Remembrance Day is commemorated differently in Germany because of the sensitivity to anything associated with the two World Wars.
The German national day of mourning is the secular public holiday of ‘Volkstrauertag’ (People’s Memorial Day) which since 1952 has been observed two Sundays before the first Sunday of Advent, in practice this is the Sunday closest to 16 November and was chosen to fall on the same day as the ‘Sunday of the Dead’ (Totensonntag), a religious holiday of the Lutheran church.
The National Day of Mourning was established in 1922 and was initially dedicated to the victims of World War I. The Nazis made it a national holiday and redefined it as an occasion to celebrate their heroes and glorify war. In an effort to symbolize a clear break with the fascist ideology and the Nazis’ perversion of the holiday’s initial aim, the Volkstrauertag was moved to coincide with the Sunday of the Dead after World War II. Today it is an occasion not only to mourn the dead but also to illustrate the tragedy of war and speak out for peace.
The anniversary of the Armistice itself is not observed in Germany.
The National Day of Mourning is an occasion to remember all victims of war and tyranny. The Sunday of the Dead is a “silent day” – this means that in most regions of Germany, music or dance events are prohibited.
Every year on the National Day of Mourning there is a commemoration ceremony in the German parliament (Bundestag) where the President traditionally holds a speech and the members of parliament sing the soldier’s song “Der gute Kamerad” (The Good Comrade). There are similar ceremonies at many memorial sites for the victims of the Nazi regime and military cemeteries.
It is also the day when most Germans, especially Lutherans, visit the graves of their loved ones after attending a memorial service at church.
Contributed by Konrad B.