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Light and darkness

Is it really possible to read the future from the past? Any student of history will tell you that, of course, it is.

One of the most terrifying sights burnin those grainy old newsreel pictures so regularly trotted out in any treatment of the Nazis are the scenes of piles of burning books in Joseph Goebbel's so-called "Sauberungen" or cleansing.

The terror those flames ignited was foreseen more than a 100 years earlier. The German poet Heinrich Heine wrote in his play Almansor, in 1821:
"Where once they burn books, they will ultimately burn people."

Those words are engraved on the spot in Berlin's
heineOpernplatz, now the Bebelplatz, where the Brown Shirts and Hitler Youth lit that pyre on May 10, 1933.

It is only too awful to realise how prescient Heine, himself a Jew, was for the future of his country and people.

And among the works destroyed were . . . the poems of Heinrich Heine.