Heinrich Heine and Book Burning

Book burning is a scary idea. In Austin Cline’s article analyzing Heinrich Heine’s ideas about Nazism and book burning, he stated that burning books was a way of controlling people – the Nazis burned books that they felt were counter-productive to their cause. Even though Heine predicted this 100 years before the Nazis took over Germany, the accuracy was scary. He believed that burning books would eventually lead to the burning of people, and, from nearly 60 years in the future, we can see that this did happen. The books that the Nazis chose to burn weren’t just any old books. They were books that were considered degenerates, that went against the welfare and health of the German nation.

This can be seen in Fahrenheit 451 very clearly, as the censorship of the books is, in fact, the control of the ideas that circulate in society that could be harmful to the current group in power. The premise for Firemen and book burning in Fahrenheit 451 is the control of these ideas, and a constant reminder to people that books get you in trouble, and reinforces that books should be destroyed.

Heine’s prediction that burning books eventually leads to burning people is also seen in Fahrenheit 451 when they burn the woman who refused to give up her books. As Cline stated in his article, “This eliminates the message and all trace of the messenger as well.” After she had died, there was no remorse shown by the firemen other than Montag, and she was quickly forgotten. This shows that even though it might not have been the main objective to kill the people who owned books, it was never considered a terrible act, as those people went against the societal norm, and were deviants.

Heine’s predictions were extremely accurate, and I think that his predictions can be seen very clearly not only in science-fiction, but also in real life.



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