Tag Archives: Reichskristallnacht

November 9. Remember!

In German history, November 9 is a date loaded like no other.

1938. The most infamous of all November 9ths is Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass).

Kristallnacht rang in the Nazi persecution of Jews, and is often seen as the beginning of the Shoa, or Holocaust. Taking the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a German-Polish Jew as a pretext, SA, gauleiter, and ordinary Germans destroyed hundreds of synagogues, Jewish homes and businesses all over Germany. Close to 100 Jews were murdered in the same night, and about 30.000 Jewish men deported to concentration camps. Most Germans reacted mutely to the pogrom, the international reaction was only slightly more outspoken. The US, for instance, recalled an ambassador but did not break off diplomatic relations, while other countries did.  In the eyes of many Jews still in Germany, Kristallnacht confirmed that emigration was the only way to survive.  As far as I can tell, no memorial is planned for this day in Columbia, SC.

1918. Two days before the end of WW I, after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm, the Social Democratic politician Philipp Scheidemann, proclaimed the German (Weimar) Republic, in existence until 1933.

Philip Scheidemann declares the Republic

Five years later, on November 9, 1923 Hitler and Ludendorff launched a failed coup. Worried that other nationalistic, right-wing groups might overshadow their Nazi party (NSDAP), Hitler and his followers stormed a meeting of Bavarian government officials in a Munich restaurant (hence the name Bierhallenputsch) and forced them to support his revolution. When they revoked their “cooperation” a few hours later, Hitler led a march on the center of Munich, which was broken up by police. As a result, the NSDAP was banned and Hitler ended up spending a few months in prison–where he completed Mein Kampf. Unlike the other events that fell on this day, this date was deliberately chosen to evoke anti-republican feelings. The Nazis consciously defamed revolutionaries and even moderate politicians such as Ebert as Novemberverbrecher (November Criminals).

1989. The November 9 remembered in American media this year is the twentieth anniversary of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, a symbol for the end of communism. On this day, Guenter Schabowski, a member of the East German politburo, (accidentally?) announced new travel regulations for East Germans at a press conference. Asked by reporters when they would take effect, he said: “Immediately.” Having grown up with the Wall, with many members of my father’s family living “drüben” in East Germany, I distinctly remember my initial reaction when the crawler on my flatmate’s TV proclaimed that “Die Berliner Mauer ist gefallen. (The Berlin Wall has fallen):” I thought it was a joke. I was deeply suspicious of these people hugging at Checkpoint Charlie. Germans crying? What was happening to my people? As a West-German student, the direct repercussions on my life were minimal, my life was not interrupted in any meaningful way, although a lot of family members were suddenly a lot closer. I do remember when Mstisvlav Rostropovich whom I admired very much performed by the wall on November 11. Kein Auge blieb trocken, or at least mine didn’t:

1848. Yet another significant event took place on Nov. 9, 1848 — the execution of Robert Blum, a member of the Frankfurt national assembly, a legislative body meant to create a constitution for a unified Germany. Though a parliamentarian and under diplomatic immunity, the Austrian imperial government sentenced Blum to death after supporting Viennese revolutionaries. His execution made Blum a symbol of the failed attempt to create a unified and free Germany.

The execution of Robert Blum