Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Library of The Burned Book
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment in Paris of The Library of the Burned Book.
The Bibliothek des verbrannten Buches was opened by German emigres to mark the second anniversary of the infamous book-burnings that swept Germany in 1932. The library was later renamed the German Library of Freedom, or Deutsche Freiheits-bibliothek. Another such library was established in Brooklyn. Their aim was to ensure that the barbarism attendant at the German book-burnings would not triumph. As Nikola von Merveldt explains, they became 'powerful agents of counter-memories to the fascist attempt to rewrite history. They guarded the cultural heritage of a country that had once embodied the principles of humanism and was now threatening the civilized world.'
The actual library was lost during the German occupation, but a plaque still exists to commemorate it. At a time when Italy is lurching to the right, for example proposing restrictions on gypsies and immigrants, and there are fears in the UK of the British National Party making gains in the forthcoming European elections, we would do well to remember the Library of the Burned Book and everything that it stands for.