Visit the Museum

Exhibitions

Learn

Teach

Collections

Academic Research

Remember Survivors and Victims

Genocide Prevention

Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial

Other Museum Websites

< Bibliographies

1933 Book Burnings

Share
A member of the SA throws confiscated books into the bonfire during the public burning of

A member of the SA throws confiscated books into the bonfire during the public burning of "un-German" books on the Opernplatz in Berlin. —United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park

Introduction

On May 10, 1933 student groups at universities across Germany carried out a series of book burnings of works that the students and leading Nazi party members associated with an “un-German spirit.” Enthusiastic crowds witnessed the burning of books by Brecht, Einstein, Freud, Mann and Remarque, among many other well-known intellectuals, scientists and cultural figures, many of whom were Jewish. The largest of these book bonfires occurred in Berlin, where an estimated 40,000 people gathered to hear a speech by the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, in which he pronounced that “Jewish intellectualism is dead” and endorsed the students’ “right to clean up the debris of the past.” 

The response to the book burnings was immediate and widespread. Counter demonstrations took place in New York and other American cities, including Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago. Journalists in the American and world press expressed shock and dismay at these attacks on German intellectual freedom, and various authors wrote in support of their assaulted German brethren. Artists, writers, doctors, and other intellectuals fled Germany, prompted by the barbarity of the book burnings and by continuing acts of Nazi persecution.

Such barbarity was just the beginning, however. One can see in retrospect how the book burnings and other steps to remove “Jewish influence” from German institutions foreshadowed much more catastrophic Nazi plans for the Jews of Europe. Eerily, among the books consigned to the flames in 1933 were the works of the nineteenth century Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who in 1822 penned the prophetic words, “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.”

The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on the 1933 book burnings that are in the Library's collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.

Background Information

  • Báez, Fernando. A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq. New York: Atlas, 2008. (Z 659 .B3413 2008) [Find in a library near you]

    Chronicles the destruction of books throughout history, from the ancient world to modern day. Includes notes, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

  • Beyerchen, Alan. “Anti-Intellectualism and the Cultural Decapitation of Germany.” In The Muses Flee Hitler: Cultural Transfer and Adaptation, 1930-1945, edited by Jarrell C. Jackman and Carla M. Borden, 79-91. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983. (E 184 .A1 M874 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    Explores the seeds of anti-intellectualism in German history that culminated in the 1933 Nazi removal of political or “racial” enemies from government or university service and their works from libraries. Identifies the public spectacle of the book burnings as a calculated example of Nazi anti-intellectualism. Includes bibliographic references and an index.

  • Heidtmann, Horst. “Book Burning.” In Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, edited by Christian Zentner and Friedemann Bedüautrftig, 99-100. New York: MacMillan, 1991. (Reference DD 256.5 .G763 1991 v.1) [Find in a library near you]

    Recounts the circumstances surrounding the May 1933 book burnings. Emphasizes the nascent Nazi movement's interest in removing Communist and Jewish influences from German society and how it lead to events such as the book burnings.

  • Hill, Leonidas E. “The Nazi Attack on ‘Un-German’ Literature, 1933-1945.” In The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, edited by Jonathan Rose, 9-46. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. (Z 658 .G3 H65 2001) [Find in a library near you]

    Discusses the historical context of the book burnings in relation to the larger chain of events that lead to the wholesale confiscation and destruction of Jewish cultural property in the Holocaust. Describes the Nazi control of publishing and bookselling in Germany and the frequency of censorship and self-censorship exhibited in the book industry under the Third Reich. Includes bibliographic references.

  • Whitfield, Stephen J. “Where They Burn Books...Modern Judaism 22, no. 3 (2002): 213-233. (BM 195 .M63 v.22) [Find in a library near you]

    Examines the occasions throughout history when Jewish religious and literary works have been singled out for destruction and relates how this destruction has often been associated with violence against Jews. Reviews how acts of book burning have been treated in Jewish literary history. Includes bibliographic references.

Book Burnings of 1933

English

  • Birchall, Frederick T. “Burning of the Books, May 10, 1933.” In National Socialist Germany: Twelve Years that Shook the World, edited by Louis L. Snyder, 101-104. Malabor, FL: Krieger, 1984. (DD 256.5 .S575 1984) [Find in a library near you]

    Based on the New York Times story of May 11, 1933 on the Berlin book burning. Describes the student parade that preceded the bonfire, the chants that accompanied the consignment of some authors’ works to the fire, and the speech by Joseph Goebbels in the midst of the occasion.

  • Stern, Guy. “The Burning of the Books in Nazi Germany, 1933: The American Response.” Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual 2, (1985): 95-114. (D 804.3 .S5953 1984 v.2) [Find in a library near you]

    Explores the response to the Nazi book burnings among many outraged literary figures and the burnings’ later use as a political lightning rod among the growing community of German exiles in the United States. Includes bibliographic references.

  • Stern, Guy. Nazi Book Burning and the American Response: Distinguished Lecture. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University, 1991. (Z 658 .G3 S84 1991) [Find in a library near you]

    Examines the response within the United States to the 1933 book burnings. Looks at the initial news reports, the continued press coverage, related Allied propaganda and the range of literary output inspired by the burnings. Includes many illustrations.

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Nazi Book Burnings and the American Response. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1988. (Z 658 .G3 N39 1988) [Find in a library near you]

    A brief guide documenting a 1988 exhibition at the Library of Congress on the Nazi book burnings. Summarizes the response to the burnings in the American media and lists the photographs, newspaper stories, political cartoons and books displayed in the exhibition.

German

  • Andert, Frank, editor. Verbrannt, verboten, verbannt--vergessen?: Kolloquium zum 60. Jahrestag der Bücherverbrennung von 1933. Leipzig: Rosa-Luxemburg-Verein, 1995. (Z 658 .G3 V478 1995) [Find in a library near you]

    Collects papers given at a 1993 conference on the cultural impact of the 1933 book burnings. Relates the history of Nazi book burning and book banning in the city of Leipzig. Includes bibliographic references.

  • Haarmann, Hermann. “Das war ein Vorspiel nur-- ”: Bücherverbrennung Deutschland 1933: Voraussetzungen und Folgen, Ausstellung der Akademie der Künste vom 8. Mai bis 3. Juli 1983. Berlin: Medusa, 1983. (Z 658 .G3 W37 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    A catalogue published in association with a 1983 exhibition in Berlin that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the book burnings. Provides scholarly articles on the circumstances and historical background of the book burnings and copious examples of posters, political cartoons, photographs and book covers associated with the burnings. Includes brief biographical entries on many of the authors whose books were burned, bibliographic references and an index.

  • Kuhn, Michael. Verbrannte Bücher: Verzeichnis der Bücher, die 1933 aus dem Bestand der TH Braunschweig aussortiert und zum grössten Teil vernichtet wurden. Braunschweig: Universitätsbibliothek der Technischen Universität Braunschweig, 1993. (Z 658 .G3 K84 1993) [Find in a library near you]

    Provides a bibliography listing the works, including many library books, destroyed in the 1933 book burning at the technical university at Braunschweig (Brunswick). Describes the role of student groups and some faculty members in promoting the book burning. Includes a separate listing of authors targeted in the burning.

  • Lemberg, Margret. Verboten und nicht verbrannt. Marburg: Universitätsbibliothek Marburg, 2001. (Z 1019 .L46 2001 v. 1-2) [Find in a library near you]

    Reviews the history of the University of Marburg Library from 1933 to 1946. Includes an account of the 1933 book burning at the parade grounds in Marburg. Offers an extensive listing, organized by discipline, of books banned by the Nazis but officially held under restricted access by the University Library. Includes photographs, reproductions of historic documents, bibliographic references and a foreword by Hans Mommsen.

    Holocaust Encyclopedia

    Holocaust Encyclopedia

    Explore our comprehensive entries on the events, people, and places of the Holocaust.

    Learn More

  • Lischeid, Thomas. Symbolische Politik: das Ereignis der NS-Bücherverbrennung 1933 im Kontext seiner Diskursgeschichte. Heidelberg: Synchron, 2001. (DD 256.5 .L58 2001) [Find in a library near you]

    Analyzes the symbolic cleansing function that Nazi ideologues associated with the 1933 book burnings and the corresponding perceptions of many intellectual and non-German observers who associated a new German cultural barbarity with the burnings. Includes numerous photographs and illustrations and a bibliography.

  • Sauder, Gerhard, editor. Die Bücherverbrennung: zum 10. Mai 1933. München: Hanser, 1983. (Z 658 .G3 B83 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    A collection of documents, newspaper articles, and recollections on the 1933 book burnings. Provides source material created by the faculty and student leadership of the Deutsche Studentenschaft (German Students’ Corporation) on the planning and execution of the book burnings. Includes German newspaper accounts of the burnings, reproductions of leaflets, photographs and a bibliography.

  • Schiffhauer, Nils, editor. Stichtag der Barbarei: Anmerkungen zur Bücherverbrennung 1933. Hannover: Postskriptum, 1983. (Z 658 .G3 S74 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    Presents a collection of historical essays on the book burnings and literary profiles of authors such as Heinrich Mann, Erich Mühsam, and Kurt Tucholsky, whose works were consigned to the flames. Includes the reactions and recollections of West German literary figures to the Nazi book burnings. Provides a list of suggested readings on the history of German literature during the Third Reich.

  • Tress, Werner. “Wider den Undeutschen Geist”: Bücherverbrennung 1933. Berlin: Parthas, 2003. (Z 658.G3 T73 2003) [Find in a library near you]

    Detailed exploration of the ideological and cultural underpinnings of the 1933 book burnings. Includes a thorough overview of the events leading up to the demonstrations and descriptions of the rallies in particular cities around Germany. Contains an index and bibliography.

  • Verweyen, Theodor. Bücherverbrennungen: eine Vorlesung aus Anlass des 65. Jahrestages der “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist.” Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2000. (Z 658 .G3 V47 2000) [Find in a library near you]

    Compares the 1933 book burnings to other cases of book burning and censorship in German history. Includes a chapter examining the history of Heinrich Heine’s tragedy Almansor, in which appears the prescient line: “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.” Provides bibliographic references and an index.

  • Walberer, Ulrich, editor. 10. Mai 1933: Bücherverbrennung in Deutschland und die Folgen. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1983. (DD 256.5 .A515 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    A collection of essays and documents about the 1933 book burnings and their cultural impact on Germany. Provides the text of the “Twelve Theses against The Un-German Spirit,” written by the leadership of the Deutsche Studentenschaft (German Students’ Corporation) and read at many of the 1933 burnings. Includes bibliographic references.

Related Works

English

  • Benét, Stephen Vincent. They Burned the Books. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942. (PS 3503 .E5325 T45 1942) [Find in a library near you]

    The text of a 1942 radio play written by an American poet and broadcast on the ninth anniversary of the book burnings. Dramatizes the imagined voices of well known literary figures such as Heine, Schiller, Twain and Whitman arguing against an unnamed Nazi for the importance of literature and intellectual freedom.

  • Krispyn, Egbert. Anti-Nazi Writers in Exile. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978. (E 184 .A1 K758 1978) [Find in a library near you]

    Explores the history of post-emigration writings by anti-Nazi writers who fled Germany for the United States. Provides an account of the Berlin book burning, a translation of the Feuerspruche (fire decrees) that accompanied the burning of banned books, and the reactions of some anti-Nazi writers to the burnings. Includes bibliographic references and an index.

  • Roth, Joseph. “The Auto-da-Fe of the Mind.” In What I Saw: Reports from Berlin, 1920-1933, 207-217. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. (DD 866 .R6813 2003) [Find in a library near you]

    Analyzes the peril to free intellectual inquiry in Europe posed by the Nazi regime’s support of book burning. Originally published in the French periodical Cahiers Juif in September 1933. Part of a collection of articles and essays concerning the author's years living in the German capital.

German

  • Berger, Friedemann, et al, editors. In jenen Tagen-- Schriftsteller zwischen Reichstagsbrand und Bücherverbrennung: eine Dokumentation. Leipzig: Kiepenheuer, 1983. (PT 405 .I5 1983) [Find in a library near you]

    Collects essays, letters and accounts written in 1933 by German literary figures on the threat to freedom, intellectual and otherwise, posed by the rise of the Nazis. Includes the reactions of many writers to the Nazi book burnings. Provides a chronology of literary and historical events in 1933, a bibliography and an index.

  • Kastner, Wolfram. Wie Gras uber die Geschichte wachst: Erinnerungszeichen zu den Bucherverbrennungen. Munich: A1 Verlag, 1996. (Z 658 .G3 W54 1996) [Find in a library near you]

    Documents the author’s attempt to create a memorial on the site of the 1933 book burning at Munich’s Konigplatz. Provides many photographs of the temporary memorial created and an alphabetical listing of the German cities where book burnings occurred under the Nazi regime. Includes a summary in English.

Film and Video

  • Grubin, David. Degenerate Art [video recording]. Alexandria, VA: PBS Home Video, 1995. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you]

    Describes Nazi attacks on the avant garde and their desecration of modernist art culminating in the 1937 exhibition of Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) in Munich. Includes archival footage of the Nazi book burnings. Produced in conjunction with the 1991 Los Angeles County Museum reconstruction of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition, which assembled surviving art from the original show and gathered photographic documentation, motion-picture footage and the recollections of witnesses of the time.

  • Kaplan, Richard. The Exiles [videorecording]. Santa Monica, CA: Connoisseur Video Collection, [1993]. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you]

    A chronicle of the rescue of oppressed intellectuals, artists, and writers from Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Studies the cultural and intellectual impact of this émigré population on American life. Combines contemporary video interview footage with archival stills, newsreel footage, and dramatic re-enactments.

Online Resources

  • Exhibitions: Fighting the Fires of Hate / America and the Nazi Book Burnings

    On online exhibition created in conjunction with the special exhibit, “Fighting the Fires of Hate/America and the Nazi Book Burnings,” held at the Museum from April 30, 2003 through October 13, 2003. Reviews the history and significance of the book burnings, the immediate American responses to the event, the use of the book burnings in wartime American propaganda, and the ongoing symbolism of book burnings as a counterpoint to the free exchange of ideas. Provides a partial list of targeted authors and burned books, with excerpts from these works and background on each author, and offers video of a discussion between the exhibit curators on the history and symbolism of the Nazi book burnings. Includes the reproductions of numerous photographs, book covers, propaganda posters, and historically significant documents, along with historical film footage. Also provides an online discussion board for addressing themes presented in the exhibit.

  • When Books Burn

    Online exhibit sponsored by the University of Arizona Library documenting the Nazi book burnings. Reprints the texts (in both German and English) of some of the speeches, chants and declarations delivered on May 10, 1933. Provides a timeline of events surrounding the burnings and a list of books banned by the Nazis. Includes a bibliography, lesson plans for teachers, and photographs.

Additional Resources

Subject Files

Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files for newspaper and periodical articles:

  • “Book burning - Germany”
  • “Exiles 1933-1945”

Subject Headings

To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials about the Nazi book burnings and the fate of literature during the Third Reich use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:

  • Book burning
  • Censorship—Germany
  • Exiles—Germany
  • German literature—Jewish authors
  • German literature—20th century
  • National socialism and literature
  • Prohibited books—Germany

See all Bibliographies