The Book Burning
On May 10, 1933 student groups at universities across Germany carried out a series of book burnings of works that the students and leading Nazi party members associated with an “un-German spirit.” Enthusiastic crowds witnessed the burning of books by Brecht, Einstein, Freud, Mann and Remarque, among many other well-known intellectuals, scientists and cultural figures, many of whom were Jewish. The largest of these book bonfires occurred in Berlin, where an estimated 40,000 people gathered to hear a speech by the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, in which he pronounced that “Jewish intellectualism is dead” and endorsed the students’ “right to clean up the debris of the past.”
On the evening of may 10,1933, some four and a half months after hitler became chancellor there occured in berlin a scene which had not been witnessed in the western world since the late middle ages.At about midnight a torch light parade of thousands of students ended at a square on unterden liden opposite the university of berlin.Torchs were put to a huge pile of books that had been gathered there, and as the flames enveloped them more books were thrown on the fire until some twenty thousand had been consumed, The book Burning Began.
The response to the book burnings was immediate and widespread. Counter demonstrations took place in New York and other American cities, including Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago. Journalists in the American and world press expressed shock and dismay at these attacks on German intellectual freedom, and various authors wrote in support of their assaulted German brethren. Artists, writers, doctors, and other intellectuals fled Germany, prompted by the barbarity of the book burnings and by continuing acts of Nazi persecution.
In Berlin alone, a crowd estimated to number perhaps 40,000 were on hand to hear Hitler’s henchman, Joseph Goebbels, spout the attributes of morality and decency while begrudging moral corruption and decadence. He specifically called for the burning of books by authors such as Erich Kastner, Ernst Glaser and Heinrich Mann. Kastner was actually a writer of children’s book. He was also however, strongly opposed to the Nazi movement. His signing of the “Urgent Call to Unity” sealed his anti-Nazi stance. American writers whose books were incinerated that night included Hellen Keller, Jack London and Ernest Hemingway. Famous fiction author H.G. Wells, a man of British descent, was represented, as was Karl Marx, the founder of communist ideals.
The rise and the fall of the reich