Photo Writing Prompt: A Reflection on Censorship

September 25–October 2 is Banned Books Week (BBW), so I’ve chosen a photo related to censorship and book banning. This post is the first of what, I hope, will become a regular feature, assuming feedback is positive.

Memorial to Nazi book-burning Reflection. What do you see in the glass? This image (click to see enlarged version) shows the reflection of visitors to a Memorial built in the Bebelplatz, the square where Nazi followers burned about 20,000 books found to be “Un-German” on May 10, 1933.

The memorial itself is a sheet of glass inserted into the cobblestone plaza. Visitors can look through the glass to see a lighted, underground room lined with enough empty bookshelves to hold approximately 20,000 books.

Imagine yourself as one of the visitors to the memorial. Write a diary entry, blog entry, or short personal essay from the perspective of that visitor. Your goal is to capture what one of the people reflected on the glass is thinking.

Try freewriting on one of these questions to get started:

  • What emotions did the empty bookcases stir for you when you looked through the glass? Why?
  • Who else is reflected in the glass? Describe how someone else reacted to the memorial and how their response compared to yours.
  • Why did you come to the memorial? Did it meet your expectations?
  • How does the underground placement of the memorial affect its impact?
  • Describe the conversation you had with someone else reflected in the glass. What did you say to each other?
  • If you could create a memorial that peered through a window to another moment, what moment would you choose and how would you represent it?


[Memorial to Nazi book-burning by Lukas, on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]