Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book burning: Heinrich Heine and the Qur'an

Heinrich Heine, 1837

The Nazis staged an infamous book bonfire at Berlin's Opernplatz in 1933. There is a quote engraved on a memorial there (now called Bebelplatz) from the German Jewish writer Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) taken from his play Almansor: "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen." ("That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.")

As Fernando Báez points out in Quema del Corán: crónica de un horror, in the play the line referred to an historical event: the burning of Qur'ans by the "Catholic Monarchs" of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, after the conquest of the Muslim country of Grenada (now southern Spain). They also fired up the Spanish Inquisition, so they literally wound up burning people.

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