The Real Incident behind “Where They Have Burned Books, They Will End Up Burning People”

The famous aphorism in the title of this item—often cited in reference to the Nazis—comes from Almansor, a play by the great German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, published in 1823. The play is set in Granada just after its annexation to Christian Spain in 1492; the line is spoken by a Muslim character in reference to the mass burning of the Quran by the Inquisition. But, writes Shlomo Avineri, the author most likely had a different event in mind:

Although, in the years following the end of the Napoleonic wars and the 1815 Congress of Vienna, Heine and his Jewish friends were able to attend university and aspire to careers as German writers and scholars, these years also saw the emergence of virulent modern German nationalism. The torchbearers of this movement were the student fraternities. . . .

In 1817, under the guise of celebrating the 300th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses,” the fraternities called for a major pilgrimage to the Wartburg fortress in Thuringia, where Luther had once found refuge from his Catholic pursuers. . . . The Wartburg Festival, as it was called, was one of the first political mass demonstrations of the 19th century. Under the banner “Honor, Liberty, and Fatherland,” more than 500 students made the trek to Wartburg Castle. The festive procession culminated in a torchlight parade, with speeches by a number of student leaders and university professors—and a celebratory book burning.

The first volume to be thrown into the flames was the Napoleonic Code, which had been introduced in some German states during the brief period of French hegemony. The students and their teachers saw the civil code as a symbol not only of foreign occupation, but also of the universalistic ideas of the Enlightenment and hence something anti-national and anti-German. Of course, these were precisely the ideas that underwrote the equal rights that had been granted to Jews in the Rhineland and other German areas under French rule or influence. . . .

Another one of the authors whose books were condemned to the flames was Saul Ascher, a German Jewish philosopher and publicist who is today almost totally forgotten. Born Saul ben Anschel Jaffe to a Berlin Jewish banking family, he was one of the first Jewish students to receive a doctorate. By the second decade of the 19th century, Ascher was famous throughout Germany for a series of popular publications in which he supported the ideas of the French Revolution and called for full civic rights for Jews everywhere. Ascher was close to . . . Heine, who wrote about him several times and visited Ascher on his deathbed in 1822, shortly before the publication of Almansor.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Heinrich Heine, History & Ideas, Spanish Inquisition

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin