In 1933, Nazi students at more than 30 German universities pillaged libraries in search of books they considered to be "un-German." Among the literary and political writings they threw into the flames were the works of Arnold Zweig.
But the Jews exist, 14 million, reduced only by war and its consequences--Jews who in historical times were a people with a language, a homeland, ethos, creation, and a God, and whose indisputable descendents live everywhere today with a seemingly average disposition, with a history lacking holes, with a tradition, with a will to live their own lives, and with masses whose will to be their own people never loses its self-reliance....
—Caliban, Arnold Zweig, 1927
Which of Arnold Zweig's Works were Burned?
All works published before May 1933
Who was Arnold Zweig?
German novelist and playwright Arnold Zweig (1887-1968) published his first volume of stories in 1911 while he was still a student. Zweig volunteered for the German army in 1915, and spent more than a year at the front. After his war experiences, he became a pacifist. His subsequent writing attacked Prussian militarism. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his prize-winning 1927 novel The Case of Sergeant Grischa tells the story of a Russian prisoner of war's poor treatment by the Germans during World War I. Zweig became a Jewish nationalist and for a time edited a Berlin Zionist periodical. Zweig also co-authored a book with Lion Feuchtwanger, another writer targeted by the Nazis. After Hitler's rise to power, Arnold Zweig was denounced as a pacifist and his books were burned. He sought refuge in Palestine, but ultimately returned to Communist East Berlin where he lived until his death.
Critical Thinking Questions
- How did the German public react to the book burnings? What was reaction like outside of Germany?
- Why do oppressive regimes promote or support censorship and book burning? Why might this be a warning sign for mass atrocity?