Nazi Book Burning

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Nearly a century before World War II, German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote, “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people" (“Holocaust History”). These chilling words not only forecasted the events to come, but also went up in flames in Germany during the Nazi book burning. Throughout Germany on May 10, 1933, thousands of people came out to witness these horrid events. These public displays of censorship were monstrous in nature.

Book burning is defined as “the ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials. Usually carried out in a public context, the burning of books represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question” (“Holocaust History”). The purpose of these horrific book burnings was to eliminate all “Un-German” ideas, which, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “attacked ‘Jewish intellectualism,’ asserted the need to ‘purify’ the German language and literature, and demanded that universities be centers of German nationalism” (“Holocaust History”). Adolph Hitler aimed to create a society where only his ideas were accepted and supported.  The majority of the burned books were works by Jewish authors and innovators, such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud for no other reason than the religion of the author.  Even pieces by German writer were burned, including Bertolt Brecht, who talked of socialism, and Thomas Mann, who critiqued Fascism (“Holocaust History”). Works by Helen Keller were even banned because of her belief in social justice and women’s rights. The authors, whose works went up in flames, was either deemed “Un-German” because of race or religion or had ideas that were “Un-German.”

Like the authors whose works were burned, people throughout the world objected to the book burning. President Roosevelt said in response, “Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and...
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