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Bambi and the Theory of Relativity:

Books on the Nazi Pyre

Cabinet Exhibition

Albert Einstein’s "Theory of Relativity," "Bambi" by Felix Salten, and with them books by over 350 authors were burned on the Nazi pyre. On 10 May, 80 years ago, the "Deutsche Studentenschaft" (German Student Union) burned books as the highlight of a large-scale "Action against the Un-German Spirit." Works by Anna Seghers, Lion Feuchtwanger, Vicki Baum, Erich Kästner, Alfred Kerr, and Erich Maria Remarque were thrown on the bonfire along with scientific literature and political journalism. Works by Jewish, Marxist, and pacifist authors were deemed "harmful and undesirable literature."

Interview with George Warburg
© Jewish Museum Berlin

The fires destroyed a great deal. In emigrants’ private libraries, however, these treasures remained intact. Today, they continue to be the subject of spectacular library purchases.

Two men are packaging books into boxes

The books of George Warburg’s private library are being packed.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Ulrike Sonnemann

The American George Warburg – who grew up as a child in Germany until his parents left Berlin in 1933 began to collect these works of literature 25 years ago. He has generously donated his collection of over 400 books, mostly first editions, to the Jewish Museum Berlin. This donation was sparked by the museum’s New Year greeting card illustrated with R.B. Kitaj's painting "Unpacking My Library," which was on show in the exhibition of this artist at the Jewish Museum. Warburg saw this as an omen and contacted director W. Michael Blumenthal to inquire about the museum’s interest in his collection. Details were discussed at a meeting in New York.


7 May 2013 - 15 September 2013


Libeskind Building, basement, Rafael Roth Learning Center


Admission with the museum ticket (7 euros, reduced rate 3,50 euros)

The George Warburg collection is representative of the banned literature of the Nazi era, which was systematically destroyed after 1933. This small Cabinet Exhibition presents a selection of the collection. It is a contribution to the Berlin-wide theme year "Diversity Destroyed – 1933-1938," alongside the Jewish Museum Berlin's online project "1933 – The Beginning of the End of German Jewry." A list of the books banned in the Nazi era has been published online on www.berlin.de.

In our current JMB Journal, George Warburg recounts how his passion for collecting books started with Kafka:

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