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His mother prays for him, knowing it will only be a matter of time before the authorities come and take him away to serve Hitler. A Nazi officer bangs on the door to take Hans away, but his mother says he is sick and needs care. The officer orders her to heal her son quickly and have him ready to leave, implying if Hans does not get well, he will be euthanized.

He orders her not to do anything more to him that will cause him to lose heart and be weak, explaining that a soldier must show no emotion, mercy, or feelings whatsoever. They then watch as the teacher draws a cartoon on the blackboard of a rabbit being eaten by a fox, prompting Hans to feel sorry for the rabbit. The teacher, furious over the remark, orders Hans to sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap. As Hans sits in the corner, he hears the rest of the classmates "correctly" interpret the cartoon as "weakness has no place in a soldier" and "the strong shall rule the weak".

This causes Hans to recant his remark and agree that the weak must be destroyed.

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Hans then takes part in a book-burning crusade, burning any books with ideas opposed to Hitler's Albert Einstein , Baruch Spinoza , and Voltaire , replacing the Bible with Mein Kampf and the crucifix with a Nazi sword, and burning a Catholic church. Hans then spends the next several years " Marching and heiling , heiling and marching!

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He reaches his teens wearing a uniform similar to that of the Sturmabteilung still "marching and heiling" until he becomes an adult or "Good Nazi" now in Wehrmacht uniform embroiled in hatred towards anyone else who opposes Hitler. With "no seed of laughter, hope, tolerance, or mercy" planted in him, he "sees no more than the party wants him to [see], says nothing but what the party wants him to say, and he does nothing but what the party wants him to do.

In the end, Hans and the rest of the German soldiers march off to war only to fade into rows of identical graves, with nothing on them except a swastika and a helmet perched on top. Thus Hans's education is complete — "his education Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi was released when Disney was under government contract to produce 32 animated shorts from to In , Walt Disney spent four times his budget on the feature film Fantasia which suffered from low box office turnout.

Nearing bankruptcy and with half of his employees on strike , Walt Disney was forced to look for a solution to bring money into the studio.

Book Burning | The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The studio's close proximity to the military aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed , helped foster a U. This saved the company from bankruptcy and allowed them to keep their employees on payroll. The dialogue of the characters is in German , neither subtitled nor directly translated by Art Smith's lone English language narration. Another important approach emphasizes the brutality of the Second World War, which led the German soldiers to perpetrate mass murders.

Scholarship on these topics certainly helps us capture and understand aspects of the Holocaust, but it cannot assist us in interpreting the burning of the Bible.

The Third Reich : Nazi Book Burning

When we change our perspective and view the burning of the Bible as part of the creation of a new German identity by the Nazis, when we acknowledge that this act involved a set of emotions that cannot be ignored or separated from the Holocaust, then new possibilities that challenge our perceptions emerge to help us understand this event. Burning the Bible was an intentional act: It happened all over Germany, in public for all to see, and both those who perpetrated the act and those who watched it perceived it as a transgressive act, whether they supported or opposed the burning.

The burning was part of a larger story Germans told themselves during the Third Reich about who they were, where they came from, how they had arrived there, and where they were headed.

The burning of the Bible was about covenants: old, new, and newer still. Burning the Bible, and by extension Kristallnacht, was part of the Nazi tale about the Jews as inheritors of a tradition that threatened the Third Reich. The historical origin of the Jews was a dagger aimed at the heart of the Nazi experiment. Kristallnacht was not simply a dramatic enactment of the idea that Jews were not welcome in Germany—this had been made quite clear since —because burning the Bible was not an assault on Jews as individuals supposedly staining daily life in Nazi Germany, but on Judaism as a whole.

It was not about fixing the present, but about fixing the past.

Resistance in Nazi Germany

It was not primarily about pushing the Jews to emigrate from Germany or a reflection of uncontrollable hatred, but about building a racial civilization by extinguishing the authority of the Jews over a moral past embedded in the Bible. The Bible was destroyed because it was disturbingly important to the Nazis. Burning it was a way to visualize Judaism, to make tangible the enemy that was being destroyed. Some of the Germans who participated knew that the Torah scrolls comprised the five books of the Pentateuch, from Genesis to Deuteronomy.

The point was not whether they had precise knowledge of Jewish religious practices and rituals or of the exact biblical books included in the scrolls. Participants knew that the Torah scroll was the holiest and most sacred object in the synagogue. This was enough. The scroll was an image of Judaism, and the scroll on fire provided a symbolic destruction of its authors, its cantors, its interpreters, its readers. The burning continued a practice familiar from May , when the Nazis burned books all over Germany. The meaning of the burning of the books was not determined by the precise literary knowledge of the participants and the audience, who most often had not read the books or even heard about the authors.

The burning was the meaning. The scrolls were touched, carried, rolled out, trampled on, biked and walked over, tied to the backs of Jews, thrown into rivers, torn apart, set ablaze: Germans intimately engaged the physicality and materiality of the Torah. The destruction called forth the five senses at once. It was a tactile act of palpable contact, replete with the sensuality and excitement that comes with destroying dangerous objects.

Dangerous—because by burning the Torah, Germans also acknowledged the power of the object, much as they acknowledged the power of Judaism in burning 1, synagogues.

The scrolls had to be vanquished with bare hands and demonstratively, publicly, for all to see. Germans destroyed the Bible not sheepishly in secret, but in a stirring theatrical performance with actors and audience, be it applauding, bellowing, or in shocked silence. By burning the Bible in public, the Nazis made everyone complicit in a transgressive act.


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In the burning, the Nazis expanded on the idea of the eternal, sinful racial origins of the Jews by adding the desire for a clean slate when it came to religious origins. In this way, for the Nazis, Jewish modern and ancient vices linked and complemented each other. The Jews had to be excised from Germany because they epitomized both the rootlessness of modern times and the ultimate historical origins of European Christian civilization embedded in the Bible. Rootlessness and roots commingled in crafting the Nazi idea of origins. The Nazis persecuted the Jews because as rootless cosmopolitans they did not possess a German identity, and they also persecuted them because as the people of the Book they did possess a German, Christian identity.

Burning the Bible was an awesome display of superiority over the Jews. It was so massive, brutal, and violent that it was as if the Nazis were effectively saying to the Jews and other Europeans that they and not the Jews were now to be considered the Chosen People. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date for bonfire celebrations in Germany.

Book Burning

Nonetheless, in 34 university towns across Germany the May 10th "Action against the Un-German Spirit" was a success, receiving widespread newspaper coverage. In some cities, notably Berlin, radio broadcasts brought the speeches, songs, and ceremonial chants "live" to countless German listeners. The promotion of "Aryan" culture and the suppression of other forms of artistic production was yet another Nazi effort to "purify" Germany.


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  7. In this short film, a Holocaust survivor, an Iranian author, an American literary critic, and two Museum historians discuss the Nazi book burnings and why totalitarian regimes often target culture, particularly literature. We would like to thank The Crown and Goodman Family and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors. You are searching in English. Tags Find topics of interest and explore encyclopedia content related to those topics.

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