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).

Image of the 1817 Wartburgfest via Deutsches Historiches Museum digital collection LEMO.

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.

Painting by David Olere, a Polish-Jewish artist and survivor of KZ Auschwitz (more about him on the page of Auschwitz Museum).


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.