Friday, November 9, 2018


Todayis Schicksalstag, commonly translated "Day of Fate." At least four dramatic events in 20th-century German history happened on November 9, all of which also impacted the rest of the world for the rest of that century (and after). 

On this date in 1918, exactly 100 years ago, faced with the collapse both of German war effort and of domestic politics, German Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, setting in motion not only the end of the reign of the Prussian Hohenzollerns but of all the other German royal and princely  houses, and their replacement by the ill-fated, doomed-from-the-start Weimar Republic. Just 5 years later, in 1923, November 9 saw the failure of Adolph Hitler's infamous Munich Beer Hall Putsch. This turned out, however, to be but a temporary reprieve for the Weimar Republic, which would sadly succumb in time to the Nazis less than a decade later. Then, much more ominously, 80 years ago today, on November 9, 1938, came Kristallnacht, the large-scale destruction of synagogues and other Jewish properties in Germany, followed by the mass arrests of some 30,000 German Jews, a major turning point in the Third Reich's tragic trajectory toward the so-called Final Solution.  Finally, this date in 1989 saw a happy event - the opening of the Berlin Wall. This was a sudden, not immediately expected acceleration of the revolutionary process which quickly led to the complete collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany one year later, and eventually the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. Rightly celebrated at the time, this last set of events bequeathed a multitude of further consequences, some of which we are still struggling to see our way through.

It is, of course, coincidence that events of such world-historical significance all occurred on this calendar date. Especially as the world this week recalls the centennial of the first of those events (with all that led to and followed from it), it does, however, make this date an appropriate occasion for some sober reflection upon the political, social, and human tragedies that defined the 20th century and so continue to define aspects of our world even today.

No comments:

Post a Comment