The Theory of Book Burning

Heinrich Hein’s article on book burning touched on the theory that burning books and people were used to get rid of “threatening” messages-the Nazi’s did so in their holocaust/house raids as pointed out by Hein, Nazi’s burned books about Jewish views and tradition, and anything that could be seen as threatening to they’re power over the people. In Fahrenheit 451, the same theory behind the book burning is utilized-it is used as a tool of censorship… the firefighters torch houses (and the occasional person-oops!) because they are keeping information seen by the people “socially above them” as something threatening to their position. “Burning books and burning people are connected because both stem from a desire to eliminate ideas that are a threat to the same group or ideology which is in power.” which means that when a book is burned – a person is burned; a persons mind, idea, escape, world… they are all burned alongside with said book. Nazi Germany also understood that burning books would not fully burn the message, the only way to burn said message was to burn the origin. This is where the ideas of burning the Jews, communists and other minorities came from, the acceptance of burning books opened the door to burning people during such a dark time in history.
It’s important to understand that book burning became a widespread phenomenon during the holocaust because it developed into the social norm within Nazi Germany; the goal was to snuff out any minority or threatening content… this is shown in Fahrenheit 451 in the beginning when Montag thinks of fire as calming, kerosine as perfume, and the idea/image of burning of books as freeing.
It’s a journey to find out how Montag transitions to the opposition when it comes to book burning and it makes you wonder exactly how the situation of the holocaust could have been different if such things happened to more people involved with the extermination of books and minorities.

– Hannah DeBourke


4 thoughts on “The Theory of Book Burning

  1. I like how you said that burning books in Nazi Germany became the norm, and because of that became so widespread. Because nearly everyone accepted it, the minorities who didn’t would have been to afraid to stand up for their beliefs, and this is shown in Fahrenheit 451 in Faber. It’s also scary to think that something that should be considered bad can so easily be seen as okay when multitudes of people accept it.
    – Monika

  2. I loved how you pointed out that because of his societal norms, he thinks of fire as a calming and freeing thing, as you say, and he doesn’t see the bigger picture of what the burning of books really means in his society until later in the book. This is definitely a key thing to recognize, of how his view on his career and role in his society changes from the beginning of the book where he smell’s the kerosine as a scent of beauty like perfume which it is clearly not. Thank you for addressing this point!

  3. You claimed that the purpose of burning books was to maintain the status quo and keep information dangerous to the power of the upper class away from the lower class. I thought that this statement was interesting as it expresses the real purpose of censorship. However, in Fahrenheit 451, Beatty explains that it is used as a tool to maintain happiness by not giving people choices and opposing sides which they might spend to much time considering. This contrast is vey interesting and perhaps demonstrates exactly how false information is spread to make censorship possible.

  4. Like what Iso said, I really liked the point on the status quo between what knowledge can be presented. And also that pointed linked to the Holocaust with Nazi Germany being socially above others. The point on book burning and the Holocaust being the social norm was very interesting, since it is so different from today’s society. But since this novel is set in the future and it is also seen as a social norm, it really shows how the predictions for the future can be way off scale.
    (ps- the gif is perf)
    -Amy Hand

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