November 9th  

Raffaela Rondini
Angkor Wat – Cambodia

I have been working at the Information Centre for a few months, and every half day I see about a thousand tourists, and when I stay until closing time the number is double.

Today too, November 9th, 2019, 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were a lot of people singing and dancing under the light drizzle near Brandenburg Gate, and then they came to get information from us, orderly and quietly happy in line under the same light drizzle, waiting to pass a few at a time through the scrupulous metal detector.

Most of the visitors are talkative when they come in and leave petrified, and this means that they have got the information.

The Information Centre is the principal monument to the memory of the Holocaust victims in Germany.

On the surface are 2,700 grey cement blocks set on an undulating area as large as two football fields, next to Brandenburg Gate and the glittering Parliament with its glass dome. And underground there are the stories about the extermination of six million Jews in Europe.

Today, November 9th, is also the anniversary of the Kristallnacht, the sinister prelude to the Holocaust. On that terrible night in 1938, over 1,400 synagogues and innumerable Jewish shops, homes, cemeteries and properties were burned and destroyed. Hundreds of people were killed or driven to suicide, and 30,000 were deported.

While here in Germany on November 9th people are celebrating the fall of the Wall and remembering the Kristallnacht, in Cambodia, on the same day, people are celebrating decades of independence from France, while in France, people are sad not so much for losing Cambodia 66 years ago as for the death of their beloved General De Gaulle on November 9th, 1970. Not to speak of the Saudis, who at the time when Cambodia got its freedom, remember the death of their myth and founding father ’Abd al Azïz Āl Sau’ud. 

Just as life can be so full of excitement, the calendar is unable to contain all the dates of human history, and we are dismayed and schizophrenic as we collectively laugh and cry on the same day.

( Translated by Thomas DanaLloyd )

4 years ago