November 9: Germany’s Modern History, All in a Day’s Work

If you are a bit like me/bone lazy/easily distracted by lots of other interesting things, you could try to cover four of the five things students will actually remember the essentials of  a one semester German politics class in about three seconds by mumbling “November 9”. If you are slightly more risk adverse, you could rattle off the following list before leaving for the rest of the term:

  1. November 9, 1918: Following what passes for a revolution, a communist (Karl Liebknecht) and social democrat (Philip Scheidemann) independently proclaim the republic (in two different places), bringing an end to feudalism and leaving just about everyone unhappy and resentful for the next 15 years. [Service announcement for the Brits: If two German lefties could do this almost a century ago, you could at least reconsider your options, yes?]
  2. November 9, 1923: One Adolf Hitler leads an uprising of his Nazi party, other right-wing groups and parts of the army against the republic. The coup fails abysmally. While some of the rebels are shot, Hitler survives unscathed, receives a a very lenient prison sentence and goes on to reinvent his party and himsesf.
  3. November 9, 1938: In the November pogrom, more than a thousand synagogues and countless schools, shops, hospitals and private houses are destroyed. Tens of thousands of Jews are wounded, killed, or deported to concentration camps, giving the world a taste of what was to come.
  4. November 9, 1989: Günter Schabowski’s cock up brings down the Berlin wall and the GDR.

See? You too can cram 70+ eventful years of German history into your students’ 90 second attention span.

Bonustrack: Since this is the age of rich media and poor teaching quality, I even found some video clips of Scheidemann’s declaration and Schabowski’s equally momentous press conference.



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