Recently I wrote about the 9th of Av, a day of mourning over the horrible events that befell the Jewish people on this date. Read about the 9th of Av here
The Jewish people are not the only ones who see many historical events correspond with a particular day of the calendar. The Germans also have a concept of a “Day of Fate” (Schicksalstag), which has very strong implications for Germans and interestingly, Jews. Even more striking, both dates are a 9th day of the 11th month (Av on the Jewish calendar and November on the Gregorian).
The 9th of November is remembered as Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs attacked Jewish shops, homes and synagogues across Germany and Austria. Historians point to it as the beginning of the use of violence against the Jews by the Nazis and marks the start of the Holocaust.
In addition to Kristallnacht, historians have identified the following events as significant to Germany as well as all taking place on the 9th of November.
In 1848, Germany was experiencing a revolution inspired by the French Revolution. Calls for equality and abolishment of the monarchy filled the streets. Inspired by the example of the emancipation of the Jews of France, many German and Austrian Jews joined the movement. Hopes for democracy were crushed when nine leaders of the revolt were arrested in Vienna and executed. Robert Blum, who led the revolution died on 9th of November. Hermann Jellinek, an Austrian Jew was also executed after being blamed for inciting the revolt through his writings.
On Nov 9, 1918, in the aftermath of World War One, the Kaiser was dethroned and the Weimar Republic was born. However, this republic which was brought about by the chaos of the German defeat would be weak and susceptible to devious forces. Germans felt humiliation at the hands of the allied victors, which led to the development of the “stab in the back” myth. This idea suggested that the German army was close to victory and the politicians had betrayed them by surrendering. The blame for this perceived betrayal was unjustly laid at the door of Germany’s Jews.
On Nov 9, 1922, the famous German Jewish physicist Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. His successful and amazing career in German academics would last eleven more years before he would flee to the United States as the highest profile German Jewish refugee caused by Hitler’s rise to power.
The next year, Hitler made his first move. On Nov 9th 1923, with a small band of Nazis, he launched the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” in an attempt to seize control of Munich. Hitler’s arrest and trial led to him becoming a well-known public figure. During his imprisonment, he wrote Mein Kampf and when he was released, his ideas had spread enough for him to successfully enter politics.
In 1938, Hitler again inspired violence on German streets as Kristallnacht began. Over 7,000 shops windows were smashed and the stores looted. Over 1400 synagogues were damaged or destroyed. Although Nazi stormtroopers were the primary attackers, the general population did not respond to the injustices they witnessed, and this may have emboldened the Nazis antisemitic agenda.
Amazingly, in these dates and events that Germans recognize as shaping the fate of their nation, we also find the fate of the Jews of Germany. From struggling for equality in 1848 to facing new forms of anti-Semitism in the aftermath of WWI, to bring great success and prestige to Germany through figures like Einstein and then finally the horror of the Nazis rise to power.
The last major significant event to fall on the 9th of November had a positive impact. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell on this day; marking the reunification of Germany and the end of Communism.
The modern and democratic German state that emerged after the war is one that has made efforts to acknowledge and atone for their nation’s treatment of the Jews. Today one can stand in Berlin where the wall once stood and look at the massive Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe that sits in the center of the city as a constant reminder of the depth of human depravity.
Even as Jewish communities in other European countries wonder about their future, thousands of Israelis chose to move to Berlin, a city that they see offering tolerance and equality and a good quality of life.
However, the lesson that seems apparent in the German Day of Fate is one that is relevant to all nations today. In many ways, the fate of the nation and its treatment of the Jews run parallel. This is not surprising, God made a promise to Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”.
This month was the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht and the news is again filled with reports of anti-Semitism. Communities in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries found an organized campaign of vandalism and antisemitic graffiti targeting homes, synagogues, graves and memorials. England and Germany also reported acts of vandalism and in the USA, a member of a neo-Nazi group was arrested after vandalizing synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin and threatening acts of violence against Jews and other minority groups.
In Bielefeld Germany, 230 neo-Nazis gathered to support a holocaust denier who had been arrested. In response, an estimated 15,000 Germans took to the streets to protest the actions of the Nazis and formed a human chain around the synagogue of Bielefeld.
Reports of protests against Anti-Semitism are common in Germany and demonstrates many in that society have learned a painful lesson about the costs of indifference when hate targets a minority community. Will the rest of the world learn this lesson before it is too late? Will we take seriously the threat antisemitism and racism poses?
“Anti-semitism is a kind of social mark of Cain that indicates a society or culture that is not ready for prime time and which will fail the tests of modern life: when anti-Semitism gains a foothold, the canary in your coal mine has just keeled over and died” – Walter Russell Mead
Prayer is a vital aspect of the fight against Antisemitism. Rabbi Stewart would like to share his prayer guide with you: “How to pray for Israel and the Jewish people”
Your feedback is always appreciated. Please feel free to contact Jesse Corey, the author of this blog, with any questions or comments you may have.