Tuesday, November 9, 2021

November 9th marks two historic dates: the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Kristallnacht in 1938, the night Nazis systematized their anti-Jewish violence

For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. - Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., St. Mary’s Church, East Berlin, September 13, 1964.

Tearing down the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989

November 9th has a double significance in German history.

Thirty two years ago today was a day of freedom when the Berlin Wall was torn down and a symbol of totalitarianism crumbled. The Communist empire that emerged after WW2 began to implode in a process that would end on Christmas 1991 with the nonviolent dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

From 1961 to 1989 the Berlin Wall divided what is today Germany's capital and the world. February 5, 2018 marked the date on which the Wall had been down for as long as it once stood: 28 years, 2 months and 27 days.  

Sixty years ago, in the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall went up and divided the old German capital city in two.  Western manufacturers provided the 150 tons of coiled barb wire to imprison East Germans behind the Berlin Wall for an entire generation.

In East Germany there are 136 documented cases of German civilians killed by East German border guards between 1961 and 1989 with their names provided. An estimated 1,000 were killed trying to cross.  The East German government had given a clear Order to Border Guards on October 1, 1973 that left no doubt to their criminal nature:

"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”

Killings at the Berlin Wall continued until it was torn down in 1989. One of the last victims, Chris Gueffroy was born on June 21, 1968 and shot dead on February 5, 1989 trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Murdered at 20 years of age for the crime of wanting to live in freedom. 

Today also marks the date when the Nazis began their genocide of European Jewry.

Germans pass by the broken shop window of a Jewish-owned business that was destroyed during Kristallnacht.

83 years ago tonight was Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when Nazism, another totalitarian ideology, sought to systematically destroy the Jewish people through institutionalized and coordinated anti-Semitic violence

The Nazis committed these atrocities by "othering" Jewish people, but they had help.

Beginning with the National Socialists arrival to power in the 1930s the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) provided equipment with ground breaking technologies, precursors to computers, to identify and categorize holocaust victims. 

Thomas J. Watson, head of IBM, Int'l Chamber of Commerce president with ICC board members meet Hitler (1937).

According to a October 8, 2002 article in The Village Voice "the infamous Auschwitz tattoo began as an IBM number. IBM engineered a strategic business alliance with Nazi Germany and provided the punch card technology that would be used in managing the vast apparatus of the Nazi death camps. 

Equally troubling is that the Nazis were able to arrive in a town with lists of names of people identified as being Jewish. Where did they get the data? From IBM Germany's census operations and similar advanced people counting and registration technologies. IBM enabled the Holocaust.

Eighty years later, and the conduct of Western corporations in Communist China and others that profit from genocide today are little better than IBM in the 1930s.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at St. Mary's Church in East Berlin.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in his September 13, 1964 address to St. Mary's Church in what was then East Germany contained an antidote to both Communist and Nazi ideologies when he rejected violent conflict based on race  or class in favor of a nonviolent struggle for justice, and stated to Germans that "regardless of the barriers of race, creed, ideology, or nationality, there is an inescapable destiny which binds us together. There is a common humanity which makes us sensitive to the sufferings of one another." 

This was true in 1938, 1964, 1989, and remains true today.  We must learn from both these chapters of history.

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