The state of votes
3rd October 1990 – “Unity, Justice and Freedom”
9th of November – a new national holiday for Germany
Adrian Sonder | 2013. January 26. 20:20
The 3rd of October 1990 was deemed the German National Holiday because it is a symbol for “Unity, Justice and Freedom.” The day of German reunification ended the question existing since the 19th century that had lead to many geographical, political, economic and nationalistic conflicts right in the centre of Europe. The reunification of Germany was the premise for the unity of Europe and holds extraordinary importance for the development of the European Union. The 3rd of October is a real day of celebration because it solved the major conflicts surrounding German history and anchored Germany in a peaceful Europe.
The struggle for a united Germany. Since the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 one question dominated in Germany and Europe. In 1871 the second German Reich was founded seeming to answer the territorial question with the Smaller German Solution (excluding Austria). The rivalry with France, the two World Wars and a divided Germany constantly lead to territorial disputes which only ended with the day of German unity in 1990.
Since the beginning of the 19th century Germany existed in an area of tension between unity and liberty. The new constitution of the Paulskirche in 1849 after the ’48 revolution tried to solve this dilemma but failed because of the will of the governing.
In 1871 unity (though not liberty) was realized within the German states largely by Otto von Bismarck. After World War I the Weimar constitution managed to combine elements of both freedom and unity. Unfortunately the political reality was in total opposition to the formal and theoretical basis of the first German democracy. The failure of the Weimar Republic was mainly a failure of democrats who proved unable to defend their democracy. This created a power vacuum in which Adolf Hitler was able to seize power and change Germany to a state of lawlessness and injustice. The terror of the “Drittes Reich” marked the darkest chapter of German history in the 20th century and World War II cost roughly 50 million souls.
As a consequence of World War II Germany was divided into two separate states – the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR). While democracy and the free market economy prospered in the West, the second dictatorship in form of “socialism” in German history was set up in the East.
German separation ended on the 3rd of October in 1990 establishing unity and freedom in the political reality in Germany.
The 9th of November is without doubt one of the most important dates in modern German history in the 20th century. In this context the question concerns whether this day is more suitable for a national holiday as the 3rd of October. A national holiday is primarily there to celebrate and should have positive symbolism uniting people. It should give the people hope for a bright future. The 9th of November is seen with negative perception because of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and Kristallnacht in 1838. Furthermore, a national holiday should have a clear, unambiguous meaning which is impossible for the 9th of November. What messages would it convey? Lessons from the failed coup d’état, the collapse of the Weimar Republic, genocide or the peaceful revolution of the German people when they destroyed the Berlin Wall.
In contrast to this, the message and intention of the 3rd of October is clear: a victory of liberty.
The former President of the Federal Republic of Germany Richard von Weizsäcker once famously said at the official celebrations for the day of German unity: “We want to serve world peace with a united Europe.” These words should convey the image of future-oriented, reliable Germany. Germany abandoned ancient territorial claims and is part of the movement promoted understanding amongst all nations. The 3rd of October is a reminder and warning not to repeat history.
German unification signifies democracy and peace for Europe, and is rightly designated as the national day of celebration.
Sebastian Meinhof | 2013. January 26. 20:20
In comparison to October 3rd, November 9th is a date marked by conflicting memories. It remains in Germany’s best interest to change its national holiday in order to acknowledge the importance of both historical dates. The 9th of November can and should be kept in honourable remembrance for all Germans and for the German state it should be an institutionalized remembrance day of greatest joy and shame.
A blatant example of how Germans do not display any special respect towards this day is Gerhard Schröder’s 2004 suggestions with economic justifications that Germany change the national holiday to the first Sunday in October in order boost the economy with one working day more per year. This lack of respect for the date itself indicates a need to reform.
Even today the 3rd of October renders people in Germany rather unemotional and detached. Apart from official celebrations in front of the chancellery and the Bundestag the rest of Germany takes little notice. The national institutions hoist up Schwarz-Rot-Gold (black-red-gold) and people just walk past. This handling of the national holiday can become easily dangerous.
By holding what is supposed to be a day of national pride in such disregard, national pride and confidence is severely damaged. Too often must Germans defend their own nationality abroad and often times end up trying to conceal their identity. Though three generations have succeeded since the end of World War II, Nazi Germany and the attempted genocide of Jews and other minorities, the image of Germans abroad is deeply damaged by genocide, Prussian-Nazi dictatorship and war guilt.
Though nationalism can be a deeply dangerous tool used for self-protection and the furtherance of national interests, it is not necessarily so. Countries such as the USA, France and Great Britain prove that a healthy dose of national pride is useful.
The average German acts just as his state and is rather small-minded, rejecting his responsibility in the international community or just partially fulfilling it. International movements such as conflict resolution attempts, peace missions with the NATO, terrorism counterintelligence and the Euro crisis are perfect examples that Germany acts far below its potential. Can Germans not be proud of their modern democratic system and fulfil their duties as major player in European and international politics? Must they be denied the opportunity to celebrate their love of country? A day of national celebration allows a country to remember its rich history, including both the triumphs and the shame, so as not to forget that which has founded its modern culture.
With this in mind it is problematic to have an uncelebrated national holiday and by extension a nation state of whose actions Germans cannot be proud.
The 9th of November is the natural solution.
But why the 9th of November? First of all, there is great historical significance: the double proclamation of the “socialist” and the “republic of Germany” by Scheidemann and Liebknecht in 1918. This was followed by the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 in Munich. The prosecution of Jews on Kristallnacht in 1938 in which hundreds of synagogues and Jewish shops were destroyed marks one of the darkest chapters in German history, ultimately resulting in the death of 6 million Jews. In 1989 the Berlin Wall would fall on the 9th of November leading to German unity and the break down of the iron curtain. And what of the 3rd of October in 1990? Nothing happened more than that the previously decided joining of the former DDR to the Federal republic of Germany came into legal force.
Therefore an official acknowledgement in form of a national holiday would strengthen Germany’s historiography, awareness and national pride.
There is no doubt that the 11.9.1918 and the 11.9.1989 were great days for the organized, republican, German state. The legal joining of the DDR to western Germany pales in comparison to this. But what of 1923 and 1938? Should these horrible events prevent Germans from declaring the 9th of November as their national holiday?
And 1938? Declaring this the national holiday is not disrespectful to the 6 million victims but the exact opposite: it serves the purpose of ensuring remembrance. Why? This is precisely the purpose of a national holiday. A national holiday does not only exist for celebration but to cultivate awareness of history. Even the old Federal Republic of Germany had the 17 of June 1953 as its national holiday in order to remember the bloody suppression of Eastern German resistance against soviet oppression. It served as a day of national memory for the oppressed eastern part of the same people. It was no day to celebrate but to grieve, remember and to foster reunification.
And this is exactly how this issue should be addressed today: a national holiday to to remember, to sorrow, to unite the German people and to celebrate the entire nation. Thus, the 9th of November should and can keep the memory of the horrible genocide as well as the successes of Germany – compared to the 3rd of October which only catalyses and encourages the oblivion of history.
The 9th of November stands for national remembrance and renewal of national pride. Moreover it represents the old and new Germany.
Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II the German people should have the right to a healthy national pride and confidence. Declaring the 9th of November as the German national holiday would be the first step of reform. Though it is currently not part of the public agenda, it is in the general interest to discuss it.
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