Banned Books

Catalogue of books banned by the Nazis to be published online

The Nazi regime brought suffering to millions of people around the world. But the regime also brought about the destruction of an enormous body of cultural property and values across Europe. Even before it began with the physical and systematic destruction of people, the Nazi regime embarked upon a programme of systematically destroying books and other cultural property in the spring of 1933. The book burnings of 10 May 1933 were an initial symbolic act and were prepared with the aid of meticulous lists. These ‘black lists’ were compiled in early 1933. Berlin librarian Dr. Wolfgang Herrmann was responsible for the task – comparable to the creation of the Catholic Index Librorum Prohibitorum – of identifying those works which public libraries were to initially refrain from lending and subsequently cull from their catalogues.

This ‘black list’ was made available to the organizers of the ‘Action Against the Un-German Spirit’, which began to destroy books looted from libraries in numerous German cities in a coordinated action on the evening of 10 May 1933. Along with Marx and Engels, works by the Manns and Döblin, Kästner, Remarque and Hirschfeld were all delivered to the bonfires.

The establishment of the Reich Chamber of Literature on 1 November 1933 marked a new stage in the supervision and surveillance of authors, publishers and booksellers. Officials worked to enhance the ‘elimination of un-German literature’. The ‘Herrmann list’ was regularly updated and expanded. By decree of 25 April 1935, the Reich Chamber of Literature was charged with “maintaining a list of those books and writings which pose a threat to National Socialist culture”. A draft catalogue of proscribed literature was completed by the end of 1935 and withheld from the public. Ultimately, the ‘List of Harmful and Undesirable Writings’ contained over 5,800 entries, often spanning an author’s complete works or a publisher’s entire edition.

In order to raise public awareness of this cultural crime, this list will be published online on the eightieth anniversary of the book burnings in Berlin.