10 May 2015

A grim anniversary.

On 10 May 1933 the Nazis staged book burnings in cities across Germany, newly fallen into Nazi dictatorship. Among the authors whose books were burnt were Bertolt Brecht, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Erich Remarque, Marcel Proust, and Sigmund Freud. It was a move to instil an Aryan nationalist spirit upon the Germans.

Heinrich Heine was one of the authors whose books were burnt. He was a poet and born a Jew. He had presciently written in a play a hundred years earlier that where they burn books they will in the end burn people.

Burning books is a hideous crime. It suppresses ideas and challenges, it shuts us off from exploring new knowledge and satisfying intellectual curiosity. It stops us from learning of alternative views, of different evidence, of discoveries and theories that shake us, excite us, and enlarge us. It is an attempt to control our very thoughts. Barbarians burn books.

Of course the burning of books by Nazis was followed by far worse horrors: the persecution and murder of innumerable Jews and others.

Heinrich HEINE Almansor (1821) “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”