The socialist movement cannot be gagged. On the contrary, the antisocialist law...will complete the revolutionary education of the German workers.
—"Can Europe Disarm," 1893
All works published before May 1933
Philosopher and political economist Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was born in Barmen, Germany. The oldest son of an industrialist, Engels worked for a time in his father's factory in Manchester, England. There he witnessed the poverty of urban workers, later describing their plight in his 1845 work The Condition of the Working Class in England. In 1844, he had begun writing for a radical paper edited by Karl Marx.
Engels became a frequent co-author with Marx of first socialist and then Communist books, including Principles of Communism (1847). He had to change his country of residence repeatedly to evade expulsion after publishing tracts denouncing the exploitation of workers and farmers throughout Europe in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The works of Communist writers and philosophers ranked high on the list of the books to be burned. Engels' works were targeted immediately by the instigators of book burnings in Nazi Germany.
Critical Thinking Questions
- If Jews were the principal target during the Holocaust, why were books written by non-Jewish authors, like Engels, burned?
- 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?