A Note on Bookburning

Wherever they burn books, eventually they will burn people too.

The line is from Heine's play Almansor and it has entered the standard repertoire of familiar quotations as an "eerie prophecy" of the Jewish Holocaust. In that capacity Heine's eerie line has been inscribed on a memorial at the Dachau concentration camp, and tourists visiting the camp on their holidays can experience a chill of horrified recognition upon encountering it. On May 10, 1933, NS university students, supervised by SA brownshirts, burned thousands of "un-German and degenerate books" in a propaganda spectacle which Time aptly called a "bibliocaust," and ten years later the same Germans were burning men and women at places like Dachau, a holocaust of humans. Heine's words, written over a century earlier, had come true. Burning books had been a prelude to burning people.

There are many ironies surrounding the canonization of Heine's line as an eerie prophecy of wartime German atrocities. Anyone familiar with the discredited fiction of fiery nazi gas-ovens and the steadily declining role of Dachau in Jewish Holocaust lore will quickly notice a few. But more pertinently, as a preface to the excerpt from Savitri Devi's Gold in the Furnace that appears below, we should observe that the same regime that commemorates Heine's eerie prescience in a permanent monument decrying intellectual intolerance nevertheless engages routinely in the burning of books. The current German regime burns books in a literal sense -- that is, it physically consigns forbidden books, along with forbidden music CDs, to the flames. It also burns books in a figurative sense -- by fining and imprisoning their authors. There are more political prisoners in jail today in Germany than there were under the Marxist GDR. The German government and the many European governments that follow its example either don't really believe that burning books is a prelude to burning people, or else they secretly plan to burn people, so they blithely burn books in anticipation. There are no other possible explanations.

We should all, I think, be in complete agreement with the most obvious meaning of Heine's line: It's bad to burn books. Destroying or prohibiting a book you disagree with suggests that you fear its contents. You should refute (or try to refute) books you disagree with; you shouldn't destroy them. But none of democratic leaders who quote Heinrich Heine's eerie prophecy at Holocaust commemoration rituals accepts its clearest meaning. They don't believe in unfettered freedom of expression and they certainly don't allow their citizens to practice it. They are afraid of dangerous books, so they burn them and fine or jail their authors.

Savitri wrote most of Gold (Calcutta, 1953) during her imprisonment in Germany for circulating pro-NS leaflets. She therefore had good reason to be contemptuous of democratic talk of intellectual freedom: "Their 'liberty of conscience' and their 'right of the individual to express himself' are the most ludicrous humbug -- so coarse and clumsy that anyone gifted with a shadow of common sense can see through it. The least said about those lies the better." I don't agree, but the case she made in 1949 would be hard to refute, and it has become much stronger in recent decades. Few of the liberal democrats who talk about intellectual freedom and splutter about nazi bookburning so long ago have any reluctance right now to fine or imprison the authors of books they find threatening. Decrying the bookburning of a defeated regime in no way restrains even the most vocal of the decriers from burning books today.


National Socialism and Cultural Renewal

Savitri Devi

Another most positive contribution of the National Socialist régime to the renaissance of Germany -- and of Europe -- lies in its effort to cleanse the press, as well as all forms of art and literature, and to build a new healthy and beautiful culture upon the ruins of the decadent, pseudo-culture of the capitalistic world; its effort to raise the moral as well as intellectual and aesthetic standard of the adults, no less than of the young men and women. No aspect of National Socialist rule (save, perhaps, our struggle against Jewry) has been more bitterly and more foolishly criticised, not only by our deadly opponents but by "public opinion" in the world at large. And yet that stubborn fight for truth, and for the triumph of whatever is the healthiest and the best in the Aryan race, is something of which every Nazi can be proud -- even if, for the time being, we failed.

Without a thorough purging of the press, no renaissance would have been possible after 1933 -- no renaissance ever will be possible. For, so long as the journalist writes just to get paid -- regardless by whom, and on behalf of whom, and for what ulterior purpose -- and not because he feels the urge to enlighten or uplift his readers, then, I say, the "clever" ones, of whatever race or creed, who are in control of the money will remain, also, in control of people's minds and, to the extent the "masses" have a say in national and international affairs, in control of the destiny of nations. For the reading masses are foolish -- pre-eminently gullible -- and the knowledge of the conventional symbolism of script has never made them less so. On the contrary, it has given them the dangerous illusion of free thought while enslaving them to the written word more than they ever had been to any tangible power. No one has pointed out more brilliantly -- and sarcastically -­ than our Führer the evil influence of that self-styled "intellectual" or "enlightened" press, controlled by Jewish money. "The Frankfurter Zeitung," states he (and this is only one instance among many), "always writes in favour of fighting with 'intellectual' weapons, and this appeals, curiously enough, to the least intellectual people" (Mein Kampf, I, x). "It is just for our semi-intellectual classes that the Jew writes in his so-called 'intelligentsia' press" (Mein Kampf, I, x).

There were only two ways of dealing with the plague: either eliminate the press altogether, or else, use the incurable propensity of the newspaper readers to believe all that is printed for the triumph of the National Socialist Idea, by allowing the papers to print nothing but what was conducive to the strengthening of the new spirit, or at least, what was in no manner opposed to it. Of the two courses, the second was undoubtedly the easiest at the same time as the most profitable. One cannot teach people to think for themselves in a day. But if, while they are learning to do so, they must have something to believe, let that be the truth rather than lies. So the second course was taken. The press was not eliminated, but controlled, as foreseen by Point Twenty-Three of the Party Programme demanding, "legal warfare against conscious political lying and its dissemination in the press." All editors of newspapers in German and their assistants had to be "members of the nation," i.e., to be of German blood. Papers in other languages, or even foreign papers in German, could be published with the permission of the Government. But no non-German was allowed to influence the German press, either financially or otherwise, the penalty being (if any such transaction was found out) "the suppression of the newspaper and the immediate deportation of the non-German concerned with it."

Dresden 1945 It is easy to criticise such a policy, advocating the "right of the individual to express himself freely," and what not. But one should first realise that, had a similar national press policy been applied in England (from the English point of view, that goes without saying) England never would have declared war on Germany in 1939; there would have been no bombardments, no ruins, no millions of dead -- nothing of that immense misery that everyone deplores -- but a happy Europe in which the two great Aryan nations, Germany and England, would have collaborated in a friendly spirit for the welfare of both of them and of the whole Aryan world. Such a result -- at least I believe -- would have been well worth obtaining at the cost of a little less liberty to lie. And then, also, I cannot help knowing that those Democrats who blame us for not having allowed the German papers to publish propaganda against our views, when we had power, are the self-same people who have been persecuting us for the last four years, on the sole ground that our outlook on life is diametrically opposed to theirs; the self-same people who sentenced me to three years' imprisonment for writing and spreading "Nazi propaganda." Their "liberty of conscience" and their "right of the individual to express himself" are the most ludicrous humbug -- so coarse and clumsy that anyone gifted with a shadow of common sense can see through it. The least said about those lies the better. [Image: Dresden after Allied saturation bombing.]

Along with the cleansing of the press took place the thorough purging of art and literature, in order to forward the growth of a healthy national culture, such as was really impossible in the enervating atmosphere that modern capitalism has created. This was also laid out, in principle, in Point Twenty-Three of the Party Programme: "We demand legal prosecution of all tendencies in art and literature of a kind likely to disintegrate our life as a nation, and the suppression of institutions which militate against the requirements above mentioned."

The world, accustomed by its whole education to call any cleverly written rubbish a manifestation of the "intellect" -- encouraged to do so by the Jewish press, as one can well imagine -- and trained to admire "intellect" above everything, burst out in loud indignation when, on the evening of the 10th of May 1933, in the presence of the Reich Propaganda Minister Dr. Goebbels -- one of the finest, sincerest, and most intelligent National Socialists who ever lived -- the students of Berlin made a public bonfire of a lot of books, mostly but not all written by Jews, which came under the ban as decadent or pernicious literature. "What!" cried out the foreign press, "Going back to the intolerant fanaticism of the Middle Ages? Returning to barbarity! Burning books! How outrageous!" The newspaper-reading apes of the whole so-called civilised earth echoed the indignation. The more smeared they happened to be with cheap "learning" and the more puffed up with unjustified "intellectual" pretences, the more horrified they were at the news of the paper and printing ink holocaust, the more they ranted against Dr. Goebbels, against the Führer, against the German students and the Nazi Party, and (whenever they had the opportunity) against the isolated non-German Aryans, like myself, who understood the meaning of the holocaust and greeted it with cheers.

Magnus Hirschfeld's Library in Flames
May 10, 1933: A strormtrooper throws confiscated books into the bonfire at the Opernplatz in Berlin. This public bookburning, images of which are standard fare in television documentaries on the nazi era, occurred just once during a staged propaganda event. The library of the Institute for Sexual Research, run by the Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, a homosexual transvestite and early gay-rights activist, was a major target, and the works of the Jewish pseudo-scientists Sigmund Freud and Franz Boas were burned as well. Jack London's fiction was inexplicably included in the bookburning, an indication of the ignorance typical of bookburners. The site of this single instance of public NS bookburning is now marked by a memorial designed by an Israeli artist. Micha Ullman's memorial includes, as one would expect, a plaque quoting Heine's eerily prescient line, and it features, beneath a ground-level translucent window, row upon row of bookless white bookshelves. Well-domesticated Germans shudder at the perils of racial intolerance when they look down at the empty bookshelves in the chamber below; well-informed Germans silently note the shameless hypocrisy of their own bookburning government. (Irmin)

The same frantic outcry was heard when the Third Reich banned as decadent, and dangerous to the moral health of the German nation, all the queer, sickly, distorted productions on canvas or out of stone which, before Hitler's rise to power, used to pass as "art." And still greater horror was expressed when doctors and professors of Jewish origin, and German "intellectuals" whose outlook was too obviously opposed to the National Socialist way of life, were dismissed from service. It reached its highest pitch, as one would expect, when a sufficient number of rich Jews, whom the Nazi Government had magnanimously allowed to leave Germany with all their money and valuables, settled in England, in America, in India, all over the world, and nourished the anti-Nazi propaganda more lavishly than ever.

Yet, it was an artificial indignation -- as artificial indeed as any parrot's lesson. For half the people who took part in the world-wide chorus against the "Nazi persecution" of "art and culture" had not the faintest idea of the meaning of these two words. They just called "art" whatever was advertised to them as such in the Sunday editions of the daily papers dealing with Miss So-and-so's latest "psychological" novel and Mr. So-and-so's exhibition of oil paintings. The other half would simply have detested the sight -- or the sound -- of most of the stuff banned in Germany, had they seen it, or read it, and would have cried out wholeheartedly: "A jolly good thing it was banned!" had they been sure nobody would have overheard them. They joined in the parrots' chorus only because they were afraid of being taken for "rustics" -- "barbarians" -- if they did not.

Breker's You and IThe truth is that whatever was banned was really not worth keeping. The truth is also that, in the domain of art and culture as in all others, we National Socialists did not only ban, and forbid; and destroy. We also created. In fact, we only destroyed in order to be able to create, with the collaboration of a reborn people, untrammelled by unhealthy examples and depressing memories. And nothing would have served our propaganda so much, perhaps, as a series of double art exhibitions all over the world: in one hall, all the bizarre specimens of ultra-modern art which we banned -- unnatural curves, contorted shapes, nightmarish expressions; queer human faces, supposed to be all the more rich in deep hidden "meaning" that they appear the more insane or idiotic to the unprejudiced eye -- and in the other ... the finest works of Arno Breker. And an explanatory notice addressed to the sincere observer: "We have come to destroy that, in order to create this." That would have been Nazi propaganda indeed! And of the best kind. I wish such a double exhibition had been organised in every town of the world where there was a German Consulate. [Image: Arno Breker's You and I.]

What can be said, in this connection, of painting and sculpture, is no less true of music and literature. But many will say, "What about science? No civilised government can ban 'scientific' publications -- and persecute a scientist like Sigmund Freud, on racial grounds. And banish Einstein, one of the greatest brains of all times."

Yes, I know; Freud and Einstein, the two instances that are automatically brought forth to damn us, every time the question of our attitude to "culture" arises. It is curious how few people are in a position to speak of these two scientists, even when they use their names as weapons against us. Millions have read some of the works of Freud (or some extracts from them) it is true, but only for the sake of vicarious sexual excitement -- not out of thirst for scientific information; not as one should read them, if at all. As for Einstein, however fashionable it might have been to talk about his "theory of relativity" in the 1920s (when "simplified" explanations of it were to be found even in ladies' magazines), nobody but a handful of highly specialised mathematicians and physicists can boast of understanding his scientific innovations. All that lay people know is that he is "a great brain" -­ which is undoubtedly true. And we are barbarians for not appreciating such greatness, when it happens to manifest itself in a Jew.

There is a fundamental error, a thorough misconception, at the root of this attitude to us. It is not true that we do not recognise or appreciate such intellectual greatness as that of Einstein, in a Jew. We recognise it wherever it might be. But that is no reason why we should allow a Jew to hold a professorship in a German University (or in a University in any Aryan National State, at that) any more than we would a Chinese or an Arab with similar qualifications. If nationality be, first and foremost, a matter of race (as it undoubtedly is) and if, as is natural, only nationals of a country, i.e., people of that country's blood, should be allowed to occupy responsible posts there, then surely no Jew should be permitted to retain such a post, whether it be in the educational line or in the government, or elsewhere, in an Aryan country. The world should understand that there was, in our attitude, no personal hostility towards Einstein as a scientist. There was just the fact that we could not betray both the letter and the spirit of the Party Programme for the sake of anybody. And the "intellectuals" should blame us all the less as, science being above frontiers, it matters little, from their point of view, whether the "theory of relativity" be expounded from Berlin, New York, or Jerusalem.

The case of Sigmund Freud is a little different on account of the popularity of his works, and of the deplorable influence they have upon the lay people, especially the young. It is true that the lay people have no business reading them, and it is no fault of Freud's if they do. Still, the fact remains that, unless strictly confined to the perusal of specialists, those works are dangerous -- "likely to disintegrate" a nation's life. They had -- and have -- not only in Germany but all over the world, wherever they are available in translations, a pernicious influence upon the young men and women who seek in them an opportunity of pondering over sex-pathology and of discovering, in their own lives, sex problems, real or imaginary, of which they would otherwise never have thought. The man, therefore, to the fact of being a Jew, added that of having -- maybe unwillingly; but that makes no difference -- a disintegrating influence. One really cannot blame the students of resurrected Germany for making a bonfire of his books along with many others, less technical in their suggestiveness. One cannot blame the Nazi government either for expelling Freud from Germany, a little roughly.

The attitude of National Socialism to far-fetched monstrosities or pretentious platitudes in art; to far-fetched "problems," analysed in loose and lazy style, to mysteries about nothing, bizarrerie, childish exhibitionism in literature; to artificial sex prattle -- "sex on the brain," as Norman Douglas would have said -- to the cheap eroticism of people who have nothing better to think of, is a joyous, boisterous, defiant "Goodbye to all that!" and a triumphant feeling of riddance. We Nazis have no interest in and no sympathy for the ugly, sickly, foul­smelling capitalistic world, which we are out to kill, and which will die anyhow, even if we have not the pleasure of striking the last blow at it. Facing the future -- work and song; faith, struggle, and creation -- we breathe in the beauty of our tangible ideals like a gush of fresh, invigorating air from the woods after some oppressive nightmare. Yes, goodbye to all that! Or rather, "Away with all that!" What have we in common with this world of parrots shrieking meaningless words at the top of their voices, and of monkeys scratching their genitals? The culture of which we laid the foundations during the first brief years of our power, will be something entirely different from what the modern intellectuals call "culture."

Extract from Savitri Devi, Gold in the Furnace, ed. R.G. Fowler (Uckfield, England: Historical Review Press, 2005), ch. 11, "The Constructive Side," 205-11. Savitri's footnotes have been omitted; the title was provided by the editor. Gold is available for purchase at Historical Review Press. The late Dr. William Pierce commented on German bookburning and related subjects in his Thoughts on the Fourth of July. On race and censorship see G.M. Petrucci's Free Speech and Jared Taylor's Return to the Dark Ages. There is a short survey of some contemporary thought-crimes prosecutions in Germany here. The writer, chemist Germar Rudolf, is currently (January 2006) in jail in Germany facing prosecution before a kangaroo court for the crime of co-authoring a book. A final thought: "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches" (Ray Bradbury). In our era no racial nationalist fears the meager evidence the other side can produce. Multiracialists are fact-phobic, but we aren't. We like facts. That's why today multiracialists are the people running about with lit matches.


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