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 August Bebel.
I want to remain the deadly enemy of this bourgeois society and state regime in order to undermine them in their living conditions and, if I can, eliminate them.
—Address at the Social Democratic Party convention in Dresden, 1903
Prominent German socialist August Bebel (1840-1913) was a founder of the Social Democratic Worker's Party. He championed the cause of workers both as a political leader and as a writer of socialist non-fiction polemics. First declared an enemy of the state by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, he was imprisoned for suspected treason and public slander.
Bebel was also a pacifist. At the Social Democratic Party party convention in Jena, 1911, he stated that in the event of war, those responsible for promoting it should be sent to battle first "so that their mostly fat bodies would cover the fields for the honor of the Fatherland." Twenty years after Bebel's death, the Nazis declared his works subversive because of their socialist and antiwar nature.
Critical Thinking Questions
- If Jews were the principal target during the Holocaust, why were works of art by non-Jewish authors burned?
- How did the German public react? 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?