover up swastikas and SS runes by security at the book fair, Casemate President, David Farnsworth, took a stand and this time refused to cooperate. It is a fact (denied by security) that although both symbols are illegal in Germany, their display is allowed in the context of a historical document.
The book fair’s representative in the Anglo-American hall (Halle 8), Anja Binninger was very helpful in deciding to find out once and for all what the actual situation was and called in the head of fair security and the police for an adjudication.
The result was that our book was “taken into custody” and we were told that if it was found to be in contravention of German law it would be confiscated. Its “arrest” and attendant paperwork (this was Germany remember) took quite some time, during which quite the crowd assembled at our stand.
It was not long before the rumor mill started with one person even being heard to claim that all our World War II books had been confiscated! This was of course nonsense, but we did wait with some interest for the decision by the police.
Happily and interestingly, some 3 hours later, the police returned the book and told us that it did not break the law after all. There was significant additional paperwork and eventually Casemate staff put the book back on display but inside the clear evidence bag in which it had been removed.
This may seem like an amusing story, and in many ways it is, however, censorship should always be resisted and although there are those who have taken far riskier stands than we did here, press freedom should be defended no matter how small the incident!