On the initiative of the ethnic chauvinist, nationalist, and anti-Semitic German Students’ Union (Deutsche Studentenschaft) books were burned in many German cities as part of the Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist (campaign against the un-German spirit). The book burnings were the prelude to the systematic removal from libraries, bookshops, and the literary scene of books banned by the Nazis. In Munich, book burnings took place on Königsplatz on May 6 and May 10.
The Blacklist | Die Schwarze Liste
The memorial to the 1933 book burning onin Munich was inaugurated on May 6, 2021. Its title, The Blacklist / Die Schwarze Liste, refers to the lists circulating at the time with the names and works of hundreds of authors. Some of them were literary titles, others non-fiction or scientific publications, and they even included children’s books. All of them were decried by the Nazis as “un-German” and banned from public life.
The Munich City Council decided in 2016 to have a permanent memorial to the book burnings installed in public space and announced a competition for the design. The winning entry, The Black List / Die Schwarze Liste by artist Arnold Dreyblatt was chosen by the jury in 2018 and was set in the ground as a memorial on May 6, 2021. Theostracized by the Nazi regime and its supporters are visible on the memorial. For each author Dreyblatt chose the last work published up to and including 1933.
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For his design the artist Arnold Dreyblatt used what was probably the most extensive and best known “black list.” The Nazi librarian Wolfgang Herrmann had compiled a list on his own initiative in spring 1933 and disseminated a kind of guide to “purging” libraries. Many of the organizers of the book burnings used this list to select the books to be burned.
The titles and words are arranged as a continuous spiral and are not separated by punctuation so that each one runs into the next. Seen as a whole, the titles convey the era of the Weimar Republic as the intellectual and cultural highpoint of modernism. What unfolds is a vivid portrayal of this epoch and its lively and passionate analysis of the most pressing political, social, scientific, and literary issues of the time. The close sequence of words and text fragments yields new meanings for the present. The spiral form of the text references both the act of burning the books and the curling spiral of rising smoke and burning pages that one sees on historic photographs of the book burnings.
Nevertheless, the central focus of the artwork is the intellectual and cultural achievements of the authors, not their burning and destruction. The message can be understood in many different ways: on the one hand, it encourages a confrontation with Nazi ideology; on the other it sparks an interest in the cultural heritage that the Nazis so despised, to cite the praise of the jury for Arnold Dreyblatt’s competition entry.
The Blacklist / Die Schwarze Liste is situated in the center of the semicircular area in front of the steps leading up to the Staatliche Antikensammlungen – the museum of antiquities. The round, walkable artwork fits into the architectural symmetry of the historic ensemble of Königsplatz and the surrounding topography. It measures eight meters in diameter and consists of two coloured, 20 cm thick, reinforced concrete plates fixed to the foundation at ground level. The text spiral is made up of approximately 9,600 letters and is sunk 3mm into the baseplate.
The titles of the works of 310 authors ostracized by the Nazi regime and its supporters are visible on the memorial. For each author Dreyblatt chose the last work published up to and including 1933.
The media artist and composer Arnold Dreyblatt was born in New York in 1953 and has been based in Berlin since 1984. He studied media art at the State University of New York in Buffalo and composition and comparative musicology at Wesleyan University, Connecticut. In 2007, he was elected a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 2009, he became Professor of Media Art at the Muthesius Kunsthochschule in Kiel.
Dreyblatt’s art works scrutinize the processes and discourses of the culture of remembrance and reflect on categories such as memory and archive in complex textual and spatial visualizations. His projects includes installations, digital spatial projections, dynamic multidimensional text objects, and artworks in public space. His works have been exhibited and performed internationally in galleries, museums, and public space.
Arnold Dreyblatt’s extensive oeuvre includes works for the Women’s Concentration Camp Memorial Ravensbrück (Calendarium and Inmates I & II 2013/14), the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial (Das Dossier, 2013), the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture (Inschriften/Inscriptions, 2010), the Jewish Museum Berlin (Unausgesprochen/Unsaid, 2008), and the Center for Holocaust and Minorities, Olso (Innocent Questions, 2006). He has also received many commissions and awards including the visual arts prize of the Berlin Academy of Arts (2000) and the artist’s prize of the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts in New York (1999).
The project team
Design: Arnold Dreyblatt
Project management: Dipl.-Ing. Robert Patz, Dipl.-Ing. Bastian Beyer
Art education: Dorothea Strube
Realization: Hemmerlein Ingenieurbau GmbH Bodenwöhr
Excavation work and foundations: Glass GmbH Bauunternehmung München
3D modeling: Dipl.-Ing. Steffen Samberger
Information board: Paul Buchstaben Werbetechnik GmbH Berlin
Special thanks to: Dipl.-Ing. Karl Erhardt, Hemmerlein Ingenieurbau GmbH,
Ina Laux (LAUX Architekten), Lars Ulonska (Glass GmbH Bauunternehmung), Dirk Lebahn (eye-D mediengestaltung)