“Heinrich Heine on Burning Books”: Reflection

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, journalist and literary critic. The article “Heinrich Heine on Book Burning” written by Austin Cline, helps to shed some light on the practise of book burning, which ultimately took place during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.
The whole idea of book burning first began during Hitler’s reign over Germany. He had a very specific vision to attain. He believed that the Germans were superior to all peoples, especially to those of Jewish decent, which he termed “inferior”. This was a racially motivated ideology created by Adolf Hitler himself, which ultimately led to a genocide of thousands of Jewish people. There does seem to be a definite connection present between burning books and burning people.
At Bebelplatz Square in Berlin, Germany, there is a memorial which has been errected for the book burning, which took place in 1933. The book memorial, which is underground simply displays rows of empty shelves, to illustrate the loss of not just books, but valuable knowledge.
To me, the idea of burning books really does seem silly and I have to question why anyone would do anything like that in the first place. However, during the holocaust, all of the books belonging to the Jewish people, and others were burned by the Nazi’s. All of the books, that is, which did not conform to the party’s ideology. You weren’t in a very good place if you didn’t agree with what was being said in society, or did not wish to follow the rules. In some ways, this is very similar to Guy Montag in Bradbury’s novel, “Fahrenheit 451”. He, being a fireman and living in a dystopian society, his role in the community is to set fires, rather than extinguish them. Set fire to books, that is. At first, it seems as though he completely complies with the rules and adheres to them without question, however, we soon discover that he is, in fact, hiding books of his own.
In some ways, the plight Montag finds himself in, is similar to the practise of book burning, in that, the message contained in books can, if used the wrong way, can pose a threat–a very serious threat. No one would just go around randomly burning books for no reason, unless there was a legitimate reason behind it.
Heinrich Heine states “where they have burned books, they will end up burning humans.” The meaning behind this is simply that if the books are destroyed, so too is man’s knowledge.

By: Sarah Kean


3 thoughts on ““Heinrich Heine on Burning Books”: Reflection

  1. I really enjoyed Sarah’s blog. It gives us a very detailed idea of the history of book burning which took place in Germany. I like how she incorporated the concept of a dystopian society from the novel into her response. i thought she related the ideas of the article back to the novel well. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  2. I liked the connection you drew between burning books and burning people. Books usually contain the ideas that constitute the culture of a group of people. Thus, to destroy these books is to ensure the extinction of the culture itself. However unlike the extinction of a population there will be no fossils left behind, no remnants of what once was, and thus no indication that these people existed to begin with.


  3. I love how you connected burning books with a loss of knowledge! This connection is very prevalent to what is happening in their society for me – without the knowledge about commonplace things, things become twisted in ways that seem normal to them but very foreign to us. Take for example, the mechanical hound. It is an everyday thing for them to send the hound out to terrify people, however, we see dogs as companions and friends, not as tools.
    – Monika

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