The title of this blog is a quote from Heinrich Heine’s play “Almansor” which he had written in 1821. Heine was a Jewish German poet, writer and literary critic. His words would ring true just over a century after he wrote them.
The Holocaust didn’t start with the mass murder of Jews and other so called “undesirables”. It was a gradual process. It was not just the destruction of life but also the destruction of art and culture that did not suit the Nazis philosophy.
In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on May 10, 1933, university students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of so called “un-German” books, heralding a period of state censorship and control of culture. The disturbing part of this ,it was university students doing this, Supposedly well educated people. In an effort to synchronize the literary community, Goebbels had a strong ally in the National Socialist German Students’ Association (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, or NSDStB).
On the evening of May 10, in most university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals required for high Nazi officials, professors, university rectors, and university student leaders to address the participants and onlookers.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. There are 3 definitions for enlightenment:
1.the act or means of enlightening : the state of being enlightened
2capitalized : a philosophical movement of the 18th century marked by a rejection of traditional social, religious, and political ideas and an emphasis on rationalism —used with the
3. Buddhism : a final blessed state marked by the absence of desire or suffering.
None of the definitions applied here.
Below are just some of the books which were deemed harmful to the German people, according to the Nazis .
Bambi, a Life in the Woods; Time Machine; War of the Worlds; The condition of the working class in England; All Quiet on the Western Front; The Lord of the Rings; Ivanhoe.
As you can see from those titles there was absolutely no justification, nor will there ever be, for banning and burning books.
In Berlin, some 40,000 people heard Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery 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, 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 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.”
— Joseph Goebbels, Speech to the students in Berlin.
Not all book burnings took place on May 10, as the German Student Association had planned. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date for bonfire celebrations in Germany.
The really scary things is this is happening again, the burning has been replaced by cancelling, and the banning of books is happening more and more.
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