Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Man Behind Hitler
Primary Sources return to primary sources index

The Berlin Book Burning Previous 1 of 4 Next


On May 10, 1933, Goebbels spoke to thousands of young Germans who had gathered in Berlin to witness the burning of thousands of books. Excerpts from the speech were printed in this article from The People's Observer.



Carrying out the Will of the People

Un-German Literature to the Bonfire
Night Rally by the German Student Union

The German student body of the Berlin universities assembled yesterday for a torchlight procession on Hegel Square. They formed up, accompanied by a truckload of 25,000 books and writings harmful to the people. The procession ended at Opera Square, where as a symbolic act, these un-German writings were set aflame on a pile of logs.

Thousands and even more thousands of men wished to attend the spectacle. Already long before the start of the event, the Opera Square was thickly lined with people. As the student formations and associations entered, many greeted them with thundering "Heils" and shouts of rejoicing.

The associations then took positions around the bonfire and threw heaps of books into the flames. Students stepped forward, piles of books in their arms, and shouted the flame verses:

"Against class warfare and materialism, for the community of the people and an idealistic way of life!"

"Against decadence and moral degeneracy, for decency and custom in family and government!"

The writings of Marx and Kautsky, Heinrich Mann, Gläser, Kästner, Emil Ludwig Cohn, Hegemann, Tucholsky, Kerr, Ossietzky, and other scribblers were consigned to the flames.

Then Reichsminister Dr. Goebbels spoke:
"The age of an overly refined Jewish intellectualism has come to an end, and the German Revolution has made the road clear again for the German character. This revolution came not from above; it broke out from below. It is therefore in the best sense of the word the fulfillment of the will of the people. Here stands the worker by the professional, the student by the soldier and young worker, here stands the intellectual with the proletarian.

"In the last fourteen years, comrades, as you have been forced in silent shame to suffer the humiliations of the November Republic, the libraries became filled with trash and filth from Jewish asphalt-litterateurs.

"While academic knowledge gradually isolated itself from life, young Germany has already long prepared a new, right, and normal condition.

"The movement, that formerly [competed with] the state, has now marched into the state, indeed it has become the state. Thus the German spirit has gained an entirely different potentiality. The revolutionary tempo, revolutionary élan, and revolutionary breakthroughs that German youth experienced in past years, are now the tempo and the élan of the entire state.

"Revolutions that are genuine do not stop anywhere. No area can remain untouched. As men are revolutionized, so are things revolutionized.

"For that reason you do well, in these midnight hours, to consign the unclean spirit of the past to the flames. Here the spiritual foundations of the November Republic sink into the ground. But out of the ruins will triumphantly rise the phoenix of a new spirit that we will carry, that we will promote, and to which we will give decisive weight.

"I believe there were never student youth so qualified as these, proud of life, proud of their tasks, and proud of their duty. Never have young men ever had the right so much as now to cry out, with Ulrich von Hutteng, 'Oh Century! Oh Science! It is a joy to be alive!'

The old lies in the flames, but the new will arise from the flame of our own hearts. Where we stand together, and where we go together -- there we will serve the Reich and our future.

"As often in the times when we still fought in the opposition, let us again, now that we have the power and thus the accountability in our hands, close ourselves together in the promise, that we earlier so often hurled into the evening sky:

"Let it be an oath illuminated by many flames! Heil to the Reich and the nation and our leader Adolf Hitler!"

The Horst-Wessel song broke out, and the flames continued to crackle, in which heaps and heaps of collected Jewish poison-literature had been thrown. With this demonstration the struggle against the Un-German spirit symbolically began, a struggle that will now proceed. This struggle will not stop until all Germans are again of the German spirit.


From The People's Observer, Edition A/North-Germany Edition, Berlin, Friday, May 12, 1933. Translation by Hugo S. Cunningham at http://www.cyberussr.com/hcunn/volkisch.html

The Berlin Book Burning Previous 1 of 4 Next

back to top page created on 4.25.06

The Man Behind Hitler American Experience
THE FILM & MORE | SPECIAL FEATURE | PEOPLE & EVENTS | GALLERY | TIMELINE | TEACHER'S GUIDE