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July 14, 2022 1:58 pm
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Fresno State University to Rename Library Honoring Nazi Sympathizer With ‘Disturbing’ Antisemitic Views

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Henry Madden Library at Fresno State University in California. Photo: HenryMaddenLibrary/Wikimedia Commons.

The California State University Board of Trustees has voted to rename the main library at Fresno State University (FSU) after revelations that its longtime namesake, Dr. Henry Miller Madden, was a Nazi sympathizer who held violently antisemitic views throughout his life.

The decision comes months after the school released a final report uncovering the shocking writings of Madden, who served as University Librarian for 30 years between 1949 and 1979 — a topic first explored by FSU Professor Dr. Bradley W. Hart in a 2018 book.

On Wednesday, the university said a task force will be created to propose a new name for the library, and that the building will be called Fresno State Library or “the Library” until a new moniker is approved by the state board of trustees.

“While Dr. Madden had the opportunity later in life to reflect on those views, there is no evidences that he renounced those views,” FSU President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the undercurrents of his racist views remained palpable throughout his life. Naming a building or any key campus area must align without communal values and reflect our shared spirit of discovery, diversity, and distinction.”

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FSU named the library after Madden in 1980, and before his death in 1982, received his papers as a donation with a stipulation that they be sealed for 25 years. In its report, the university said the condition left it “without a full understanding of the man who would be honored.”

In one letter to a friend contained in the documents, Madden shared genocidal fantasies of Nazi stormtroopers killing Jews, writing, “They are the oppressors: they should be driven barefoot to some remote spot in Texas, ther [sic] to find shelter under the bushes, closed in electrically charged barbed wire, with imported SA men stationed every ten yards apart, three men to each machine gun emplacement.”

He continued, “Target practice will be permitted twice weekly, with explosive bullets to be used on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, etc. And yet isn’t it strange that all my friends, all my good friends, have been Jews? … Whom do I hate more than Jews? They have oppressed my mother, stolen her saving from her, chained her with interest servitude, made a Via Dolorosa of her life. They must go!”

The university’s examination of Madden’s papers, undertaken by scholars and twelve students, further found that he supported the Nazis throughout and after World War II, never expressed contrition, and that his racialist ideology influenced his lessons and other administrative work. For example, he admitted to ignoring job applications from people of Asian and Indian origin.

Jerry H. Mann, a member of the FSU President’s Jewish Leadership Council and an attorney who chaired the committee charged with reassessing Madden’s legacy, said that the team of researchers was “thoughtful and comprehensive, and acted with the utmost integrity.”

“The dedication of our scholars, students, and library staff who contributed to this huge undertaking deserve our thanks and appreciation for a job well done,” Mann said.

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