On May 10 1933 in fifty German cities Nazi-supporting students burnt over 20,000 books picked up from university and public libraries – books they considered un-German and thus unwished. The ritual burning harked back to the 1817 Wartburgfest, a traditional student rally held at the Wartburg Castle in Thuringia.
The Wartburgfest of 1817 (Wartburg was where Martin Luther found sanctuary after his revolt against the church and where he translated the Bible into German) came with later well-known paraphernalia: torchlight procession, fires, motto “Honour, Freedom, Vaterland”, said book-burning (however only symbolic: paper slips with titles and author’s names were thrown into fire) and Feuersprüche (fire-speeches).
Inspired by nationalist and anti-Semitic German Gymnastics Movement of Friedrich Jahn and his followers, Ernst Moritz Arndt & Johann Gottlieb Fichte (who in one of his numerous anti-Semitic writings demanded that Jewish heads be cut off and replaced with others), students symbolically burnt the 1815 Germanomania, a book by a Berlin author: Jewish writer and publisher Saul Ascher.
In it Saul Ascher wrote: To make crowds accept one’s views or teaching, one must make them feel inspired; fuel must gathered to stoke the flame of inspiration and it is into this little stack of Jews that our Germanomaniacs wish to stick the kindling of fanatism they wish to spread.
Only in Berlin-Kreuzberg there are: Jahnstraße (5 x in Berlin), Arndtstraße (3 x in Berlin) and Fichtestraße (3 x in Berlin). No Berlin street bears the name of Saul Ascher.
Contrary to what we hear all too often these days – more as a warning than as a fact, I believe – Berlin still has its little secrets and surprises. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have stumbled into both of them during a bike reconnaissance for a new book.
The sight of an overgrown red-brick ruin with a large tree growing through a no longer present roof had me press my brakes with such gusto that I nearly catapulted myself out of the saddle. A beautiful rusty fence and an elegant gate whose bottom part has already been devoured by rust, guard what looks like a Secret Garden par excellence. If I have ever seen a time-traveller’s portal to the Past in Berlin, then this must be one.
Quick internet search helped me establish that the abandoned villa once belonged to Professor August Hinderer, a man whose name has long been forgotten but deserves to be remembered again.
You can learn more about him and about the history of the house, which hit by bombs on the night of March 23-24, 1944 has never been inhabited since, by reading a great text by a true expert in Berlin’s secret and abandoned sites, Ciaran Fahey. You will find the story of the Hinderer villa below (please click the image).
One and a half years after the publication of my “Berlin Companion” I am very happy and proud to introduce Part II of the collection of fascinating tales, facts and anecdotes from Berlin’s past and present – “Notmsparker’s Second Berlin Companion”.
Both books, including the e-book version of the first “Berlin Companion”, are available through berlinarium.bigcartel.com (shipping costs for Germany are 1.00 Euro, for the rest of the world 3.70 Euro). If you like to learn new unexpected things about Germany’s capital, things you didn’t even know you wanted to know, then this one is definitely for you:-)
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