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November 9th: Germany’s Ambivalent Day in History

During the Night of Broken Glass on November 9th, 1938, mobs destroyed businesses owned by Jews and burned down synagogues all over Germany. Fifty-one years later, on November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. That is why November 9th is both a terrible and a positive date.

Berlin, November 9th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — The German regime organized the November pogroms of 1938. Hundreds of Jews were murdered just because of their ethnicity. Many Jews committed suicide due to despair, because of the constant danger they were in, the murders, the attacks, the humiliation and the atmosphere of hate in Nazi Germany. At this point, it had become obvious that the situation would not improve, but deteriorate further.

Expulsion and Annihilation

German Nazis set 1,400 synagogues, oratories, similar establishments on fire or destroyed them in different ways in the Night of Broken Glass. Jewish cemeteries and Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed as well. So were apartments and houses Jews lived in. This terrible day marked the transition from the discrimination German Jews were confronted with to their expulsion and systematic annihilation. On November 9th, 1938, “the sky above Berlin was blood-red“.

Fifty-one years later, on November 1989, the unthinkable happened again, but this time it was a very positive event. The Berlin Wall, which had separated Germans from Germans, fell. Citizens from East Germany and West Germany walked right through it, from both directions. They stood on top of it, damaged it using pickaxes and celebrated a day many thought would never come. Twenty-eight years after the Wall’s construction, its fall on November 9th, 1989, marked the beginning of the end of the GDR along with its mean regime, and the end of communism. At this moment, Germany’s reunification was less than a year away.

Freedom and Tolerance

On the eve of the 83rd anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, and the 32nd anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin’s departing Governing Mayor Michael Müller stated, the pogroms provoked by the Nazis had not been a spontaneous expression of the will of the people. Supported by the state, organized goon squads led by Nazi party members had destroyed Jewish homes, temples and businesses. But even before, there had been a deprivation of rights, violence and terror against Jewish Germans.

“This became possible because integral groups in Germany did not stand up for their fellow citizens of Jewish origin soon or loud enough, because they endured it all until it was too late”, Müller said. “We need to stop all forms of antisemitism”, the Governing Mayor stressed. “Berlin considers itself a city of freedom, tolerance and open-mindedness. Only as long as the citizens live the freedom, the tolerance and open-mindedness, and as long as they claim those virtues, the events of the November Pogroms will not repeat themselves.”

Two Commemoration Events

Later today, two official events will take place in Berlin. At 10:00 a.m., the 32nd anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall will be celebrated at the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse. At 7:00 p.m., the Jewish congregation in the German capital’s Charlottenberg district and numerous guests, including Michael Müller, will be commemorating the 83rd anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass and its victims.

Photo of Berlin wall: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons (view license CC BY-SA 1.0)
Burning synagogue in Nazi Germany: Public domain

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