Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nazi Book Burning

Berlin commemorates the 1933 Nazi book burning incident in Opera Square where it took place off one of the city's busiest streets. A museum across the street from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe had an exhibit detailing the authors whose books were burned. We visited both sites.

Opera Square is across the street from Humboldt University, and its students were some of the ones who gathered here to burn books. I had heard of this event before, but until I learned more I didn't know that the students decided to do this themselves. A student-run organization called the Nazi German Student Association hosted this event to rid the country of socialist and anti-Nazi literature. I found the article posted on the U.S. Holocaust Museum's website to be helpful.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

In the museum across the street from the Memorial, panels gave information on all the authors whose books were deemed a threat to Nazi society and burned. The one I was most familiar with is Erich Maria Remarque who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front. I haven't read this book since my sophomore year of high school, so I'll probably reread it soon. The quiet room showed above was off the main room in the museum. The bookshelves are lined with copies of the same books that were burned, and a solitary chair with a table and a light gives visitors a quiet place to read those books.

In learning more about the Nazi book burning, I was reminded of the book burning held in honor of Hitler's birthday in 1940 in The Book Thief (one of the best books I read all last year), and Fahrenheit 451 which I haven't read since my freshman year of high school. Maybe it's time to reread that one as well.

Aren't you glad to live in a place where we're free to read whatever we want?

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