Friday, November 09, 2007

This day in history

November 9 is marked in Germany as the day that the barriers between East and West Germany began to fall.
Nov. 9, 1989 wasn't meant to be a watershed in German history. While the communist leadership of East Germany had decided to allow citizens to travel freely on that day, the change in policy was not supposed to take effect until Nov. 10 to give border guards time to prepare.

But G√ľnter Schabowski, a member of the East German politburo, who announced the decision at a press conference had not been present at the meeting. Asked by reporters when the new regulation would take effect, he said: "Immediately."

Watching Schabowski's statement on television, thousands of East Berliners rushed to crossing points to West Berlin, where overwhelmed border guards soon decided to let them pass.

Thus, Nov. 9 yet again became a German "day of destiny" marking the first, triumphant steps towards the country's reunification.
A day worth commemorating, surely. However, that is not the only notable event in Germany's history. November 9 is also the day of Kristallnacht in 1938, the day of Hitler's failed putsch in 1923, the proclamation of the republic in 1918, and the execution of Robert Blum to end the revolution of 1848.

As the Deutsche Welle says,
Few people might think of Blum's execution when asked about significant events for German history on Nov. 9. But according to opinion polls, an increasing number of Germans also has trouble remembering that the event which did eventually lead to a unified and free Germany took place on that date.

Asked "What happened on Nov. 9, 1989," every third person questioned didn't know the answer. Of those aged 29 and younger, 42 percent couldn't connect the fall of the Wall with Nov. 9.

That, however, is not the reason why historian Winkler and others reject an idea to move Germany's national day from Oct. 3, the day of German reunification in 1990, to Nov. 9.

"I don't think it's a good idea to make it a national day," he said, adding that Nov. 9 should be a German day of reflection instead. "Which speaker wouldn't be overwhelmed by the task of expressing joy over the fall of the Wall and at the same time mourning Nov. 9, 1938, an important step on the way to the Holocaust?"
Of course, with millions of events happening in a nation's history, it's inevitable that some of them would fall on the same date. But sometimes the juxtapositions are rather spooky.

Correction: I've corrected my mistake. It was Robert Blum, not Leon Blum (a French politician) who was executed in 1848.

I've also learned that November 9 is called Schicksalstagor Day of Fate in German history.