The 75th anniversary of the 1933 book-burning has been marked on Friday by Horst Koehler (photo, from dahw.de), Germany’s president. That event was an emblematic step in the Nazi’s seizure of power.
The president voiced his country’s shame for actions that he said, faced little resistance at the time.
Thousands of books, deemed to be “un-German”, have been burned by students around Germany, on May 10, 1933, little more than three months after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor.
“We recall today with shame that 75 years ago — not just here in Berlin, but in all of Germany — tens of thousands applauded and cheered as the books of Erich Kaestner, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Kurt Tucholsky and many others were thrown into the fire by students” said president Horst Koehler.
In a speech at Berlin’s Academy of Arts, German president said that the book-burning, broadcast on radio, left room for no illusions about the way Nazi-run Germany was headed, coming after a boycott of Jewish businesses weeks earlier.
Torching of the Reichstag
“It was only a small step from the ostracism of Jews to the burning of their books, and again a small step from the burning of books to the burning of human beings” Koehler said. “And there was barely any resistance against the action.”
The book-burning was not even organized by the state, noted Koehler, but by the student body, adding that “academics, students and professors engaged in propaganda against what they viewed as ‘un-German.’“
In 1933, Hitler convinced ailing President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint him chancellor on Jan. 30. A month later, he used the torching of the Reichstag parliament building to strengthen his grip on power. The blame for the fire was put on Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe.
Thanks to that event, Hitler suspended civil liberties and cracked down on opposition parties, paving the way for the police state.
Parliament approved the Enabling Act on March 23. It effectively gave Hitler dictatorial powers, as it enabled his Cabinet to issue decrees without the need for approval by lawmakers or the president.