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Issue of the "VOLKISCHER BEOBACHTER" - The great burning of Jewish books that took place in Berlin Opera Square - May 1933 - The largest book burning event in Nazi Germany

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04.08.2024 07:00pm

Issue of the Nazi newspaper - VOLKISCHER BEOBACHTER - Kampfblatt der national-sozialistischen Bewegung ("People's Observer, Combat Paper of the National Socialist Movement" - the official and most important newspaper of the Nazi Party) dated May 12, 1933, reporting on the largest book burning event in Nazi Germany - in Opernplatz (today "Bebelplatz") in Berlin in front of the Humboldt University on May 10th. The front page features a large photograph of Nazi soldiers and members of the German Student Federation celebrating throwing the books into the fire with the caption: "Book burning and un-German writings in Opernplatz in Berlin. At the same time, dirty writings and trash were burned throughout the Empire". Additional reports and photographs from the book throwing event appear on the back of the issue.

On the top right of the title page is a photograph from the major event of burning Jewish books that took place in Opernplatz in Berlin on May 10, 1933, as part of the campaign to delegitimize everything Jewish in Nazi Germany. The back of the issue features three additional photographs from the event. In one, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is seen speaking "and delivering the anti-Reich writings to the flames". In the second, a large group of German youth are seen throwing books into the fire with the caption: "A symbolic act: as piles of harmful books are tossed here into the fire, so must all German literature be purified of the afflictions of our blessed years". The third shows the burning books with the description: "A little before midnight the scorching flames blazed up, and as happened once before 116 years ago in unforgettable Wartburg Book Burning - it devoured the writings of Kozebue, today the books inspired by Emil Ludwig Cohen and Erich Maria Remarque".
The newspaper reports that protest rallies were held in several cities against the "un-German spirit in the Reich" in Munich, Königsberg, Dresden, Breslau and other cities, with the central rally in Berlin's Opernplatz where "distinguished men of public life" spoke. It also reports the removal of books from the estate of Jewish woman Rosa Luxemburg for burning, and other actions of the National Socialist movement "to return the people to the state and the state to the people".

The entire issue is filled with articles in the spirit of the new German era, on the unification of German associations under Adolf Hitler's leadership and the slogan "One people, one empire". The main title page article joyously announces the establishment of the German Labor Front: "After years of class struggle and hatred between opposing group and association interests, the German workers have united themselves under the leadership of Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler...". It extensively reports Hitler's rousing speech to the German Reichstag which was repeatedly interrupted by "stormy, sustained applause". Additional articles quote from this speech Hitler's promises to the German worker. As well as the first articles dealing with this subject.

In January 1933, upon rising to power in Germany, the Nazis began removing Jews from the spheres of spirit, culture, literature, journalism and academia in Germany. They aimed to uproot what they called the "harmful Jewish influence" and the "degeneration of German spirit and culture" by Jewish writers, poets, artists and scientists.

The book burnings in Nazi Germany were a series of events led by the German Student Association called Deutsche Studentenschaft, DSt in the 1930s on the initiative of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. The goal was to "purify" German culture of anything not fundamentally German. In early April 1933 the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of the German Student Association distributed a list of "books that endanger the German spirit", which they claimed must be destroyed by fire to cleanse German libraries. The list was broadcast on German radio and printed in newspapers. Students described the action as a response to an alleged defamation campaign organized by world Jewry against Germany and traditional German values.

The most famous burning was the one reported in the issue before us. On May 10, 1933, by order of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and in his presence, a public ceremony was held in Berlin's Opernplatz (today Bebelplatz) square, opposite Humboldt University, burning "harmful Jewish literature". Prior to the ceremony, tens of thousands of books, works of hundreds of authors, were looted from nearby libraries and private collections. Tens of thousands of spectators attended the book burning event. In the light of spotlights and to the sound of music, that night Nazi party members, SA men, lecturers and students burned more than 20,000 books, most by Jewish authors and others by non-Jews suspected of writing in a "Jewish spirit" or sympathizing with Jews, including communist, socialist, anarchist, liberal, pacifist, Freemason and sexologist authors (such as Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld). Among the authors and researchers whose works were burned were Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Walther Rathenau (German foreign minister during the Weimar Republic), Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Erich Maria Remarque, Hugo Preuss (framer of the Weimar Constitution), Robert Musil, Stefan Zweig and Jakob Wassermann. Arnold Zweig attended the event and saw his own books burned, as did Raymond Aron. Zweig reported seeing behind police barriers "thousands of books in carefully Prussian-folded piles three meters by three", brought there by trucks. The atmosphere in the crowd was euphoric, and hawkers circulated selling cigarettes, chocolate and sausages. Erich Kästner is the only author whose name was mentioned in the book burning ceremony speeches and who was present at the event.

The event opened with a speech by Nazi student organization leader Fritz Hippler, followed by student representatives stepping up one by one to throw books onto the bonfire accompanied by an "oath of fire". Each announced the specific books they were discarding while referring to the values of the "old world" they represented versus those of the Nazi revolution. The ceremony concluded with a speech by Goebbels delivered precisely at midnight, broadcast on radio in which he declared:

"I consign to the flames the works of Heinrich Mann, Erich Kästner, Ernst Gläser! The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism now comes to an end... The German of the future will be not only a man of the book but also a man of character, and to this end we wish to educate you. For a young person to have the courage to confront the merciless gaze, to overcome the fear of death and once more feel respect for death - that is the task of this young generation. And you do well in this midnight hour, as you cast into the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed - one that must reflect the future, so that the world may know - here sinks the intellectual foundation of the November Republic [Weimar Republic], but from these ruins the phoenix spirit of the new will arise in triumph...the old goes up in fire, the new will take shape from the fire".

The Berlin book burning ignited a wave of student-led book burnings across Germany. In Königsplatz in Munich, Schlossplatz in Breslau, Roemerberg in Frankfurt, at the foot of the Bismarck monument, in Dresden and other cities.

The action was declared a success by the German Student Association in 34 universities. Due to rain in some villages, the book burning was postponed to June 21, a traditional holiday. In total there were at least 70 book burning events in Germany in 1933. In some places, especially Berlin, radio broadcasts brought speeches and songs from the bonfires live to German listeners. Book burning events took place primarily in 1933 alone and did not continue afterwards. Restrictions on free expression, expulsion from employment and education, and Nazi campaigns of hatred and violence in these years caused many intellectuals and scientists, Jews and opponents of the Nazis, to emigrate from Germany. Many non-Jewish opponents of the Nazis, adopted what they termed an "internal emigration": they ceased cultural, artistic and research activities, and kept a low public profile until the end of the Nazi regime. Some stopped criticizing the regime out of safety concerns, and some even managed to continue publishing secretly under pseudonyms through person connections who brought their works to print, musical or cinematic production.

The VOLKISCHER BEOBACHTER was the official, most important newspaper of the Nazi movement. It was published continuously from December 1920 to April 30, 1945. Unlike other newspapers, it defined itself as a "combat paper" and its goal was incitement rather than information transfer. The newspaper also differed from its time by incorporating a red print on the front page, and its headlines were intentionally written in antique lettering to create the impression of a thousand-year Reich. Journalism historians therefore termed this newspaper a "poster like", and its style "speaks more than writes". It initially appeared twice a week, and daily from February 8, 1923, published by Franz-Eher-Verlag in Munich. After the first few years it was distributed throughout the whole German Empire. Adolf Hitler himself was the primary stakeholder in the newspaper. At the height of the Nazi movement's expansion, circulation reached close to 2 million copies in 1944. Just days before the German surrender, on April 30, 1945 the newspaper ceased publication and its final issue was not distributed.

Complete issue. [10] p. 54 cm. Fold marks. Good - very good condition.

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119. Issue of the "VOLKISCHER BEOBACHTER" - The great burning of Jewish books that took place in Berlin Opera Square - May 1933 - The largest book burning event in Nazi Germany