Heinrich Heine on Burning Books: Connecting the Holocaust to Book Burning

The article “Heinrich Heine on Book Burning” written by Austin Cline, explores the practice of book burning and its connection to the burning of people. There is something inherently sinister about burning books. The article is effective in illustrating the reasons behind book burning, which are clearly linked to the novel. The burning of books plays a major role in the novel, “Fahrenheit 451.”

The article examines the burning of books in Nazi Germany. “They didn’t just burn books which they found disagreeable, but the books which advocated ideas which they believed would undermine the health, safety and welfare of the German nation.” This quote from the article clearly exemplifies the censorship that was behind the practice of book burning. This links back to the novel and its theme of censorship. In the novel, books were burnt to keep “happiness” and the welfare of the community similar to the article. The lack of thought and constant pressure to be and appear happy as a result of book burning is demonstrated by this quote from the novel, “We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” Censorship and the burning of books was fuelled by the need to keep the community happy, healthy, safe and not “bothered” by thoughts.

The article and the novel, Fahrenheit 451, explored the ideology behind book burning and presented the reasoning to keep the community happy, healthy, safe and not “bothered.” This was clearly a reason but not the only one. A major reason behind book burning presented in the article was because it was a threat and threatened the government in charge. “They burn books because the message of the books is a threat – a serious threat, in fact, not something remote and theoretical.” This excerpt from the article indicates how books messages may be perceived as a threat to the government’s power by presenting thought provoking or controversial ideas. Books have ideas and knowledge, which is a threat to the government in the novel. These ideas and knowledge rooted in books make people question how things are and makes them see the faults in the world. Lack of knowledge enables ignorance and ignorance breeds people who are easier to control. When Montag gets a hold of some books and begins to obtain his own opinion about his life and his society, Beatty tries to stop him; he tries to burn or burn out those thoughts in the same way they burn the books. The knowledge and message in books was clearly a threat in both the article and the novel and initiated the practice of burning books.

The article “Heinrich Heine on Book Burning,” also explored the link between book burning and the burning of people. The fuel that initiated the practice of book burning was the threat in which the message the book contained. But “if they truly want to eliminate a message which they perceive to be a serious threat, they will have to go to the source of that message- the people responsible for the books.” Books are a medium in which ideas can be expressed but destroying the medium cannot destroy ideas. If the message in the book is extremely threatening destroying the papers wont make it go away and stop the spread of the idea. The idea came from a person and it will continue to spread unless the source of the threat is controlled. This is why there is a definite link between book burning and burning people. There is something inherently sinister about burning books since books come from the minds of people and the ideas cannot be permanently destroyed without destroying the source.

The article “Heinrich Heine on Book Burning,” explores the practice of book burning and its link to the burning of people. The article effectively explores the reasons behind the sinister practice of book burning. The burning of books plays a major role in the novel, “Fahrenheit 451.” The reasons that initiate book burning are reflected in the novel, Fahrenheit 451, and help develop the theme of censorship.

-Hannah Brennan

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One thought on “Heinrich Heine on Burning Books: Connecting the Holocaust to Book Burning

  1. I love how you brought up the fact that the illusion of “happiness” in this society that Guy Montag lives in, is based on simplicity by a lack of knowledge, and that this lack of intelligence is necessary in order to create ignorant people that can be controlled easier by the government. This is a very good point that I had not thought about in that way before! Thanks for the superb insight Hannah!

    -Kristen

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