Memorial Day

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Mourning flags with mourning ribbon at Marburg town hall (2017)

The day of national mourning is a state day of remembrance in Germany and is one of the so-called silent days . It has been celebrated two Sundays before the first Sunday in Advent since 1952 and commemorates the war dead and victims of the tyranny of all nations .


Introduction to the Weimar Republic

Discussion about an appointment

The day of national mourning was proposed in 1919 by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge as a day of remembrance for the fallen German soldiers of the First World War . In 1922 the first memorial hour took place in the Reichstag . The day of national mourning was first celebrated on March 1, 1925. The day before, the first Reich President Friedrich Ebert had died. In 1926 it was decided to regularly celebrate the day of national mourning on Reminiscere Sunday (the fifth Sunday before Easter ). Commemoration ceremonies for the German fallen in World War I took place everywhere. The Cellesche Zeitung reported in its edition of February 27, 1926:

"Memorial Day! The first German day of national mourning should primarily be dedicated to the memory of our fathers, brothers and sons who died in the world war. It is only to be hoped that this serious celebration will assert itself deeply and firmly and solemnly, even without many speeches and chants, out of the very own German and human feeling in the hearts of the whole people. "

- "The Fallen" (Cellesche Zeitung)

In the Weimar Republic, the day of national mourning was not declared a public holiday . There were several reasons for this:

  • In the Weimar Constitution it was not clearly defined whether responsibility for the introduction of public holidays lay with the Reich or the states. Over the years, this has led to different regulations, dates and implementations depending on the country.
  • For a long time there were conflicts with the two major churches regarding the date. Both have days of remembrance for the deceased in November ( All Souls Day and Sunday of the Dead ). The dates proposed by the state in the spring on the Sunday Invocavit (six weeks before Easter) or on the Sunday Reminiscere (five weeks before Easter) were on the other hand during Lent or Passion time.
  • The political instability of the Weimar Republic ensured that some attempts to legally regulate the day of national mourning got stuck in the legislative process, as the Reichstag was prematurely dissolved several times.
Commemoration in front of the Reichstag , 1927: “The great day of national mourning on March 13, 1927 in front of the Reichstag took place with great sympathy from the population. Reich President von Hindenburg walks the front of the company of honor . "

The Sundays with state mourning across the country up to the renaming to Heroes' Remembrance Day were:

  • March 1, 1925: First day of national mourning in 1925 with a move to Berlin
  • February 28, 1926
  • March 13, 1927
  • March 4, 1928
  • February 24, 1929
  • March 16, 1930
  • March 1, 1931
  • February 21, 1932
  • March 12, 1933
  • February 25, 1934

On November 9, 1930, the NSDAP called for a “day of mourning for our fallen” in the people's state of Hesse . What was meant, of course, was primarily the victims of the suppressed Hitler coup of November 9, 1923.

Talk about the meaning

The Volksbund linked the day of mourning with the objective of bringing about a uniform reminder of the suffering of the war for all Germans and thus "bringing the Germans together [...] beyond the barriers of the party, religion and social position ... so that From the graves of our almost two million fallen, courage and strength to do beneficial work on our people and our fatherland's future [can] grow. ”On the occasion of the memorial day, many speakers and commentators linked to the“ civil peace policy ”and the euphoric“ August experience ”at the beginning of the First World War: “What did you know about class hatred that is tearing our people apart today? They were directed not to the right, not to the left, but all just German brothers. ”In memory of the war, in addition to the appeal for unity among the people, the message should be conveyed that everything is now to be sacrificed for the good of Germany and his own defer own claims. This is how the Hamburg pastor Jähnisch spoke at the central memorial service at the Ohlsdorf cemetery in 1926: “Our dead admonish. And that is what it is about. Everyone listen to the spirit of the dead and confess to them: You yourself once shouted in ball castings: Germany must live and if we have to die! "

This objective and the sometimes openly anti-republican speeches at the rallies weakened the identification of large parts of the population, especially the supporters of the republic and the communists, with the day of national mourning. The communist newspaper Der Abend from Hamburg titled a comment with the headline “National Day of Mourning - War Incitator Day.” But these groups, like the Volksbund, tried to influence the collective memory and identity of Germans through their statements. They used the memorial day for repeated appeals for readiness for peace: “We vow to do everything we can to ensure that such a war does not repeat itself,” said a representative of the Young Democrats at the Hamburg funeral in 1928. And the Association of Former Prisoners of War declared in 1927: "May these dead [...] be the seeds that give the world the longed-for eternal peace."

No matter how different the objectives of the individual groups were, they all claimed to know the "spirit" or the "message" of all the fallen and to be able to interpret it for the present. In this way, the goal of unifying all Germans in mourning that day was missed. For this reason, active participation in the celebrations for the days of national mourning was largely limited to members of the conservative and national liberal milieu. The left-wing milieu was increasingly distant and even negative, and the left-wing liberal milieu also expressed criticism of the anti-republican tones and the upholding of enthusiasm for war in August 1914. However, no group denied the general need to remember the fallen and victims of the First World War. Everyone understood the First World War as a decisive and profound event in the history of Germany. There was only disagreement about the assessment of this event and the consequences to be drawn.

Heroes' Remembrance Day in the time of National Socialism

Postage stamp for Heroes' Remembrance Day 1935 based on a design by Hans Herbert Schweitzer
Heroes Remembrance Day 1935 in Berlin

After the death of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg on August 2, 1934, the National Socialists adopted the day of national mourning and set it as a national holiday on the second Sunday of Lent. Through direct intervention by the President of the Volksbund , Siegfried Emmo Eulen , with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels , the day of commemoration was renamed in 1934 as Heroes' Remembrance Day and its character was completely changed: the focus should no longer be on remembrance of the dead, but on hero worship . The carriers were the Wehrmacht and the NSDAP . The flags were no longer hoisted at half-mast as before , but set at full stock . Goebbels issued the guidelines on content and implementation. The propaganda effect of the day was estimated to be so high that all decisive steps in preparation for war up to and including 1939 were placed on a date in the immediate vicinity of Heroes' Remembrance Day:

Heroes' memorial days were:

  • March 17, 1935
  • March 8, 1936
  • February 21, 1937
  • March 13, 1938
  • March 12, 1939
  • March 10, 1940
  • March 16, 1941
  • March 15, 1942
  • March 21, 1943
  • March 12, 1944
  • March 11, 1945

On February 25, 1939, Hitler shifted Heroes' Remembrance Day to March 16, the day when military service was reintroduced in 1935 if that day fell on a Sunday, otherwise it should be celebrated on the Sunday before March 16. This gave up the link to the church calendar .

After the Second World War

War memorial for the fallen of the two world wars
Memorial hour on the day of national mourning on November 15, 2015 in the church ruins Alt St. Alban , Cologne

After the end of World War II , a discussion arose in the three western zones of occupation in 1946 on the implementation and date of a day of national mourning. It was committed in individual areas on these days:

  • March 17, 1946
  • March 2, 1947
  • February 22, 1948
  • March 13, 1949
  • March 5, 1950
  • February 18, 1951

Because of the numerous war dead and the fate of missing people, many felt a necessity for this day of mourning. In the GDR , an “International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Fascist Terror and the Day of Struggle against Fascism and the Imperialist War” was introduced, which was celebrated annually on the second Sunday in September. In 1950 the first central event of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge took place in the Bundestag in Bonn . The central wreath-laying ceremony for Memorial Day took place from 1951 to 1963 on Bonn North Cemetery , 1964-1968 with honor guards of the Bundeswehr at the former Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany on courtyard garden and then again on the North Cemetery instead.

At the beginning of the 1950s there seemed to be an agreement to move the day of national mourning to the end of the church year on the penultimate Sunday before the first Advent; this time is theologically dominated by the themes of death , time and eternity . For this purpose, laws on public holidays were enacted in the federal states of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1952 . Since the day of national mourning always falls on a Sunday, it is not a public holiday in any federal state. In some countries it is called a day of remembrance and mourning. In most federal states, the day of national mourning is only mentioned as a day to be protected, without going into its content. Exceptions are Hesse , which names the day of national mourning as a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism and the dead of both world wars , as well as Hamburg , which authorized the Senate to "set one day of the year to commemorate the victims of National Socialism and those who died in both world wars" . The new federal states have protected the day of national mourning in their holiday laws since the early 1990s, without specifying its content.

In accordance with the lack of express regulation, the contents of the day of national mourning remained vague and changeable over time. In addition to the fallen soldiers, the victims of National Socialism increasingly moved into the focus of remembrance. After all, current payments increasingly played a role. The official ceremony of the federal government in 1987 commemorated the victims of war, tyranny and terrorism in general . In the meantime, the German soldiers who died in foreign missions of the Bundeswehr are also commemorated on Memorial Day.

Memorial hour

The central hour of commemoration on the day of national mourning takes place in the German Bundestag . A speech and a word by the Federal President in the presence of the Federal Chancellor , the Cabinet and the Diplomatic Corps is common, as is the musical arrangement, the playing of the national anthem and the song The Good Comrade .

Based on the form of the central memorial hour, memorial hours with wreath-laying ceremonies are also held in all federal states and in most cities and municipalities. Public events are severely restricted on Memorial Day. The speaking of remembrance of the dead by the Federal President was introduced by Federal President Theodor Heuss in 1952.

“Today we think of the victims of violence and war, of children, women and men of all nations.

We commemorate the soldiers who died in the world wars, the people who lost their lives as a result of acts of war or afterwards in captivity, as displaced persons and refugees.

We remember those who were persecuted and killed because they belonged to another people, belonged to a different race, were part of a minority or whose life was declared unworthy of life because of illness or disability.

We remember those who died because they resisted tyranny and those who died because they held fast to their beliefs or beliefs.

We mourn the victims of the wars and civil wars of our day, the victims of terrorism and political persecution, the Bundeswehr soldiers and other emergency services who lost their lives on deployment abroad.

Today we also remember those who have become victims in our country through hatred and violence against strangers and the weak.

We mourn and share their pain with all who suffer for the dead.

But our life is characterized by the hope of reconciliation among men and peoples,

and our responsibility is for peace among people at home and around the world. "

- Federal President Joachim Gauck : Remembrance of the dead

Commemoration of the war dead in other countries

Great Britain and Commonwealth of Nations

Annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the London Cenotaph
Mourning jewelry with artificial poppies on the memorial cross of the Munster Heath War Cemetery in Munster

In the British Empire, a national day of remembrance, November 11th, was introduced after World War I and is maintained by most of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is called Remembrance Day or Armistice Day (German: Armistice Day ) because at the end of the First World War the Armistice of Compiègne said that the acts of war should end on the "eleventh day of the eleventh month at eleven o'clock". The Remembrance Day weekend is celebrated in Great Britain . On November 11th there will be two minutes of silence . The next Sunday, in the presence of the Prime Minister and veterans , the head of state will lay a bouquet of poppies at the cenotaph . Artificial poppies to stick on, so-called Remembrance Poppies ("memory poppies"), are sold and carried by helpers of the Veterans Association of the Royal British Legion . The poppy ( English poppy ) is to - related to the poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian John McCrae  - reddened to the blood of the soldiers of World War I. Fields of Flanders remember, which is why the Memorial Day Poppy Day is called. In London public buildings are illuminated in red on the night of this Sunday.

In Canada the dead at is the National War Memorial ( National War memorial ) in the Confederation Square in Ottawa thought. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, helpers and members of the Veterans' Association of the Royal Canadian Legion are handing out artificial poppies that are worn by many Canadians for a donation. The battle of Arras during the First World War is considered to be the unofficial birth of Canada. November 11th is a public holiday in many provinces.

In South Africa the dead will be commemorated on the Sunday after November 11th at the cenotaph in Johannesburg and in the capital Pretoria .

In Australia and New Zealand , the dead are also remembered on November 11th. In addition, ANZAC Day is celebrated on April 25th, the anniversary of the landing on the Turkish peninsula Gallipoli in 1915 .

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine

In Russia , Belarus and Ukraine each year on June 22nd, the Day of Remembrance and Mourning (Russia), or the “Day of General Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War” (Belarus), or “Day the mourning and commemoration of the war dead ”(Ukraine) of the prevailing estimates of approx. 27 million Soviet victims (including approx. 11 million soldiers and approx. 16 million civilians or approx. 14% of the pre-war population; estimates in the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta even put a number of up to 42 million Soviet war dead in the room; no other country lost more soldiers and civilians during the Second World War) commemorates the German-Soviet War 1941 to 1945. The day commemorates June 22, 1941, the day on which the Wehrmacht and its allied troops began their attack on the Soviet Union at 3 a.m. On this day, memorial ceremonies are held at the war memorials and in the honorary cemeteries , the national flag is lowered, and the state radio broadcasts no entertainment programs.

Other countries

In Belgium and France , November 11th is a non-working day of remembrance.

In Georgia is All Souls' Day on April 9 a national holiday.

In the Netherlands , May 4th is the National Dodenherdenking , which commemorates the dead in World War II and later military operations (including the deployment of the UN peacekeeping forces). King Willem-Alexander comes to Amsterdam with members of his family and the government , where after two minutes of silence, which must be observed throughout the country, a wreath-laying ceremony takes place from 8:00 p.m. to 8:02 p.m. In addition, May 5th is celebrated as the national liberation day (May 5th 1945) in the Netherlands.

In Israel , Yom HaZikaron is remembered every year in April / May, according to the Jewish calendar on the 4th of  Iyar , the fallen Israeli soldiers and the victims of terrorism.

In Austria is on 1 November All Saints of the two world wars thought of the war memorials of the dead, but the official commemoration of the National Day , October 26, by the federal government by a wreath-laying ceremony at the exterior castle gate occurs.

In the US , the last Monday in May is celebrated as Memorial Day . On November 11th, Veterans Day , on the other hand, serves to remember and honor the soldiers who survived the world wars.

See also


  • Erich Bulitta , Hildegard Bulitta : Mourning, Remembrance, Reminder - Basics and materials for a contemporary day of national mourning. Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Kassel 2002, DNB 96428331X .
  • Andreas Hettiger: Memory as a ritual. Rhetorical Techniques for Constructing a War Veteran Culture. (= Rhetoric research. Volume 16). Niemeyer, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 978-3-484-68016-6 .
  • Alexandra Kaiser: Of Heroes and Victims - A History of the Day of National Mourning. (= Campus Historical Studies. Volume 56). Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-593-39288-2 .
  • Jörg Koch: Volkstrauertag , in: ders. That you don't forget history - state commemorative and public holidays from 1871 to today. Wbg Academic, Darmstadt 2019, ISBN 978-3-534-40186-4 , pp. 88–91, pp. 101–114, pp. 234–241 and pp. 311–320.
  • Horst Nitschke, Erhard Domay (Hrsg.): Memorial Day - Bus Day - Dead Sunday. Sermons, texts, reflections. Gütersloher Verlag, Gütersloh 1987, ISBN 3-579-02789-1 , pp. 7-28.
  • Thomas Peter Petersen: The story of the day of national mourning. 2nd, expanded edition. Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Bad Kleinen 1998 ( PDF; 5.78 MB ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Memorial day  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Memorial Day  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Peter Petersen: The history of the day of national mourning ( memento from October 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, 1998.
  2. Printed in: Comradeship from Fontainebleau - Bulletin of the Friends of the German Military Plenipotentiary in France , No. 28, August 2006, Adelheidsdorf / Münster 2006, p. 14 f.
  3. ↑ Series of pictures in the Federal Archives from the celebrations in March 1928.
  4. ^ Memorial Day 1929 in Greven . - in Mannheim
  5. Kirchlicher Anzeiger Thuringia on the day of national mourning in 1930.
  6. ^ Memorial Day 1931 . - in Aachen
  7. NSDAP propaganda commemorating November 9, 1923 ( memento of March 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), to the “fallen in the movement” of the Hitler putsch in Munich.
  8. Hamburg Correspondent, January 17, 1925.
  9. Hamburg Correspondent, March 1, 1925.
  10. Hamburg Correspondent , March 1, 1926.
  11. ^ The evening , March 5, 1928.
  12. ^ Hamburger Anzeiger , March 5, 1928.
  13. Hamburger Anzeiger , March 14, 1927, also Hamburger Echo , March 14, 1927.
  14. RGBl. 1934 I, p. 129 of February 27, 1934 ( law on public holidays ).
  15. Sabine Stamer: Forgetting about the graves. In: Die Zeit vom November 13, 1987 (accessed on December 31, 2019)
  16. Alexandra Kaiser: Of heroes and victims - A story of the day of national mourning. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2010 (Campus Historische Studien, Vol. 56), 461 pp., ISBN 978-3-593-39288-2 , p. 184.
  17. Heroes' Remembrance Day 1935
  18. Heroes' Remembrance Day, also a national holiday for Germans abroad ( Memento from March 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) German-Chinese News March 1938.
  19. ^ Michael Brettin: Hitler assassination attempt. The baron who wanted to blow up the Führer . In: Berliner Zeitung , March 18, 2018.
  20. Heroes' Memorial Day 1945 - Goebbels declares war to be a service ( Memento from May 12, 2015 in the Internet Archive ).
  21. RGBl. 1939 I, p. 322 of February 25, 1939. - In addition, November 9 was introduced as a “day of remembrance for the fallen of the movement”.
  22. Thomas Peter Petersen: The national mourning day - its history and development. A scientific consideration . Bad Kleinen 1998. p. 22. (PDF) in the GBV
  23. The Glorification of Senseless Dying , ( Memento from August 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Brandenburg Constitutional Protection; Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  24. ^ Day of national mourning in the post-war years
  25. ^ DIE ZEIT from March 1950.
  26. Alexandra Kaiser: From heroes and victims: a story of the day of national mourning (= campus historical studies , volume 56). Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / New York 2010, ISBN 978-3-593-39288-2 , pp. 299–307, 378 (also dissertation at the University of Tübingen, 2009).
  27. Hessian Public Holidays Act, §1
  28. Hamburg Public Holidays Act, §2
  29. Ries Marinus Roowaan: stove sinking in Duitsland. De centrale monumenten van de Bondsrepubliek 1949-1993 . Dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 1999, p. 105 ff.
  30. Bulletin of the Federal Government on the Day of National Mourning in 1987
  31. Bulletin 146-2 of the Federal Government: Address by Federal President Dr. hc Joachim Gauck at the central memorial service for the day of national mourning on November 15, 2015 in Berlin
  32. a b Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Ed.): Peace, Trust and Reconciliation. Speeches for Memorial Day 2016. Kassel 2017, ISBN 978-3-9817711-4-5 . Pp. 39-40.
  33. Jekaterina Macho Tina The Great Patriotic War in the culture of remembrance . In: Dekoder , June 22, 2017. Accessed on Nov. 13, 2019.
  34. June 1941 - The deep cut . ( Memento from September 14, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) In: German-Russian Museum berlin-Karlshorst . Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  35. Jekaterina Macho Tina The Great Patriotic War in the culture of remembrance . In: Dekoder , June 22, 2017. Accessed June 23, 2017.
  36. ^ Entry on Burgtor hero monument in the Austria Forum, accessed on November 13, 2011.