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Virginia Woolf and Heritage$
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Jane deGay, Tom Breckin, and Anne Reus

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954422

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954422.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf and the War on Books: Cultural Heritage and Dis-Heritage in the 1930s

Virginia Woolf and the War on Books: Cultural Heritage and Dis-Heritage in the 1930s

(p.176) Virginia Woolf and the War on Books: Cultural Heritage and Dis-Heritage in the 1930s
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Diane F. Gillespie

Liverpool University Press

In 1821, Heinrich Heine famously and prophetically wrote, “’When they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn human beings.’” In January 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. On May 10th, university students in Berlin and Hitler’s brown shirts sang Nazi anthems, gave the Nazi arm salute, and flung onto bonfires thousands of books containing ideas considered unGerman. During the 1930s and 1940s, as many writers fled and concentration camps combined forced labor and genocide, Nazi confiscations and burnings of books and manuscripts went on throughout Germany and in occupied countries. On both sides books also were sacrificed to meet shortages of paper and fuel. Collateral damage from German and Allied bombings destroyed, along with soldiers and civilians, many more vulnerable books and libraries. Traveling in France and Italy in May 1933, Leonard and Virginia Woolf did not record any experience or knowledge of “libricide” in Berlin. Leonard Woolf notes that even in 1935, “people were just beginning to understand something of what Hitler and the Nazis were doing in Germany.” Still, the Woolfs were more aware than most. This essay will include 1) a brief look at two lesser-known books published by the Hogarth Press to inform British readers of threatened physical and cultural destruction by the Nazis; 2) a glance at selected research on the causes and goals of book and library burning; and 3) an examination, in these contexts, of some complex personal and cultural roles books played, especially in Virginia Woolf’s life, during a decade when people and their libraries lived under threat.

Keywords:   Book burning, Libraries, Culture, Genocide, Ethnocide, Nazi, Suffragettes, World War II, Blitz, Hogarth Press

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