Sunday, November 9, 2014

This date in history, 1938 and 1989

A strange pair of historic anniversaries fall on this date, November 9th. Both relate to Germany and to the freedoms we hold dear.

In 1938, the stillness of night on November 9/10 was interrupted across Germany. Working under official Nazi Party orders, SA and Hitler Youth took part in Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a wave of terror inflicted as a pogrom against Jews in the newly expanded German Reich. During the overnight rampage against Jewish-owned businesses, synagogues, and individuals, 7500 shops were targeted, their windows broken and goods looted.
Upwards of 267 synagogues were damaged or destroyed, and 91 people were killed. Countless numbers of Jewish citizens were dragged out of their beds and beaten in the street in front of their home. Some historic accounts of these events indicate that Kristallnacht was a reality-check for the Jewish people still living within Germany. They now knew that the Nazis would stop at nothing, not even large-scale murder, to push them out of the country. Lines at emigration offices bulged. Thousands of letters were sent to overseas relatives begging for help. In foreign newspapers, German Jews took out ads describing their skills, hoping against hope that someone in a safer country would hire them so they could obtain a work visa and get out before it was too late.

On a very different note, November 9th also marks the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This year, tens of thousand of people flocked the area around Brandenberg Gate, taking part in a fabulous celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wall was built literally overnight in 1961. It's estimated that 100 people died trying to escape over its 96 mile length during the 28 years it stood as a divide between East and West.

To me, both events serve as reminders of how precious our freedoms are, and how desperate people become when their freedoms are threatened or removed.

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