President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has underlined November 9 as one being of key importance in German history. Three crucial events took place on the date, including the 1938 Nazi-instigated pogrom against the Jews.
"November 9 is an ambivalent day, a bright and a dark day,'' Steinmeier told guests. "It makes our hearts pound and brings tears to our eyes. It makes us hope for the good that is in our country, and it makes us despair in the face of its abysses."
"Perhaps that is why November 9 is a very German day, a day that provides information about our country like hardly any other."
The president said 1938 was a reminder to Germans to keep alive the memory of the victims of National Socialism and to anti-Semitism, hatred, and hatemongering: "Our responsibility knows no end," he said.
Meanwhile, Steinmeier added that 1918 and 1989 served as reminders that democracy and freedom were won by courageous people "and are never secured forever."
Steinmeier pointed to mutifaceted meanings of November 9.
"Enduring ambivalence, that's part of it, part of being a German," said Steinmeier. "I would like us to commemorate it as such, as a day to reflect on our country."
The commemoration was attended by representatives of all constitutional bodies: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bundestag President Bärbel Bas, Bundesrat President Bodo Ramelow, and the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Stephan Harbarth.
Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer, now 100 years old, recounted how she experienced the pogroms of November 9, 1938.
Skepticism about multiple commemorations
Separately, and in contrast to Steinmeier's comments, the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said the focus of the day should remain "a national day of remembrance for the victims of the Shoah."
The knowledge about the pogroms of 1938, Schuster said, was declining: "Therefore we are skeptical of demands to commemorate several historical events at once on November 9."
Meanwhile, Germany's chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz, who tweeted about the multiple significance of the date, closed his thread with a warning about intolerance.
"Today's date should warn us and give us courage," he wrote. "We must oppose hatred of Jews and racism and fight for cohesion and respect in society."