For want of a good method

I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method; I have
confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries, with small profit, for want of art, order, memory, judgement. –Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

Nazi book burning — the destruction of memory

With the emblematic book-burning in a square on Unter den Linden, opposite the University of Berlin, on the evening of io May, 1933, books became a specific target of the Nazis. Less than five months after Hitler became chancellor, the new propaganda minister of the Reich, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, declared that the public burning of books by authors such as Heinrich Mann,
Stefan Zweig, Freud, Zola, Proust, Gide, Helen Keller and H.G. Wells allowed “the soul of the German people again to express itself. These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new.””‘ The new era proscribed the sale or circulation of thousands of books, in either shops or libraries, as well as the publishing of new ones. Volumes commonly kept on
sitting-room shelves because they were prestigious or entertaining became suddenly dangerous. Private holdings of the indexed books were prohibited; many books were confiscated and destroyed. Hundreds of Jewish libraries throughout Europe were burnt down, both personal collections and public treasure-houses.

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

The library as resistance

Seven months after these directives were given, in September 1943, the Nazis set up a “family camp” as an extension of the Auschwitz precinct, in the birch forest of Birkenau, which included a separate block, “number 31,” built especially for children. It was designed to serve as proof to the world that Jews deported to the east were not being killed. In fact, they were allowed to live six months before being sent on to the same fate as the other deported victims. Eventually, having served its purpose as propaganda, the “family camp” was permanently closed.”‘While it lasted, Block 31 housed up to five hundred children together with several prisoners appointed
“counsellors,” and in spite of the severe surveillance it possessed, against all expectations, a clandestine children’s library. The library was minuscule; it consisted of eight books, which included H.G. Wells’s A Short History of the World, a Russian school textbook and an analytical geometry text. Once or twice an inmate from another camp managed to smuggle in a new book, so that the
number of holdings rose to nine or ten. At the end of each day, the books, together with other valuables such as medicines and bits of food, would be entrusted to one of the older girls, whose responsibility it was to hide them in a different place every night.

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel