Today, November 9th, marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht and is thus deemed Kristallnacht Remembrance Day. We, at the German-American Heritage Foundation, would like to remember and honor those who lost their lives on this night in 1938.

        Kristallnacht translates to “The Night of Broken Glass” and marks when the SA military destroyed Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses, thus leaving broken glass all over the street. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned and 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed and/or damaged.

       The attacks that occurred on this night were viewed as retaliation for the assassination of Ernst vom Rath (a Nazi German diplomat) by Herschel Grynszpan (who was a German-born Polish Jew who lived in Paris). The assassination occurred on November 7th, 1938. Kristallnacht marked the beginning of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution”.

Written by Emily Beeland 

          If you ever find yourself in Germany in November 1st you will find that all stores and office buildings are closed, and instead, people are spending their day at the graveyard honoring their loved ones that have passed away. November 1st is known in Germany as Allerheiligen (All Saints Day), a Catholic holiday honoring those that are with God after their death and therefore have reached their final resting place.

         The day starts with the family getting together for a procession through the graveyard with a remembrance and benediction of the graves. The graves are then decorated with candles and bouquets of autumn flowers and twigs of the heath plant.

           Once the family is back home they share an Allerheiligenstriezel, a braided brioche type bread decorated with coarse sugar crystals. Children often remember receiving these Allerheiligenstriezel or a similar baked good from their Godparents on this day.

          It is not only a day to honor our loved one that have past away but also anyone in general that have lost their lives due to tragic events such as war, car accidents, or drownings. On November 1st , multiple remembrance ceremonies are held across the country to honor the fallen soldiers from WWI and WWII. In addition, crosses, candles and flowers are placed at the side of the road in memory of those that lost their lives in a car accident. The Market Gemeinde St. Nikola, in addition to many other German cities, honors drowning victims by having two men take a boat on the Danube to place a wreath in the water.

         The following day, November 2nd is known as Allerseelen, or All Souls Day. Similar to the other parts of Die Allerseleenwoche (All Souls Week), it is a day of remembering and honoring the dead. All Souls Day is typically practiced in the predominantly Catholic areas of German-speaking countries, though it is not limited to these places.

        Similar to All Saints Day, All Souls Day emerged in 998. However, what is different is that this is a day of remembrance for all departed souls that are in purgatory, due to them not confessing to their sins before they died.

         This day is one of remembrance, so the ways in which it is celebrated are more subdued than some of the other holidays that German-speaking countries take part in. There is, of course, partaking in prayer and various church services, as well as a few other traditions. One of these is that the family will do a silent procession through the graveyard holding colored glass called Allerseelenlämpchen in order to honor the dead. Another way of remembrance is one where cone-shaped candles that are red, white, blue, yellow, and/or green are placed on graves – what is interesting about this is that it is only done in Mainz and not much is known about how this tradition came about. Although this day is one that contains a fairly heavy topic, children are not left out of the traditions – they receive Seelenbreze (basically a “Soul Pretzel”) that came about due to the tradition of having a Allerheiligenstriezel on All Saints Day.

By: Emily Beeland and Elena Osiander
Blog

Happy Halloween!

          It is the night when witches, and ghouls, and ghosts alike run amuck; the night when “trick-or-treat” can be heard up and down the street; the night when everything is just a little bit spookier; it’s the night of Halloween!

          We at the German-American Heritage Foundation would like to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! Although this is primarily an Irish/American holiday, German-speaking countries throughout Europe still celebrate it. Halloween first started emerging in Germany after World War I & II, most likely due to America’s influence on the country during that time. However, in the 1990s, the holiday quickly gained popularity – this is thought to be because Fasching was cancelled in 1991 due to the First Gulf War, so the Special Carnival Group (Fachgruppe Karneval) of the German  Association for the Toy Industry (Deutscher Verband der Spielwarenindustrie) promoted the idea of Halloween.

         Celebrating Halloween in Germany (and other German-speaking countries) is a little different than it is here in America. For instance, one of the biggest differences is the prevalence of trick-or-treating (or Süß oder Saures). In Germany and other German-speaking countries, only big cities or cities near American military bases participate in trick-or-treating due to the fact that St. Martinstag (another holiday where kids go door to door to get candy) is only 11 days later. Instead, Halloween is celebrated more with parties, in which people dress up in scary costumes.

          Halloween celebrations also vary by region and country. For example, in Retz, Austria (just outside of Vienna), there is the famous Kürbisfest (Pumpkin Festival). Similarly, in Darmstadt, Germany, one can visit Burg Frankenstein, which is thought to be the possible inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. These are only a couple of the ways of celebration, with many more being found around the countries.

Once again, Happy Halloween!

Written by Emily Beeland

          Imagine life in Germany 500 years ago. The population was at about 14 million and multiple cities in the country were seeing a rise in their economy, including Augsburg and Nürnberg. A little less than 500 km North east of Augsburg was the city of Wittenberg; today it is knows as the Lutherstadt, Luthercity in English, but 500 years ago it was the birthplace of Lutheranism.

          Lutheranism is a branch of the Christian religion which traces it’s beginnings to October 31st, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the University of Wittenberg’s chapel door as a critique towards Pope Leo X newest round of indulgences.

          Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, a small city in Saxony-Anhalt. At age eighteen he entered university in Erfurt where he would get a master of the art in Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics. Thus, putting him on his way to becoming a lawyer. But, in 1501 Martin Luther had a life changing experience which put him on a new path to becoming a monk and later the dean of theology at the University of Wittenberg.

          July 2nd, 1505 while on his way back to Erfurt after having visited his parents, the young law student was caught in a terrible thunderstorm. Lightning struck near him, creating so much air pressure that Martin Luther was thrown to the ground. The twenty-two year old feared for his life and called out to Saint Anne, “St. Anne Help me! I will become a monk.” July 17th, after one last party with his friends from University, Martin Luther entered the Black Monastery in Erfurt to start his life as a Monk.

         After attending a Catholic Church Conference in Rome, Martin Luther was even more discouraged by all the corruption he saw amongst the Catholic Priests while in Rome. This led him to enroll at the University of Wittenberg where he gained religious enlightenment through becoming a professor. It was there that he realized “the key to spiritual salvation was not to fear God or be enslaved by religious dogma but to believe that faith alone would bring salvation”.

          This was the start of the reformation. Luther continued lecturing and writing in Wittenberg and in 1519 publically declared that the bible does not state the Pope as the only person allowed to interpret the words of the bible. In June of 1520 the Pope threatened Luther with excommunication since this was a direct attack towards the authority of the Papacy. In December of 1520, Luther burned the letter which resulted in him being excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church that following January.

          Even after being summoned to the Diet of Worms, a formal assembly of the whole Empire, Luther still refused to revoke his statement. This resulted in the council banning Luther’s writing and declaring him a “convicted heretic”. His friends helped him get to Wartburg Castle where he could hide out. While in hiding, Luther used his free time to translate the New Testament in German, thus making the Bible more accessible for ordinary people.

          Interestingly enough, the first translation of the Bible was the first time a “high German”, essentially one standardized writing of the German language, was written down on paper. Before then the different parts of Germany each had their own dialect used in speech and writing.

          Martin Luther gained many followers because of his beliefs. Today the Lutheran World Federation estimates that approximately 72.3 million people are members of Lutheran churches spread throughout the world.

 

By: Elena Osiander 

Today, October 26th, is Nationalfeiertag, which is also known as Austrian National Day! We at the German-American Heritage Foundation want to acknowledge and celebrate this holiday due to our goal of promoting the cultural heritage of all Americans of German-speaking ancestry. So, Happy Austrian National Day! Austrian National Day emerged from political developments after World War II. After the war ended, the country was occupied by the Allied Forces (the Soviet Union, United States, Great Britain, and France). However, on October 26th, 1955 (ten years after the end of the war), the Austrian Parliament passed a law that stated that the country would have permanent neutrality and this put an end to occupation by Allied forces. Because of this, the idea of neutrality has become a big part of Austrian Culture and is why Austrian National Day exists. This day is celebrated in a variety of ways in the country, be it through ceremonies or festive celebrations. Some of the ways that Austria celebrates include:
  • The Federal President and the Federal Minister of Defense attending a celebration at Heldenplatz (“Heroes’ Square) in Vienna
  • The Federal President addressing the country in an address similar to the American “State of the Union”
  • The new recruits of the Austrian Armed Forces are sworn in
  • There is free and/or discounted entrance to Federal museums
Once again, to all the Austrians, Happy National Day from us here at the German-American Heritage Foundation! (For anyone who would like more information, please go to: www.austria.org/national-day/) By Emily Beeland