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 Heinrich Mann.
In reality, the Germans are the last people who have a right to hate the Jews, because they are too similar to the Jews. The Jews also distinguish themselves as individuals among the German "great men." As individuals, they often surpass the worth of their nation....Music is considered the most German of all arts, and among its most brilliant and devoted contributors are many Jews.
—Hatred (Der Hass), Heinrich Mann, 1933
"Fire oaths" were statements to be read as books were tossed to the flames. The German Student Association sent out a circular containing these statements before the book burnings. The fire oaths then accompanied the burning of works written by the individual authors named in the statements.
Against decadence and moral decay
For discipline and decency in family and state
Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glaeser, and Erich Kästner
Which of Heinrich Mann's Works were Burned?
All works published before May 1933
Who was Heinrich Mann?
Heinrich Mann (1871-1950), the brother of German author Thomas Mann, was an early target of the Nazis. Mann was forced to flee to France early in 1933 after being dismissed from his post as chairman of the literature division at the Prussian Academy of Art. Nazi persecution of Mann was, on the one hand, the result of his writings. Mann's writings made fun of the servility of the German middle class during the Empire and the undemocratic aspects of the Weimar Republic.
The Nazis also despised Mann's political actions—his attempts to reconcile France and Germany and to effect a coalition between Social Democrats and Communists in order to prevent the rise of Adolf Hitler. All of his works, both fiction and non-fiction, were burned. In 1940, Mann fled France and settled in Los Angeles with the help of a screenwriting contract with Warner Brothers, which his brother Thomas was able to secure for him. He continued to write, but success eluded him in America. He died in Santa Monica, California, in 1950.
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 to the book burnings? What were some of the reactions outside of Germany?
- Why do oppressive regimes promote or support censorship and book burning? How might this be a warning sign of mass atrocity?