Jerusalem, Israel - May 22, 2023 - Tuesday, May 16, in Jerusalem, Israel, the National Library of Israel located at the Hebrew University Givat Ram Campas, hosted a live event (in Hebrew) marking the 90th anniversary of the Nazi book burning in Berlin.
On the evening of May 10, 1933, a large procession of German students marched to Berlin's Opernplatz, the State Opera square, along with trucks loaded with over 20,000 books, and accompanied by torchbearers, bands playing German folk songs, and flags, as well as journalists and photographers.
Nine members of the Deutsche Studentenschaft (the German Student Union) opened the book-burning ceremony by reading aloud the names of authors, and the reasons for destroying their books. These "un-German" books thrown into the bonfire were by communist, socialist, liberal, and anti-government writers -- most of them Jews.
At the end of the evening, Joseph Goebbels, the newly appointed Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, congratulated the students who supported the revolutionary ideas of the new government. Goebbels declared the Nazi revolution victorious, stating, "The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end... thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past."
A chilling thought to realize Berlin was just one of 93 other book burnings that took place during 1933 at 70 other universities and cities throughout Germany.
In 1933, immediately after the shocking book-burning event, Rubin Mass left Germany and set up a publishing house in Jerusalem. The National Library was presented with several charred pages that were not consumed in the Berlin fire, pulled out by the 21-year-old Rubin Mass. Mass was also the father of Major Daniel "Dani" Mass, commander of the Haganah Convoy of 35 (Lamed Heh), all of whom were killed in 1948 en route to resupply the blockaded Gush Etzion settlements.
The evening program was opened and moderated by the Curator of the Humanities Collection at the National Library of Israel, Dr. Stefan Litt. One of the authors mentioned by Litt whose work was burned was American Jack London.
Dramatic readings by actor Yehoyachin Friedlander against the illuminated stained glass window mural were interludes in the program. The event included a presentation by curator Yigal Zalmona with an explanation of Letters of Light, being erected on the campus of the new National Library of Israel across from the Knesset. Afternoon shadows of the cement shapes will form letters on the ground.
A discussion conducted by journalist Asaf Lieberman, with poet Ronny Someck, Rabbi Benny Lau, and historian Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger, about the role books play in shaping the human spirit in general, in Jewish and Israeli culture in particular, the public perception of writers, poets, and intellectuals at that time, and their role in Israeli society today concluded the library event.
Book burnings did not end with the Nazis and World War II. In the United States, in 1945, communist works were burned, over the years in China and Chili, and as recently as last year, book burnings were reported.
Books cannot be killed by fire. "People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny. In this war we know books are weapons," stated Franklin D Roosevelt.