On May 10, 1933, university campuses under National Socialist control all across Germany burned thousands of their books in a display of nationalism.[1] In anticipation of backlash, those who burned these books even sought support from contemporary authors who would legitimize their actions.

Some targets of the book burning included:

  • Some speeches indicated that books which could be attributed to Luther, which symbolically paralleled National Socialism, were some of the targets of this cleansing ritual.[2] Regardless of the exact target, the idea was to burn books which expressed “the un-German spirit”.[3]
  • Author Armin T. Wegner, who was unfortunate enough to be present on the day of the burning. Despite being “one of the most prominent writers of his time”, his works were condemned partly for his open condemnation of Hitler in a letter he wrote to protest the cruel treatment of Jewish peoples.[4] He was later arrested, tortured, and endured three subsequent concentration camps.
  • Books by Erich Kãstner, who despite being present on May 10 1933, was not harmed by anyone.[5]
  • Any writer who displayed any opposition to Nationalist Socialism.[6]


Nazi Ideology and Policy

The physical burning of books was not the first sign of such policies under Nazi authority.

For instance, in 1930, the Reichstag lobbied for a law which was deemed to be protective in nature, and which would have criminalized “cultural treachery”.[7]

Furthermore, in August of 1932, the Völkischer Beobachler presented a list of authors which, under the Nazi regime, were to be censored as soon as possible.[8]

Later waves of censorship caused  the following artists to either face imprisonment or exile throughout Nazi reign:

Karl August Wittfogel, Ludwig Renn, Kurt Hiller, Egon Erwin Kiscb, Klaus Neukranz, Johannes R. Becher, Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, Bruno Frank, Annette Kolb, Leo Lania, and Ludwig Marcuse


Photo Credit: http://germanculture.com.ua/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/nazi-books-burning.jpg


[1] Nazi book burnings and the American response. (Washington, DC: United States Congress, United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1988), 627.

[2] Ibid, 628.

[3] Ibid, 629.

[4] Ibid, 630.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 633.

[7] Ibid, 632.

[8] Ibid.

Cover Photo Credit: http://cdn2.spiegel.de/images/image-485121-breitwandaufmacher-ohuq-485121.jpg