November 9th, fateful date in German history


From the fall of the Empire to that of the Wall, November 9th became the "fateful date" of German history in the 20th century.

This year has a special character with the 80 years of the terrible Crystal Night and the centenary of the Kaiser abdication.

1918: the last emperor

In November 1918 the revolutionary atmosphere prevailed in Germany, close to the defeat in the First World War and less than half a century after the unification of 1871.

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In power since 1888, the emperor William II confronts a Navy uprising and the establishment of workers councils throughout the country. Abdic 9 November.

"Long live the German Republic! On the same day, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann announces from the balcony of the Reichstag of Berlin the birth of what would become the Weimar Republic.

Two days later, Germany signed an armistice ending the Great War, which will have almost 10 million deaths. The terms of the peace that will follow will be judged so humiliating for the Germans that historians judge that they bring the germ in the second world war.

1923: the coup d'état of the brewery

Adolf Hitler with one of his pre-war servants, Karl Wilhelm Krause (Public Domain)

On 9 November 1923 Adolf Hitler, then head of a modest German Socialist National Workers' Party (NSDAP), and his acolytes, including Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and Rudolf Hess, seek to take power from a coup, started in a crowded brewery in Munich.

Hitler climbs up a chair and shoots himself to the ceiling, before proclaiming the end of the November "crime government" term used by critics of the Armistice. But the policemen and the soldiers kill this attempted coup in the bud.

Hitler is arrested, his attempt is a fiasco but serves as the founding myth of the future Third Reich. Hitler uses his trial to gain notoriety and spread his anti-Jewish hatred.

Sentenced to five years in prison, it will only serve nine months during which he will write Mein Kampf.

1938: the crystal night

On November 9, 1938, violent anti-Jewish pogroms, nicknamed Crystal Night or Night of Broken Glass, spread throughout Germany.

Consequences of the crystal night in Magdeburg, Germany, in November 1938. (Credit: German Federal Archives / WikiCommons)

Presented as a spontaneous reaction to the murder of a member of the German embassy in Paris by a Polish Jew, these anti-Semitic violence is actually unmanned from the top of the state, 15 years after the failed coup of the brewery.

Members of the SS, SS and Hitler Youth destroy Jewish places of worship and showcases held by Jews throughout the territory of the Reich.

At least 90 Jews are killed and 30,000 deported to concentration camps. According to historians, this explosion of violence marked the beginning of the campaign to exterminate the Jews of the Nazi regime.

Many Germans commemorate this night by polishing or laying flowers on the "Stolpersteine", thousands of small brass plates set between the pebbles to identify the victims and their address.

Photo taken on 9 November 2013 of a "Stolperstein" on a walk on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Crystal Night which took place on the night of 9 and 10 November 1938 in Berlin (photo: AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE)

In 2017, 16 of these plates were stolen, demonstrating the resurgence of anti-Semitism.

1989: the Berlin Wall falls

On 9 November 1989 it was almost by chance that the Wall, erected in 1961, became the symbol of the Cold War between Westerners and Soviets.

On that day, a member of the politburo of the East German government party, Günter Schabowski, is taken aback at a press conference when he talks about new current rights for East Germans.

"As far as I know, he immediately" stutters when a foreign journalist asks him when these new rights come into force.

His answer is like a bomb. Thousands of East Berliners flock to the checkpoints whose guards, disoriented, finally lift the barriers.

The wall falls without the least bloodshed.

The mural of the Berlin Wall, originally painted in 1988 by Günther Schaefer for the 40th anniversary of the Crystal Night in Nazi Germany. The mural consists of an Israeli flag overlaid on a German flag (Credit: CC-BY-SA Maartmeester, Flickr)

The previous tragic events dissuaded the authorities from making a national holiday on November 9th. Finally, it will be October 3, the day of Germany's reunification in 1990.


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