Even after 80 years – Don’t forget! No forgiveness!
9 November 2018 – 5 p.m. | Levetzowstraße Memorial, Berlin Moabit Memorial Rally and Subsequent Anti-Fascist Demonstration
the poster and the flyer in German here: http://9november.blogsport.eu/material/
“The closer we got to Berlin’s Mitte with its many Jewish shops, the more devastated shops I discovered. Everywhere the broken pieces and the shop window displays lay on the sidewalks. I remember a SA man who threw two elegantly dressed mannequins into the gutter. Now I also heard the roar of the Nazi mob: “Jewish pig!”, it echoed through the streets.
Thus Ruth Winkelmann, then a student at a Jewish girls’ school in Berlin-Mitte, experienced her way to school on 10 November 1938. She describes 9 November 1938 as the day that ended her carefree childhood. Her school was soon closed, she had to do forced labor, and several times barely escaped deportation. Her father was murdered in Auschwitz. Her little sister died of typhoid three days after her eighth birthday in March 1945, hiding in a Berlin leaf colony.
The November pogroms reached their climax on 9 November 1938. Throughout the entire German Reich, Jewish women*Jews were abducted, raped, imprisoned and murdered. Jewish shops, apartments, community centres and synagogues were plundered, destroyed and set on fire. On the streets, the violent German anti-Semitism broke new ground, which was initiated and coordinated by the state. SA and SS led the murders, arson and devastation. The non-Jewish population actively participated in the pogrom or agreed with its silence.
Prelude to annihilation
A total of 1,300 Jews* were murdered in the days around 9 November, more than half of the prayer houses and synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed. From 10 November, 30,000 Jewish women* were deported, 6,000 of them Berliners* alone to concentration camps. The pogroms were the prelude to extermination. By 9 November 1938, National Socialist Germany had gradually marginalised Jewish women*Jews from society: with bans on employment, exclusion from universities, later with the “Nuremberg Race Laws” and the “Aryanisation” of Jewish companies. With the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939, the NS policy of conquest began. Behind the troops of the Wehrmacht advancing to Eastern Europe followed the German Einsatzgruppen, which murdered people branded “enemies of the people” in mass shootings. Besides Jews*Jews, Rome*nja, Sinti*zza, mentally ill and mentally handicapped people as well as communists* and other political opponents*were murdered. The Nazi extermination policy culminated in the Shoah, the industrial mass murder: by 1945, the Germans had murdered six million Jewish women*Jews.
After 1945, the specific German memory was determined by the emphasis on individual pathologized criminals. In contrast, the majority of the German population claimed to have known nothing of the more than 42,000 locations of National Socialist crimes in Europe – according to the current state of research. With the demolition of denazification in the FRG, National Socialism only received attention again as a history to be reappraised in the 1960s through the Eichmann trial and the Auschwitz trials – and this only with resistance against the Nazi functional elite reintegrated into the state apparatus. In Germany, the question of remembrance always remains linked to the attempt to find a blameless solution. The stages and nuances range from the silence and repression of the perpetrator generation*, the incomplete denunciation of the 1968 movement, to the public outrage at Willy Brandt’s kneeling at the Warsaw Ghetto’s memorial in 1970, which symptomatically stands for the transformation of the German “denial community” into a supposedly exemplary “community of remembrance,” which ultimately was to be “envied” for its Holocaust memorial. In fact, however, it lasted well into the 2000s until Soviet prisoners of war, forced labourers*, homosexuals, victims of social racist persecution, Sinti*zza, Rom*nja and Jenisch, sick and mentally handicapped people were recognized as victims of National Socialism. To this day, victims have to appear in the role of petitioners* and are denied compensation payments. This may seem contradictory at first glance, since the history of the redemption of the Germans has matured into a founding myth of the FRG. It was founded in negation of National Socialism and is now fighting upright against evil. In that narrative, German anti-Semitism exists only in historical form. But the persistent attitude of refusal towards aggrieved persons makes it very clear: there has never been an actual reappraisal of the crimes and social conditions that produced National Socialism. The dead Jewish women*Jews merely serve as the foundation of a new national self-assurance.
Anti-Semitism, a German Normality
Last year, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party moved into the Bundestag that gives authoritarian needs and ethnic thinking an important place in the German majority society. The instrument of their politics is often a disgusting historical revisionism. In July of this year, for example, an AfD group of female visitors* to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial showed their contempt for the memory of the victims of the Shoah: in a place where tens of thousands of people were murdered, the group questioned the existence of gas chambers, relativized and trivialized the crimes and accused the memorial of manipulation. Such failures are evident at all levels in the AfD, from the base to faction leader Alexander Gauland. At the Federal Congress of the Young Alternative in June 2018, Gauland claimed that National Socialism was only a “bird shit in over 1000 years of successful German history”. Industrial mass murder is to be declared in such a way a historical marginal note in order to be able to devote itself finally uninhibitedly to the national frenzy. Through its seats in the Landtag and the Bundestag, the AfD tries to influence the boards of trustees and foundation councils of Nazi memorial sites in order to influence their work accordingly. Often all parties represented in the parliaments have a seat and vote there. “The mere thought that a representative of a party that wants to erase the twelve years of the Nazi regime and has a clearly anti-Semitic attitude on the board of trustees is causing us survivors and their successors the greatest concern,” wrote the representative of the “Amicale des Anciens Déportés de Bergen-Belsen” in 2017 the representative of the “Amicale des Anciens Déportés de Bergen-Belsen”.
While the German majority society is once again questioning whether the debate on the Shoah is relevant, Jewish women*Jews in Germany are increasingly threatened by various forms of anti-Semitism. In Bonn the Israeli professor Jitzchak Jochanan Melamed was beaten in July this year, his kippa was torn from his head and he was insulted anti-Semitically. When the police called by his companion arrived, the officers considered him to be the perpetrator, threw him to the ground and punched him in the face. At the police station, Melamed was to be discouraged from making a complaint, he was threatened: “Don’t mess with the German police. «
Even for some “concerned citizens*,” the step from demonstrations to assaults on Jewish women*is only a short one, as the attack on the Jewish restaurant Shalom shows: after a racist march in Chemnitz on 27 August 2018, neo-Nazis attacked the restaurant with the shout “Get out of Germany, you Jew sow! It was not the first attack on the “Shalom”. Since the opening in the year 2000, slices were thrown in again and again and pig’s heads were put down in front of the restaurant.
Anti-Semitism represents a great threat and uncertainty for those affected. As a result, many Jewish women*Jews do without anything in public that could make them recognizable as Jewish. But even then the majority experiences anti-Semitic hints or open hostility. Particularly in “social networks”, cases of threats and anti-Semitic propaganda are increasing blatantly. The Anti-Semitism Research and Information Centre counted 947 anti-Semitic incidents per year in Berlin alone in 2017. The number of unreported cases is likely to be even higher. Criminal prosecution rarely takes place.
Whether the German majority population wants to admit it or not, whether it denies it or locates anti-Semitism exclusively in migrant communities: it is still present in the German majority society. It manifests itself in conspiracy ideological threat fantasies, in the demonization of the Israeli state, or quite concretely in graffiti and physical attacks. However, the urgently needed solidarity in anti-Semitic violence and exclusion is too often not taken for granted in the left-wing scene either. The non-Jewish part of the population “gets used” to violence and persecution – and joins in.
Thus the lives of Jewish women* and Jewish men in Germany remain threatened. This is precisely why it is important for anti-fascists* to defend the State of Israel, i.e. the State of the survivors of the Shoah, as a refuge and necessary security guarantee for Jewish women*Jand Jewish men.
“Remembering means acting” (Esther Bejarano, Auschwitz Committee)
If we remember today the November pogroms of 1938, it means commemorating their victims, giving them names and stories. It also means that we are antifascist vigilant against a society whose authoritarian and resentful tendencies are once again coming to light. The November pogroms represented an early high point of anti-Semitic persecution, but did not happen out of nowhere. German society was actively involved in the policy of extermination. Many surviving victims of National Socialism have decisively shaped antifascist struggles through their lifelong commitment. We will soon have to continue these struggles without them and find our own words and ways.
We will be accompanied by the words of Esther Bejarano: “From the experience of our lives we say: Never again remain silent, look the other way, however and wherever anti-Semitism, antiziganism, racism and xenophobia come to the fore”.
To continue to make the remembrance of the German NS crimes heard and to demand consequences from them remains one of the most important tasks for all antifascists*.
We want a remembrance that names the perpetrators* and accomplices* but above all leaves room for the remembrance of the victims. A remembrance that resolutely stands up for today’s Jewish life and its protection.
Let’s commemorate and fight together: Come to the memorial rally on 9 November and then to the anti-fascist demonstration in Moabit.
9 November 2018 – 17 hrs | Levetzowstrasse Memorial, Berlin Moabit