Monday, November 9, 2009

The Short 20th Century

For a moment in the 1990s, people began to talk about The Short 20th Century, the one that began in 1914 and ended in 1989 (or 1991). The idea was that the 19th century, not including its first 15 years, was a rather peaceful place, all the way up until August 1914. And the 21st century was sure to be a peaceful place, too, all the way back from the end of the Cold War. In between these peaceful eras, there was that ghastly (but thankfully short) 20th century, with all its wars and stuff.

Of course, the century being discussed was European. Much of the rest of the world was on a somewhat different schedule. At the heart of Europe was Germany. At the heart of Germany in the 20th century was the 9th of November:

November 9th 1918: Germany capitulates and The Great War ends.
November 9th 1923: German chauvinists, mostly Nazis, commemorated the black anniversary with an attempt to overthrow the reviled Weimar Republic. This event is known as the Beer-hall Putsch.
November 9th from 1933 onwards: in commemoration of the putsch, which happened on the day of the capitulation, the 9th of November was one of the main days of celebration on the Nazi calender.
November 9th 1938: the celebrating Old Fighters convened in the Beer Hall in Munich in the presence of Hitler hear a speech by Goebbels which launches the Reich-wide pogrom later known as Kristalnacht.
November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall is breached, and the symbol of the Cold War is no more.

Funny how history can sometimes seem so pat and sensible. But then events keep on happening, and the tidiness sort of dissipates. Seen from this side of 2001, it seems a bit eager to think that 1989 was the end of history and the beginning of a peaceful multilateral world.

Though the part about Germany was correct. November 9th 1989 probably was the last time Germany was at the eye of world history.


Empress Trudy said...

I am disgusted that not a single major news outlet has uttered word one about Kristalnacht today. Not a word. We may as well admit that it's open season on Jews now.

joseph said...

MSNBC had this:

I'm sure other major news sites had similar articles.


Dimitry said...

19th century was peaceful? They never heard about Napoleon?

kai said...

Hey folks, out there in America. You live in a free country. Can you imagine not to?
November 9th, 1978, a friend of mine organized the first commemoration of the 1938 pogrom, in a small town in Communist Eastern Germany.
November 9th, 1982, he was imprisoned for praying at the site of the destroyed synagogue in Potsdam. 1984 he was forced into exile.
We met again in November 1989 in Western Berlin.
Every generation shall think as beeing liberated THEMSELVES from Pharao. I was.