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November 2, 2010

When books were burned in Nazi Germany…

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 2:02 pm

Most Americans are familiar with the line written by German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, in his 19th century play Almansor: “Where they burn books; in the end, they will also burn people.”  Here it is in the original German:  “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, and on May 10, 1933, thousands of books were burned in the Opernplatz in Berlin and other German cities.  

What most people don’t realize is that the books that were burned in Berlin were taken from the shelves of the library of Humbolt University, across the street from the Opernplatz, and burned by the students.  On the same night, there were more book burnings, all of them taking place in University towns and cities.

Students burning books on Opernplatz in Nazi Germany

Students look into the underground "empty library"

Today, the book burning in Berlin is commemorated by a memorial called “The empty library” which is an underground room with a glass window that people can look through to see some empty shelves.  Opernplatz is now called Bebelplatz, named after August Bebel, the founder of the Social Democrats political party; his books were among those that were burned in 1933.

Joseph Goebbels gave a speech at the book burning in Berlin, in which he said:

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.

The “intellectual foundation of the November Republic” was a reference to the left-wing government set up by the Social Democrats after the revolution on November 9, 1918 in which the imperial government was overthrown by the Social Democrats political party.  Americans today refer to this period of German history, from November 1918 to January 30, 1933, as the “Weimar Republic.”  The name Weimar Republic comes from the fact that the Constitution of the new regime had to be written in the city of Weimar because, during that time, the Communists were trying to overthrow the Social Democrats in the capital of Berlin and there was fighting in the streets.

During the Weimar Republic, the German Jews were very happy because conditions in Germany were exactly as they wanted them to be.  Allegedly, 40% of the professors in the German Universities in 1932 were Jewish.  All that ended when the Nazis came to power.

Book market at Humbolt University, 2002

In 2002, when I visited Berlin, there was a book market in front of Humbolt University where books that were burned in 1933 were for sale, along with books about the Holocaust, such as the Diary of Anne Frank.

So what does all this have to do with anything today?  Why should we care about some old books that were burned in Germany in 1933?  Because it could happen here in America.

The motive for the book burning in Germany was that the Germans were fed up with the influence of the Jews, who were a small minority of 585,000 in a population of 62 million.  The Nazis wanted traditional German values in Germany, not Jewish culture.

The word Nazi is a nickname for NATIONAL Socialism.  The Nazis were NATIONALISTS; they did not want books by Jewish authors and books that were “un-German.”  The Nazis wanted the German universities to be centers of German nationalism.

The book burning by the students in Germany was in response to what the Nazis thought was a worldwide “smear campaign” by the “International Jews” against Germany.  In April 1933, there was a one-day boycott of Jewish stores in Berlin for the same reason.

I got to thinking about all this today when I read an essay, written by Caroline Yeager, about the Jewish religion being taught at Boston University; you can read it here.  Why are there courses in the Jewish religion taught in an American University?  Whatever happened to “separation of church and state,” which is one of our rights under the American Constitution?

I think it was Glenn Beck who said that America is now like Weimar Germany.  The government of Weimar Germany was not doing what the majority of the German people wanted, and that is the status of the American government today.

The rise of the “tea-party” in America today is like the rise of the Nazi party in Weimar Germany.  Our “tea-party” has no leader, as yet.  If a charismatic leader comes along and takes over the “tea party,” we could see American students pulling books off the shelves of famous Universities and making bon fires out of them.  The books of Elie Wiesel, a professor who teaches the Jewish religion at Boston University, would be among the first to go up in flames.

When I went to a University, back in the previous century, there were no courses on religion.  If a student wanted to study religion, he or she went to a religious college, not to a state University.  There were no Holocaust courses in any of the American schools back then; the word Holocaust was still unknown.  There were a few Jewish professors in the Universities in America, but they kept quiet and didn’t let anyone know that they were Jewish.  Likewise, the Christian professors didn’t talk about their religion.  As far as I know, there were no Muslim teachers in American universities back then.  In my humble opinion, religion should be kept out of public schools and Universities.


  1. On Friday, March 24, 1933, the headline “Judea Declares War on Germany” was splashed across the front page of the British newspaper Daily Express. The subheads read: “Jews Of All The World Unite In Action”; this was before the germans reacted by burning jewish authored books. why not mention this important fact. no wonder germans considered jews their enemy. jews wanted to destroy germany financially.

    Comment by philip — September 1, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

  2. didnt the jews call for a worldwide boycott against germany before all this?

    Comment by philip — September 1, 2014 @ 1:59 pm

  3. […] and the government of the USA became as draconian as the Roman Catholic Church in establishing censorship laws, outlawing specific books and writers–a virus that multiplied for decades and grew catastrophically under the misrule of Congress […]

    Pingback by Education in Peru is failing and what can be done to restore it | Arthur Frederick Ide's Blog — February 25, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  4. I’m not sure of what you think is being taught in these religion classes… May I ask?
    The religion courses taught at BU (and I assume at other universities) are not courses that try to impose religious ideas and thoughts on the students. They are classes for people who actually want to know more about other cultures and other peoples religions because they are not scared of “others”. This does not mean that I think religion courses should be required to be taken by students or even taught as a course by itself in public secondary schools, but at universities (at least the ones I have attended myself) these courses are completely optional. Do you have any problem with Christian courses being taught? Why do you only ask “why are Jewish courses being taught?” I am just curious.
    Also, from my experience at a university, my professors do not talk about their religion in class, either, just like how it was when you went to school. And I don’t even know what religion my professors are because it doesn’t come up. Yet at my university we still have specific courses taught on religion in general, or taught on specific religions. I feel like religion courses at universities are viewed as a humanities or a history/culture course.. if that makes sense. Professors do not pull out a book of prayers and ask the students to read a long and pray to a God of a specific religion.. this isn’t Sunday school.

    Also…Elie Wiesel does not “teach the Jewish Religion” at BU…

    I am also surprised at your comparison of the “tea party” to the Nazis… especially since so many of them compare Obama to Hitler. This has nothing to do with the point i am trying to make about the religion courses.. just found your comparison interesting thats all!

    Comment by Lilly — November 12, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

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