Karl Marx

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 Karl Marx.


Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and...the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary...a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.
Die deutsche Ideologie (The German Ideology), 1845, first published in 1932

Fire Oath

"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 class struggle and materialism
For national community and an idealistic lifestyle
Marx and Kautsky

Works Burned



Political theorist Karl Marx (1818–1883) was born in Trier, Germany. Although both his grandfathers were rabbis, Marx's father converted his eight children to Protestantism in 1824. The young Marx later declared himself an atheist. As a student, Marx wanted to be a poet and dramatist. At the University of Berlin, he studied Hegelian philosophy and became interested in economics. While later living in Paris, he befriended Friedrich Engels, who supported him financially for the rest of his life. Together they published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, a radical criticism of the upper class and a call for the international cooperation of the proletariat. Following his expulsion from Brussels, Cologne, and Paris, Marx eventually settled in London. He lived there as a stateless exile until his death.

Portrait of Karl Marx.

Portrait of Karl Marx. - Reference Center for Marxist Studies

Although Marx's own attitude toward Judaism has been characterized as ambivalent at best and hostile at worst, his books were burned in 1933 because of both his Jewish heritage and his socialist ideology. Marx was already named an ideological enemy in Hitler's early writings. Unsurprisingly, he received special mention in a "fire oath" as promulgator of class conflict. His books Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, blueprints for a Communist world order and among the most frequently translated German texts, were among those incinerated by the students.

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