10 May 1933

The Book Burnings

Book Burning 1933, 1
Book Burning 1933, 2
Book Burning 1933, 3

In 1933, Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels began the synchronization of culture (Gleichschaltung), by which the arts were brought in line with Nazi goals. The government purged cultural organizations of Jews and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect.

On 6 April 1933, the German Student Association's Main Office for Press and Propaganda proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit,” to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” (Säuberung) by fire.

In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on May 10 the students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of May 10, in most university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, “fire oaths,” and incantations.

Not all book burnings took place on May 10, as the German Student Association had planned. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date of celebration. Nonetheless, in 34 university towns across Germany the “Action against the Un-German Spirit” was a success, enlisting widespread newspaper coverage. And in some places, notably Berlin, radio broadcasts brought the speeches, songs, and ceremonial incantations “live” to countless German listeners.

(Source: Holocaust Learning Center; http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005207)

Video LeMO (Real Player)

Radio Broadcast 10 May 1933

Rundfunkübertragung zur Bücherverbrennung. Auszug aus der Rundfunkübertragung der Bücherverbrennung vom 10. Mai 1933 in Berlin:

"Wir befinden uns auf dem Opernplatz Unter den Linden Berlins. Die deutsche Studentenschaft [...] verbrennt zur Stunde auf einem riesigen Scheiterhaufen anlässlich der Aktion des Kampfausschusses "Wider den undeutschen Geist" Schriften und Bücher der Unmoral und Zersetzung. Sie hören Feuersprüche der Studenten Berlins. Anschließend nimmt Reichsminister Dr. Goebbels das Wort". [...]
Deutsche Studenten, wir haben unser Handeln gegen den undeutschen Geist gerichtet. Übergebt alles Undeutsche dem Feuer!"

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 Gläser, 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.

Alfred Kerr
9. Against impudence and presumption. For veneration and reverence for the immortal German national spirit.
Tucholsky and Ossietzky


Indexed Authors

In preparation of the burnings a list of authors was compiled by students, authorized by the Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, and then published. It is likely, however, that the works of other authors were burned as well. The following list is incomplete but follows the index distributed to the various student assocations across the country.

Nathan Asch
Schalom Asch (1880 - 1957)
Henri Barbusse (1873 - 1935)
Richard Beer-Hofmann (1866 - 1945)
Georg Bernhard (
Günther Birkenfeld
Bertolt Brecht (1898 - 1956)
Max Brod (außer: Tycho Brahe) (1884 - 1968)
Robert Carr (heraus: Wildblühende Jugend)
Alfred Döblin (außer Wallenstein) (1878 - 1957)
Kasimir Edschmid (1890 - 1966)
Ilja Ehrenburg (1891 - 1967)
Albert Ehrenstein (1886 - 1950)
Hermann Essig
Lion Feuchtwanger (1884 - 1958)
Georg Fink
Friedrich Wilhelm Förster
Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939)
Rudolf Geist
Fjodor Gladkow
Ernst Glaeser (1902 - 1963)
Iwan Goll (1891 - 1950)
Karl Grünberg
Jaroslav Hasek (1883 - 1923)
Walter Hasenclever (1890 - 1940)
Werner Hegemann
Arthur Holitscher (1869 - 1941)
Albert Hotopp
Heinrich Eduard Jacob: Blut und Zelluloid
(1889 - 1967)
Erich Kästner (alles außer Emil) (1899 - 1974)
Josef Kallinikow
Gina Kaus
Alfred Kerr (1867 - 1948)
Egon Erwin Kisch (1885 - 1948)
Kurt Kläber
Alexandra Kollantay
Michael A. Kusmin (1875 - 1936)
Peter Lampel (1894 - 1965)
Jurij Libedinsky
Wladimir Lidin
Heinz Liepmann
Jack London (nur: Zwangsjacke, Eiserne Ferse) (1876 - 1916)
Emil Ludwig
Heinrich Mann (außer: Flöten und Dolche) (1871 - 1950)
Klaus Mann (1906 - 1949)
Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)
Robert Neumann (1897 - 1975)
Iwan Olbracht (1882 - 1952)
Carl von Ossietzky (1889 - 1938)
Ernst Ottwald
Kurt Pinthus (1886 - 1975)
Plivier: Des Kaisers Kulis (1892 - 1955)
Erich Maria Remarque (1898 - 1970)
Ludwig Renn (1889 - 1979)
Iwan A. Rodionow
Ludwig Rubiner (1881 - 1920)
Rahel Sanzara
Alfred Schirokauer
Arthur Schnitzler (1862 - 1931)
Karl Schröder
Anna Seghers (1900 - 1983)
Upton Sinclair (außer: Boston, Jimmy Hibbins, 100%, Petroleum, Sumpf) (1878 - 1968)
Hans Sochaczewer
Michael Sostschenko
Fjodor Ssologub
Adrienne Thomas (außer: Katrin wird Soldat)
Ernst Toller (1893 - 1939)
Kurt Tucholsky (1890 - 1935)
Werner Türk
Karel Vanek
Jakob Wassermann (außer: Gänsemännchen, Juden von Zirndorf, Casper Hauser, Fränk. Erzählungen, Deutsche Charaktere und Begebenheiten) (1873 - 1934)
Arnim T. Wegner (1886 - 1978)
Franz Werfel (außer: Tod des Kleinbürgers, Barbara, Verdi) (1890 - 1945)
Theodor Wolff (1868 - 1943)
Arnold Zweig (1887 - 1968)
Stefan Zweig (1881 - 1942)