Updated: Mar 13, 2021
That fateful day: the 9th November in German history
The 9th November is a fateful day in German history, so much so that it sometimes referred to as Germany’s Schicksaltag or ‘day of fate’. Here is a short overview of some of the notable events that have occurred on this day throughout history:
9th November 1848: Execution of Robert Blum
In 1848, a wave of republican revolts spread across Europe. Robert Blum was a German democratic politician and writer who advocated for German unification and left-liberal ideas, including gender equality and popular sovereignty. He supported the 1848 uprisings and became a member of the resulting liberal National Assembly (an early form of parliament) in Frankfurt. In October 1848, he went to help revolutionary forces fighting in Vienna, but was captured and executed. Although he became a martyr of the German revolutionary cause, his death was symbolic, reflecting the doomed fate of revolutionary dream in the mid-19th century.
9th November 1918: Es lebe die deutsche Republik! (Long live the German Republic!)
Following Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the November revolution, Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate. Upon hearing the news, Social Democrat politician Philipp Scheidemann rushed to the balcony of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building and declared Germany to be a republic. His announcement marked the end of the monarchy in Germany and the start of the troubled Weimar Republic, which lasted from 1918 to 1933.
9th November 1923: The Munich Beer Hall Putsch
Having joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), a then relatively unknown Adolf Hitler and his supporters seized control of a political meeting one of Munich’s beer halls and declared that the end of the Weimar Republic. However, local police and soldiers quickly intervened and crushed the attempted coup. The putsch failed: the NSDAP was banned and Hitler himself was arrested and thrown into Landsberg prison. Although Hitler’s first attempt to take power was unsuccessful, this formative experience encouraged him to change his strategy; a decade later, he would become Chancellor of Germany.
9th November 1938 Kristallnacht
Known in English as the ‘Night of Broken Glass’, the night of the 8-9th November saw mass pogroms against Jews across Germany. Members of the Nazi paramilitary group, the Sturmabteilung (SA), as well as ordinary German citizens attacked Jews and destroyed Jewish businesses, properties and synagogues. Over 90 Jews were killed outright and during the following days, approximately 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. The event is generally considered to mark the beginning of systematic state persecution of the Jews by the Nazi regime.
9th November 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall
Following huge protests pushing for democratic reforms and freedom in the German Democratic Republic, the East German government decided to relax travel restrictions to the West. When asked when the new rules would come into effect, government spokesman Günther Schabowski improvised and simply responded with ‘sofort’ (immediately). His announcement motivated thousands of East Berliners to flood towards the Berlin Wall, where baffled guards began to open up barriers and checkpoints. Eager Berliners began chipping away at the Wall, a hated symbol of Germany’s 40 year-long division, with chisels and hammers. The fall of Wall was a dramatic demonstration of the power of the people and signified the end of divided Germany.
But is this all just a coincidence? Maybe, but some historians argue this could be the result of Nazi propaganda effort to construct a chronological narrative, in which the Nazis’ rise to power was depicted as the logical conclusion of the progression of history (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). This has imbued the 9th November a certain symbolism and status within the German psyche. Indeed, it is notable that the 9th November is not celebrated in Germany because of its associations with Germany’s dark Nazi past. Instead, the 3rd October, when the final reunification treaty was signed, was chosen to be official anniversary of Germany’s reunification and a national holiday.