It was cold still for being this late in spring. Germany was in the middle of political restructuring. Earlier in the year, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the Chancellor of all Germany. The first week in May brought us the melting of snow, but only just. People walked briskly down the streets of East Berlin. They bundled up as the wind roared its last call before the fall of night. Everyone rushed down the streets to get home before the last of the warming sun retired for the evening.
The only person not in a hurry was the bookkeeper at Friedrichs Deutscher Buchladen. He was proud of his little bookshop. In all his thirty years of life, he never dreamed he would be able to own such a respected establishment. Friedrich placed the key in the lock and sighed. It was only last week he was made to add Deutscher to his storefront name. Nationalism had been slowly on the rise, but since the appointment of Chancellor Hitler, it had become an almost epidemic. To him, it was only a name, but to some of his patrons, it was the beginning of accepted hatred; especially, to those considered non-Aryan. Those patrons were becoming fewer as of late. He missed the intellectual banter they brought with them.
The street lights flickered overhead as he bundled up and walked with the crowd. Friedrich took his time walking in the fast-paced thrall. Farther up ahead a crowd began to form. He decided to investigate what the commotion was so late in the day. A large group of college kids who called themselves The German Student Union, were hauling out books, journals, and papers from a nearby building.
Friedrich pushed passed the crowd. The German Student Union was looting the Institute for the Science of Sexuality. All the books and scientific papers were being thrown into the street in a pile. This enraged Friedrich. All that knowledge and hard work were being tossed like everyday garbage. The people who worked there had already gone home. Some of them were returning to find the spectacle. They screamed and pushed to get through to stop the madness, but the German Student Union had brute force in numbers. They prevented the scientists, librarians, and employees from saving the documents and research.
A man stepped up on a nearby platform to address the growing crowd.
“My name is Joseph Goebbels. The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end.” The crowd gasped, murmuring amongst themselves. He continued. “The breakthrough of the German revolution has again cleared the way on the German path. The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character.” Most nodded and murmured in agreement. “It is to this end that we want to educate you. As a young person, to already have the courage to face the pitiless glare, to overcome the fear of death, and to regain respect for death - this is the task of this young generation. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past.” The crowd slowly began to cheer. “This is a strong, great and symbolic deed - a deed which should document the following for the world to know - Here the intellectual foundation of the November Republic is sinking to the ground, but from this wreckage, the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise.”
As he finished speaking, some of the students lit a match and tossed it upon the growing pile of papers, books, and scientific journals. An uneasy feeling crept up inside Friedrich. He quickly left the scene to go back and check on his little shop. He walked in an almost run but by the time he has reached his bookstore, the damage has already been done. The German Student Union walked out of his store with all of his religious texts, fictional novels, and anything else that he had that wasn’t German in origin or language. A student stopped and addressed Friedrich.
“You should have considered the consequences of selling this trash and got rid of it before we had to.”
Anger rose up inside of Friedrich. He tried to push past the man, but he was only a measly bookkeeper. Friedrich yelled at the Students with his books in their arms.“Let me pass. I know my rights!”
One of the female students stepped behind the man holding him. “You get what you deserve. You are a traitor to all of Germany for allowing such false knowledge to be distributed.”
“'You may burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe,” Friedrich shouted, “but the ideas those books contain have passed through millions of minds and will go on.”
The German Student Union walked by him to throw his books in the fire. Friedrich fell to his knees once they were out of reach. There was no use in fighting them. They were too many.
His beloved books burned, illuminating the night. Friedrich placed his hands over his eyes and wept. The floodlight above cast a circle around him, illuminating his grief for all to see. The sound of ancient Aryan hymns carried through the night, and the soft glow of the fire in the distance flickered from the dancing bodies surrounding it. The wind howled in sympathy for the knowledge lost to it. Germany had changed, and it was yet to be seen if it was for the better.