This work is placed in Bebelplatz, in Berlin. The location of it is very important: in 10 May 1933 the Nazi Book Burning ceremony happened in many different university cities in Germany, including the capital of course. In 1933, in fact, various groups  of national socialist students held this kind of ceremonies to proclaime a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit”, consisting of burning all the books that were in a way dangerous for the Nazism. Among all the books there were some of Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and just in Bebelplatz 20.000 books were destroyed. 

Here the complete list of books types that were banned:

  • The works of traitors, emigrants and authors from foreign countries who believe they can attack and denigrate the new Germany (H.G. Wells, Rolland);
  • The literature of Marxism, Communism and Bolshevism;
  • Pacifist literature;
  • Literature with liberal, democratic tendencies and attitudes, and writings supporting the Weimar Republic (Rathenau, Heinrich Mann);
  • All historical writings whose purpose is to denigrate the origin, the spirit and the culture of the German Volk, or to dissolve the racial and structural order of the Volk, or that denies the force and importance of leading historical figures in favor of egalitarianism and the masses, and which seeks to drag them through the mud (Emil Ludwig);
  • Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Hackel, Benedict);
  • Books that advocate “art” which is decadent, bloodless, or purely constructivist (Grosz, Dix, Bauhaus, Mendelsohn);
  • Writings on sexuality and sexual education which serve the egocentric pleasure of the individual and thus, completely destroy the principles of race and Volk (Hirschfeld);
  • The decadent, destructive and Volk-damaging writings of “Asphalt and Civilization” literati: (Graf, H. Mann, Stefan Zweig, Wassermann, Franz Blei);
  • Literature by Jewish authors, regardless of the field;
  • Popular entertainment literature that depicts life and life’s goals in a superficial, unrealistic and sickly sweet manner, based on a bourgeois or upper class view of life;
  • Nationalistic and patriotic kitsch in literature.
  • Pornography and explicit literature by Jewish authors.
  • All books degrading German purity

[from Wikipedia]

This artwork by Micha Ullman wants to be a constant reminder of that episode. It is a white bookshelf big enough to contain 20.000 books, but empty. It is visible from the pavement, thanks to a glass square, and it is inaccessible.

Years later a plaque was placed near to the artwork, reporting a line from Heinrich Heine saying “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people”.

– M.C.

Bibliography and further reading:

ZELLIEN Werner,‎ MESCHEDE Friedrich, Micha Ullman, Die Bibliothek: August-Bebel-Platz, Berlin, Verlag Der Kunst, 2010

The Third Reich : Nazi Book Burning – Terminating un-German ideas, Kindle Editions, 2011

The Burning of the Reichstag: The History of the Controversial Fire That Led to the Rise of Nazi Germany, Kindle Editions, 2015



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