Today in History
8.6.1935: German writers stripped of their citizenship
Six months after gaining power, the National Socialist Party had introduced the Law for the Cancellation of National Status and the Withdrawal of Citizenship. The consequences were that the individual lost political rights and the person was no longer protected by their country of origin. Among the first victims of the new law were writers such as Kurt Tucholsky, Heinrich Mann, Erich Weinert and many others who have been forgotten today. Tucholsky later committed suicide in Sweden. They were all condemned to live in exile. The official reason given for their denaturalization was that they had been disloyal to the Nazi Reich.

In reality, denaturalization took place without any particular foundation. In the case of writers and politicians, it sufficed for the person in question to be abroad. Any property or capital left behind were confiscated by the Reich -- a convenient way for Hitler's thugs to improve their finances. Even writers who did not publish abroad were exiled if their writings were too critical. It was the job of the Reich Literature Chamber and the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which defined the index of who would be denaturalized.

The first official book burning, arranged by Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, took place in May 1933. It was promptly followed by the publication of the Censorship List for Literature. Nobel Prize Winner Thomas Mann, who had emigrated to the United States voluntarily in 1933, had his honorary doctorate from the University of Bonn withdrawn.

In 1941, Mann addressed the German people in a BBC radio broadcast: "It is the voice of a friend, a German voice, the voice of a Germany which showed its real face to the world and will show it again, instead of the ugly Medusa mask forced upon it by Hitler," he said.

Hitler and his henchmen threw all those who thought differently to them into one pot. Anyone who was not a supporter of Hitler and the fatherland was an enemy of the Reich. According to national socialist thinking, the enemy, its environment and its products were all eligible for destruction. The Nazis therefore considered it logical to destroy the economic basis of the dissidents.

Censorship was just the beginning of a series of barbaric persecutions. Of all the art forms, writing was the one most severely hit by the law. While sculpture and art communicate their messages without words to people of any nationality, German literature depends on a German-speaking audience.

The writer's sharpest weapon, words through his or her language, appeared to have lost its edge. Since Austria had been annexed by the Third Reich in 1938, the only remaining options were to publish in Switzerland or in underground exile. But that country's boat was too full for all but the most prominent writers.

Apart from those considered politically dangerous, the Nazis also used the law to cancel the nationality rights of Jewish immigrants who came to Germany after 1918, in the wake of the First World War. At the end of 1936, seven lists with 300 names had been published. Two years later, the numbers had increased to over 5,000 names on over 80 lists.

On the basis of this law, almost 40,000 people lost their citizenship, including over 100 former members of the Reich's parliament. This figure does not include all the Jews transported by the Nazis to beyond the borders of the Reich, who lost their citizenship due to the Eleventh Decree to the Reich Citizenship Law promulgated in 1941.

All denaturalized citizens were entitled to readopt Federal German citizenship after World War Two. The individual's right to citizenship is now irrevocably anchored in Article 16 of the German constitution.
Zitat des Tages
Zitat des Tages
On 8 June 1935 the German Reich began to persecute writers. What type of political action was taken against them?
  Their citizenship was revoked.
  Their books were banned.
  Their books were not published.