Book burning refers to the ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials. Usually carried out in a public context, the burning of books represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question.
Book burning has a long and dark history. Perhaps the most famous of these events was the burning of books under the Nazi regime on May 10, 1933.
The day before the scheduled book burnings, the German Student Association sent out a circular which contained statements to be read as books were tossed to the flames. These so-called "fire oaths" accompanied the burning of works written by the individual authors named in the statements.
1. Against class struggle and materialism
For national community and an idealistic lifestyle
Marx and Kautsky
2. Against decadence and moral decay
For discipline and decency in family and state
Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glaeser, and Erich Kästner
3. Against opportunism and political betrayal
For devotion to nation and state
F. W. Förster
4. Against soul-shredding overvaluation of sexual activity
For the nobility of the human soul
Freudian School, magazine Imago
5. Against the falsification of our history and disparagement of its great figures
For reverence for our past
Emil Ludwig, Werner Hegemann
6. Against the democratic-Jewish character of journalism alien to the nation
For responsible collaboration on the work of national construction
Theodor Wolff and Georg Bernhard
7. Against literary betrayal of the soldiers of the World War
For the education of the nation in the spirit of standing to battle
Erich Maria Remarque
8. Against the arrogant corruption of the German language
For the cultivation of the most precious possession of our nation
9. Against impudence and presumption
For veneration and reverence for the immortal German national spirit
Tucholsky and Ossietzky
Critical Thinking Questions
- If Jews were the principal target during the Holocaust, why were books written 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?