On 10 May 1933, students initiated a a literary purge or "Säuberung" cleansing by fire. Upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books. This was the culmination of the Main Office for Press and Propaganda of the German Student Union efforts a month earlier (April 8, 1933) who had proclaimed a nationwide "Action against the Un-German Spirit."
All across Germany, Nazi officials as well as professors, rectors, and student leaders addressed the participants and spectators. At the book burnings, students threw the pillaged, banned books into the bonfires with a great joyous ceremony that included live music, singing, "fire oaths," and incantations. In Berlin, some 40,000 people gathered in the square at the State Opera to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: "No to decadence and moral corruption!" Goebbels enjoined the crowd. “Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.”
On this day, April 26, 1937, Guernica (Gernika) is bombed during the Spanish Civil War by German Luftwaffe. There was no military value to the bombing and the event is known as the one of the first raids on a defenseless civilian population by a modern air force. The massacre was immortalized in Pablo Picasso's "Mural del Gernika" as well as René Iché's sculpture "Gernika."
Thomas E. Keefe
Assistant Professor of Humanities,