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A good day to rebel against the fact that anti-Semitism is part of everyday life in Germany

Why commemorations? To repeat year after year the same well-intentioned speeches and the same words followed by far too little? As a ritual of national self-assurance? Why a date if you can't commemorate the other 364 days of the year?</p>On November 9, which most Germans still remember themselves, many in the country did not learn what had happened 33 years ago from the slightly disheveled Information Secretary of the Politburo at the end of his press conference (“to the best of my knowledge … immediately”), but at 22: 42 clock in front of the TV.

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A good day to rebel against the fact that anti-Semitism is part of everyday life in Germany

Why commemorations? To repeat year after year the same well-intentioned speeches and the same words followed by far too little? As a ritual of national self-assurance? Why a date if you can't commemorate the other 364 days of the year?

On November 9, which most Germans still remember themselves, many in the country did not learn what had happened 33 years ago from the slightly disheveled Information Secretary of the Politburo at the end of his press conference (“to the best of my knowledge … immediately”), but at 22: 42 clock in front of the TV. The r-rolling Hanns Joachim Friedrichs said into the camera that caution should be exercised when dealing with superlatives, but that this was "a historic day". Before that, the Brandenburg Gate had been displayed, a gate behind a wall, hardly anyone in front of it. That should change quickly. But November 9, that date, was of course historic for a long time. The day the last emperor abdicated (1918) and the future totalitarian dictator was not assassinated (1923).

Above all, it was and had to be a day of remembrance, because 51 years earlier in Berlin-Mitte, not far from the Brandenburg Gate, buildings had been set on fire and people had been hunted down. When pogroms against Jewish institutions began, against shops, houses, fellow citizens, when the terror of the National Socialists on the streets became apparent to many Germans.

In 1989, November 9th finally got the name fateful day, but fateful is at best the date. Nothing that happened on those days was immutable, predetermined. It had been planned, provoked, wanted and carried out. By people. The good as in 1989, the freedom-seeking. But also in 1938 the prelude to the breach of civilization. And it is, above all, that November 9th and what followed that that makes the credulous hope of learning from history a desperate necessity. To a task against many probabilities.

Especially on commemorative days, the idea that remembering what happened works as a reminder and warning, that it can protect later generations from following the same or similarly wrong paths, is often used - although this idea is refuted practically every day. And theoretically it is no secret either, even Hegel in the 18th century had no illusions that peoples and governments are able to implement historical teachings in their present. It simply doesn't work in the "rush of world events".

There were a number of world events that were pressing this year, also, but not only because of a war of aggression in Europe, which overturned certainties and, last but not least, made it clear in a dramatic way that much that had been taken for granted, freedom, democracy, peace , hard-won conditions that have to be fought for again and again.

But it doesn't matter whether it's likely or unlikely that people are capable of learning, and whether history is avoidable or alterable—given the unique dimension of the crime of the Shoah. It doesn't matter to choose a commemoration, an active commemoration in the present.

It happened, therefore it can happen again, wrote the Italian writer Primo Levi, who was a student in Turin on November 9, 1938, who was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, who was used as a forced laborer in an IG Farben factory, who just barely survived, in the 1980s. Active commemoration means being aware of what was planned, provoked, wanted and carried out in this country in the 1930s and later, and it means being alert to what might be planned, provoked and wanted at the present time.

When Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was honored with the Leo Baeck Medal last year, he talked a lot in his speech about the miracle of reconciliation, a miracle that was mainly achieved by survivors and their descendants. At the end of this speech he said: Only when Jews in Germany are completely at home again, and feel completely safe, only then "Germany will be completely at home".

In this sense, however, Germany is increasingly no longer itself, as the past year in particular has shown painfully. It is not with him every day, because raids, incidents, the background to which is anti-Semitism, happen every day. It's been a year in which anti-Semitic symbols and depictions have been on display at the country's most important art fair, despite warnings and concerns, including from the Central Council of Jews. And which hundreds of thousands of visitors looked at with complete peace of mind.

A year in which a foreign politician, a guest in the Chancellery, put the Holocaust into perspective and did not immediately contradict him. In which conspiracy narratives continued to penetrate the so-called middle of society. In which the number of attacks on Jewish fellow citizens rose again, last year 3027 criminal offenses were recorded, a high. In which one will be allowed to compare at cultural events what is not comparable. In which even for the day of November 9th, of all things, in the Goethe-Institut, the cultural embassy of Germany, in Tel Aviv, of all things, an event was planned with the title: "Holocaust, Nakba and German culture of remembrance" - and so on would have compared incomparable.

Why commemorations? Because November 9th is not just any memorial day. And because it is needed more than ever to remind people that we must succeed every day in taking on the responsibility that grew out of 1938 and what followed.

Today is a good day for everyone in this country to start rebelling against the fact that anti-Semitism is still, perpetually, part of everyday life in Germany.

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