The ethics of cultural heritage
The ethics of cultural heritage

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

The ethics of cultural heritage

1.1 The evidential reading

The evidential reading of the inseparability thesis is that, whenever cultural heritage is deliberately attacked, that is good evidence that attacks on people are imminent or already happening.

Weiss and Connelly (2017) argue that attacks on heritage are a kind of ‘alarm bell’, warning us that attacks on human beings are impending. Raphael Lemkin, who constructed the concept of genocide, once asserted that ‘burning books is not the same as burning bodies, but when one intervenes in time against mass destruction of churches and books one arrives just in time to prevent the burning of bodies’ (Lemkin, 1948).

Indeed, Lemkin’s chosen example evokes well-known real events. During World War Two, the Nazis were responsible for the genocide of approximately 6 million Jews. Prior to the start of the war, however, they were also responsible for provoking antagonism against groups seen as un-German. One practice in particular was that of book burning, as the video below highlights.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 6
Skip transcript: Video 6

Transcript: Video 6

Burning books in Nazi Germany.
Beginning in May 1933, the Nazis carried out public burnings of books which they deemed were "un-German". The works of Jewish, liberal, and politically-left writers and thinkers were burned in large bonfires. The book burnings were carried out by Nazi-led student groups and took place in 34 cities and university towns across Germany. In Berlin, 40,000 people gathered for the book burning to listen to an address by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The book burnings were part of a Nazi effort to 'purify' Germany by promoting 'Aryan' culture and suppressing other artistic and ideological productions. It symbolically marked the censorship, intolerance, and terror of the Nazi regime.
End transcript: Video 6
Video 6
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The idea behind the evidential reading is that practices such as book burning warn us that more serious crimes against humans are likely to follow.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371