Beyond History Blog

November 9th – a Fateful Day in German History

Andrea Bentschneider - 09. November 2015 - General, Germany, History, WW I, WWII

November 9th is a special day in German history. Four times in the 20th century has this day made history – in positive and very negative ways. This is why today a lot of commemoration festivities are taking place all over the country. They remember the crimes as well as the positive developments that are forever connected to this day.

On November 9th 1918 seamen that were tired of the war revolted against the command to once again go out to sea to fight against England. World War I had cost about 10 million lives and double as many were wounded, people were exhausted. The revolt spread like wildfire over the whole country. The November Revolution led to Emperor Wilhelm’s abdication and the formation of a German Republic with a government that was legitimated by democratic vote.

Exactly five years later Adolf Hitler tried to seize power by coup together with Erich Ludendorff. His goal was to establish dictatorship to bring Germany “back to its old world power status”. With the help of armed forces he surrounded a civic-nationalistic gathering in Munich, declared Germany’s government as deposed and that the nationalistic revolution had begun. The next day the rebellion was ended in bloody fights with the police, Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years of jailtime. While in prison, he wrote the first volume of his book “Mein Kampf” and was released before he had even spent a year there. 
November 9th 1938 is one of the darkest days of German history. During the “Reichspogromnacht”, synagogues and Jewish shops in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were set on fire and destroyed. Thousands of Jews were abused, arrested or killed. This night made obvious that anti-Semitism and racism had become a state doctrine. The Reichspogromnacht is a symbol for the endless number of crimes against humanity that were committed by Hitler’s government and his followers.

51 years later, November 9th finally meant a day of happiness again. In 1989, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), that was separated from the Federal Republic (West Germany) by a border and a 155 km long wall around West Berlin, was close to collapsing. Masses of East German citizens fled the country and demonstrations for freedom to travel became louder and louder. In fact, a peaceful civil movement was able to put such pressure on the government, that it resigned and freedom to travel was legislated on November 9th. Immediately, thousands of people approached the borders, where border officials were overwhelmed by the chaotic scenes. Shortly before midnight, they spontaneously opened the borders. The Iron Curtain had fallen and made the way for the German reunification. Pictures of people dancing on the Berlin wall that night would make history and remind us today of the power of civil movements.

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