November 9: a fateful day in German history

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So many memorable events have happened in Germany on November 9 during the 20th century that it has become known as the country’s “Day of Destiny.”

The date carries extra weight this year as it marks 100 years since the end of the monarchy, as well as the 80th anniversary of the infamous “Kristallnacht” night of Nazi attacks on Jews.

Here’s a look at four times the story was made on November 9 – not always coincidentally.

– 1918: The Last Emperor –

As Germany stood on the brink of defeat in World War I and a revolutionary mood swept the country, the unpopular Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate, ending the German monarchy.

On November 9, 1918, Social Democrat Vice President Philipp Scheidemann rushed to the balcony of Berlin’s Reichstag parliament to announce the birth of what would become the Weimar Republic.

“Long live the German Republic! He shouted.

Two days later, Germany agreed to sign an armistice ending the Great War against the Allied forces.

The terms of Germany’s surrender have been deemed so humiliating that historians believe they helped sow the seeds of World War II.

– 1923: Hitler’s “brewery” putsch –

Adolf Hitler, the then relatively unknown Nazi Party leader, and his cronies attempted to seize power in a coup that began in a crowded Munich beer hall on November 9, 1923.

After climbing into a chair and shooting into the ceiling, Hitler proclaimed the end of the “Government of November Criminals”, a term used by critics of the 1918 surrender.

But the police and soldiers quickly crushed the putsch attempt and Hitler was arrested.

He used his trial to gain notoriety and spread anti-Jewish hatred, and ultimately spent just nine months in prison.

It was in his cell that Hitler began writing “Mein Kampf”.

– 1938: Night of Broken Glass –

Nazi thugs burned down synagogues, destroyed Jewish-owned shops and rounded up Jewish men across Germany on November 9, 1938, in what became known as “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass “.

The timing was no coincidence – that night Nazi figures like Joseph Goebbels riled crowds at events honoring Hitler’s 1923 coup attempt.

At least 90 Jews were killed and 30,000 deported to concentration camps during the outbreak of violence, which historians say marked the start of the Nazis’ campaign to wipe out the Jews.

Today, Germans remember the Kristallnacht pogrom by polishing or laying flowers on “Stolpersteine”, small brass plaques on cobblestones commemorating Nazi victims.

Last year in Berlin, 16 plaques were dug up and stolen just before the anniversary, fueling alarm about a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

– 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall –

The fall of the Berlin Wall in a bloodless revolution on November 9, 1989 is a joyful milestone in German history, ending 28 years of Cold War separation.

But because of the dark chapters associated with the date in the past, it was considered a poor choice for a holiday. Instead, Germans celebrate October 3, 1990, the official reunification of East and West Germany.

The wall came down almost by accident, after East German communist bureaucrat Guenter Schabowski was caught off guard during a live press conference on when exactly new, looser travel rights would come into effect.

“As far as I know…for now,” he improvised, sending thousands of East Berliners flocking to checkpoints where bewildered guards eventually opened the barriers.