I have done similar posts before, but I do think it is extremely important that people understand this. The Holocaust didn’t start with the killing of Jews and other groups, it started with the actions of well-educated people. It started with something we call nowadays cancel culture.
On this day, 90 years ago. university students in 34 university towns across Germany burned over 25,000 books. The works of Jewish authors like Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud went up in flames alongside blacklisted American authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Helen Keller, while students gave the Nazi salute.
Four days previously, on 6 May 1933, the Institute of Sexology, an academic foundation devoted to sexological research and the advocacy of homosexual rights, was broken into and occupied by Nazi-supporting youth. Several days later the entire contents of the library were removed and burned.
It is presumed that Dora Richter was killed in the attack, the first known person to undergo complete male-to-female gender reassignment surgery, although it is possible she was arrested and died in custody. It’s not known just how many people were murdered after the institute’s records fell into the hands of the Gestapo and the police.
Dr Wolfgang Herrmann had created a black list of those books that should be removed from bookstores and libraries, List 1: Fiction and List 2: Politics and Political Science. At the same time, there were indications for books whose purchase is recommended. On 1 May 1933, Herrmann forwarded the selection list to the National Socialist German student body in order to direct the plundering of the stocks of libraries, lending libraries and scientific institutions in the campaign, “Against the un-German spirit.”
Surprisingly it also included works from Waldemar Bonsels: everything except Maya the Bee, heavenly people, and journey to India. Bonsels was an outspoken anti-semite and expressed his approval of Nazi politics against Jews in 1933, calling the Jew—a deadly enemy, who was poisoning the culture in an article (NSDAP und Judentum) which was widely published.
The lists were published in several newspapers and magazines at the beginning of May 1933. They contained summaries of four anthologies and 130 authors. Some exceptions were noted if only certain works of a writer were affected. The list was submitted to the Ministry of Propaganda but was never officially approved.
students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books in the square at the State Opera, Berlin, thereby presaging an era of uncompromising state censorship. In many other university towns, nationalist students marched in torch-lit parades against the “un-German” spirit. The scripted rituals of this night called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged, banned books into the bonfires with a great joyous ceremony that included live music, singing, “fire oaths,” and incantations. In Berlin, some 40,000 people heard Joseph Goebbels deliver an address: “No to decadence and moral corruption!” Goebbels enjoined the crowd.
“Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glaeser, and Erich Kästner. The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. The breakthrough of the German revolution has again cleared the way on the German path…The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you. As a young person, to already have the courage to face the pitiless glare, to overcome the fear of death, and to regain respect for death – this is the task of this young generation. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames of the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed – a deed which should document the following for the world to know – Here the intellectual foundation of the November Republic is sinking to the ground, but from this wreckage, the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise.”
On April 8, 1933, the Main Office for Press and Propaganda of the German Student Union (DSt) . had already announced a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit”, which was to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” (“Säuberung”) by fire. On the same day, the student union published ‘The Twelve Thesis’
Against the un-German spirit!
- Language and literature have their roots in the Folk. It is the German Folk’s responsibility to assure that its language and literature are the pure and unadulterated expression of its Folk traditions.
- At present there is a chasm between literature and German tradition. This situation is a disgrace.
- The purity of language and literature is your responsibility! Your Folk has entrusted you with the duty of faithfully preserving your language.
- Our most dangerous enemy is the Jew and those who are his slaves.
- A Jew can only think Jewish. If he writes in German, he is lying. The German who writes in German, but thinks un-German, is a traitor! The student who speaks and writes un-German is, in addition, thoughtless and has abandoned his duties.
- We want to eradicate lies, we want to denounce treason, and we want institutions of discipline and political education for us the students, not mindlessness.
- We want to regard the Jew as alien and we want to respect the traditions of the Folk.
Therefore, we demand the censor:
Jewish writings are to be published in Hebrew.
If they appear in German, they must be identified as translations.
Strongest actions against the abuse of the German script.
German script is only available to Germans.
The un-German spirit is to be eradicated from public libraries.
- We demand the German students the desire and capability for independent knowledge and decisions.
- We demand German students have the desire and capability to maintain the purity of the German language.
- We demand German students have the desire and capability to overcome Jewish intellectualism and the resulting liberal decay in the German spirit.
- We demand the selection of students and professors in accordance with their reliability and commitment to the German spirit.
- We demand that German universities be a stronghold of the German Folk tradition and a battleground reflecting the power of the German mind.
The German Student Association.
These are just some names of authors whose books were burned that day 90 years ago.
Vicki Baum, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Franz Boas, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Engels, Etta Federn, Lion Feuchtwanger, Marieluise Fleißer, Leonhard Frank, Sigmund Freud, Iwan Goll, Jaroslav Hašek, Werner Hegemann, Hermann Hesse, Ödön von Horvath, Heinrich Eduard Jacob, Franz Kafka, Georg Kaiser, Alfred Kerr, Egon Kisch, Siegfried Kracauer, Theodor Lessing, Alexander Lernet-Holenia, Karl Liebknecht, Georg Lukács, Rosa Luxemburg, Klaus Mann, Ludwig Marcuse, Karl Marx, Robert Musil, Carl von Ossietzky, Erwin Piscator, Alfred Polgar, Gertrud von Puttkamer, Erich Maria Remarque,Ludwig Renn, Joachim Ringelnatz, Joseph Roth, Nelly Sachs, Felix Salten, Anna Seghers, Abraham Nahum Stencl, Carl Sternheim, Bertha von Suttner, Ernst Toller, Frank Wedekind, Franz Werfel, Grete Weiskopf, and Arnold Zweig.
Not only were German-speaking authors’ books burnt, but also French authors such as Henri Barbusse, André Gide, Victor Hugo and Romain Rolland; American writers such as John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Margaret Sanger; as well as British authors Joseph Conrad, Radclyffe Hall, Aldous Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Henry de Vere Stacpoole, H.G. Wells, Irish authors James Joyce and Oscar Wilde; and Russian authors including Isaac Babel, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ilya Ehrenburg, Maxim Gorki, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Leo Tolstoy, and Leon Trotsky.
What really concerns me is that 90 years on and people are talking about banning books again, and also cancelling other cultural media. Free speech is important, if you don’t like what you read or hear, you don’t cancel it, you fight your corner with persuasion.
If you limit education, you will breed ignorance and indifference, throw in hate, and you have three main pillars to create a genocide.