[back] Dr. Wilhelm Reich
AN EYEWITNESS REPORT of the BURNING of SCIENTIFIC BOOKS in the USA 1956
by Victor M. Sobey, M.D.
The following letter is printed as a supplement to A REPORT ON THE JAILING OF A GREAT SCIENTIST IN THE USA, 1956, Regarding the Resistance of Wilhelm Reich, M.D., to a Federal Injunction Abolishing Freedom of Scientific Research, Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech, by Lois Wyvell. It speaks for itself.
Dear Miss Wyvell,
I had meant to write to you after I received "The Report", in order to ask for some additional copies. It seems that people have reacted quite a bit to the report, but like everything else, if they can't see this fight as a tangible struggle in their lives, they just go back into their daily routines until someone pushes them again.
Yes, I saw the books burned. It hurt a great deal for awhile, but then I compared this loss to the destruction of an airplane or battleship in war and realized that this is just what we are in.
On August 22, I called Dr. Silvert just to talk. He told me that the next morning the F.D.A. agents were to order the press to remove for destruction all the literature that came under section 6 of the injunction, as follows: Catalogue Sheet, Physicians' Reports, Application for the Use of the Orgone Energy Accumulator, Additional Information Regarding Soft Orgone Irradiation, Orgone Energy Accumulator—Its Scientific and Medical Use, Orgone Energy Bulletin, Orgone Energy Emergency Bulletin, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Orgonomie, Emotional Plague versus Orgone Biophysics, Annals of the Orgone Institute, Ether God and Devil, and Oranur Experiment. He asked me to attend, and I said I would be willing to come.
I arrived at the stockroom at 7:30 a.m. on August 23. Present were Dr. Silvert, Martin Bell, Miss Shepard, myself, and two F.D.A. agents, a Mr. Ledder and a Mr. Conway. All the expenses and labor had to be provided by the Press. A huge truck with three in help were hired. I felt like people who, when they are to be executed, are made to dig their own graves first and are then shot and thrown in. We carried box after box of the literature. No accurate check was taken of the amount, but it filled the truck.
Toward the end, Mr. Conway stopped Dr. Silvert to tell him that the New York office of the F.D.A. had received information from Dr. Milstead of the Washington office that it was their opinion that the literature of Section 5 of the injunction should also be applied to Section 1,2,3, of the injunction. Dr. Silvert asked if this meant that these books should also be burnt and the agent shrugged his shoulders and said that "this was their opinion." So again they were laying a trap. If the Press decided to destroy the books of Section 5, then the F.D.A. could say they were blameless, because the Press agreed with their opinion. If the press didn't destroy the books, the F.D.A. could serve the press with a complaint for not complying with the injunction, and then everybody is in court again.
After loading was completed, the truck went to the Gansevoort Incinerator at Gansevoort and Hudson Streets. It dumped its load of books into the fire, and it was done.
My one regret is that I did not think of taking pictures, but I didn't really believe it happened until I started to put it down in this letter to you... .Of course you are free to quote all or any part of this letter.
Might I also suggest that you do not lose the true issue here; the burning of these books is not the whole issue but is only one aspect in the murder of the truth.
Victor M. Sobey, M.D.