I wrote this piece during a visit to Prague and filed it on one of my small portable hard-drives that travel with me. There is sat forgotten until today. Forgive its late appearance.
November 9th, a date that for many reasons will be remembered in history. With a smile, I can relate it to my adoptive mother’s birth which counts the year 1914. But historically, it has come to represent both tragic and celebratory events. Two, of which I wish to address within this piece. Fifty-one years separate these two events.
Imagine if you will that you are not only Jewish, but that the year is 1938 and you are living within the boundaries of Nazi Germany and Austria. The German Diplomat Ernst vom Rath has been assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew.
In a vicious and coordinated retaliatory attack, the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo and the SS systemically carried out the rounding up of 25,000 to 30,000 Jewish people. These people, given no trial other than by association by belief to Grynszpan, were arrested and placed in concentration camps. Homes and businesses were ransacked, 267 synagogues were destroyed and 91 members of the Jewish population murdered.
Rath’s assassination served as a precursor for the attacks since Kristallnacht was only a small part in the Nazi’s policy of anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish populace. Kristallnacht also served as a means of carrying out the confiscation of firearms owned by German Jews, specifically. Further economic and political persecutions would follow. Kristallnacht is seen, from a historians viewpoint as the beginning of the Final Solution. In Hitler’s own words, “the final solution of the Jewish question”. This leading to the genocide which we have come to know as The Holocaust.
I do not believe that this was a “solution” at all for the Jewish people or for the rest of the world. But it has served as a show of maniacal showmanship. I must however state clearly that while Kristallnacht was directed solely at the Jewish peoples. Many others faced the same persecution, the same internment, the same catastrophic and mindless slaughter of innocents, homosexuals included.
Merely that one’s beliefs differed from those of Adolf Hitler was seen to be “just cause”. But I wonder, was it fear that drove him to this? Fear of the vast numbers who would stand in the way of his want, desire, need to become the dictator not only of Germany, but of the world?
Cast your mind forward now from 1938 to 1989 and observe if you will the tearing down of yet another “solution”. This one also led to the mindless division of families, to persecution and death. Just as in 1938, where in the dark of night people would disappear, never to be seen or heard of again, this man-made solution of concrete and barbed wire brought about the same. In the name of freedom, whole families would secret themselves away, creep in shadow towards a political boundary that resulted in, not the death of millions, but counts that vary, estimated guesses of between 100 and 200.
The Berlin Wall which completely enclosed West Berlin, along with the Inner German Border which marked the border between East and West Germany became to the rest of the world, the “Iron Curtain”, the boundary between the countries of Western Europe (the non-Communist states of Europe) and the countries that made up the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria).
The Berlin Wall was officially named the “Anti-Fascist Protection Wall”, yet like the walls of the Jewish Ghettos before it, it was a division of beliefs. A sectarian dividing line put in place not by a tyrannical dictator, but a political party who neither wanted nor sought outside assistance. Now, thanks to Willy Brandt, it may also be referred to as “The Wall of Shame”. Germany is now reunified, the way paved by the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reunification was formally concluded on October 3rd, 1990.
Similarities exist if one delves or cares to see them. It is about perception and as I see it, for whatever reason each of these “events” took place and no good came from either. I am not stating that I am correct, I am only stating my opinion.
Titling this piece ‘Coincidence or Fate … What do you think?’ is also a bit of a misnomer since it is a well-known fact that Berliners as a majority did not support the Nazi Party. But like those persecuted during it’s time in power, the generations that lived and died on both sides, during the existence of the Berlin Wall were subjected to division and oppression and lived in constant fear of accusations and assumptions.
I ask you … has anything changed? Look around you and then let me know what you think.