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By Matthew Fishburn (auth.)

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In some cases this is little more than a continuation of the rigorous censorship of obscenity. 13 Book burning as panacea would have its fullest elaboration in the Enlightenment, which fostered the genre of the ‘eutopia’ (good place) – utopia distilled of any irony. In the early nineteenth century Charles Fourier legislated the future with absurd precision, imagining a leap through chaos into harmony. He was astute enough to realize that the order and symmetry of his proposed new world order are made more desirable by setting them against the existing state, especially when it is derided as being chaotic, degenerative, dead: The scene is changing, and the truth you pretend to be seeking is about to die and overwhelm you.

The impresario for the night was the propaganda minister – and erstwhile novelist – Joseph Goebbels. In lightly falling rain he spoke of his hope that from the ashes of the pacifist, defeatist and un-German books that had been burned, the phoenix of the new Reich would rise. That night, and over the next week, similar events were held in university cities across Germany, most of which explicitly followed the model of Berlin by including marching parades, torches and speeches. These fires have since become synonymous with the barbarity of the Nazi regime, but such an understanding was by no means automatic, and the international response to the events tended to be perplexed, even bemused.

7 Conversely, one of the few The Burning of the Books 33 university towns not to have a student sponsored burning was Freiburg, where the newly appointed Rector Martin Heidegger apparently banned the event. Baeumler’s inflammatory rhetoric signifies the unusualness of Heidegger’s reticence, especially considering his early enthusiasm for National Socialism. 8 There would be no book burnings, but the project Heidegger envisioned required a renunciation of any arbitrary work, meaning that so-called ‘academic freedom’ would be renounced on the grounds that it was merely a negative freedom.

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