203. Humboldt University

This one was actually part of the cycling tour, but it has quite an interesting story. The Humboldt University of Berlin was originally known for being a highly prestigious University, educating the likes of Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. During the war it gained fame for a much more tragic reason.

On May 10 1933, some 20,000 books written by “degenerates” were taken from the library and burned in the Opernplatz, after which Joseph Geobbels gave a speech to demonstrate against ideals not held by the NAZI party.

Today, there is a monument to the book burning which consists of a glass roof, where you can look down and see empty shelves, with enough space to hold 20,000 books. A plaque at the monument bears the following quote from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (“That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”).

As well as burning books, the NAZI party also passed a law that resulted in numerous academics being fired and having their doctorates revoked. It continues to astound me that around every corner there are more and more stories of horrible actions and events. It seems impossible to hear all of the things that went on – the sheer volume is insane.