BERLIN – Thousands of people throughout Germany welcomed the first night of Chanukah Tuesday, with an estimated 900 celebrants turning out for the evening’s biggest menorah lighting at the Brandenburg Gate.
Coordinated by Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin, the event brought local rabbis, ambassadors and politicians to a platform erected at the same place where in 1933, hordes of uniformed men and women swarmed through with torches to cheer on Hitler’s ascendancy.
The symbolism of Germany’s largest Chanukah menorah bringing light to a place that harbored such darkness was not lost on the celebration’s participants.
Wolfgang Thierse, former president and current vice president of the Bundestag, opened the celebrations by pointing to the gate’s former association with German militarism, as well as to the fact that the Berlin Wall used to pass within just a few feet of the monument’s Doric columns.
“This gate was once the symbol of marginalization and later on division. Now it is a symbol of coexistence that can exist between people of all different backgrounds,” stated Thierse.
“The lights that are shining here tonight can be a sign of hope that coexistence will continue on into the future.”
Before the event, Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin director Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel went further in his characterization of what has become an annual Chanukah tradition at the Brandenburg Gate.
U.S. Ambassador Philip D. Murphy addresses the annual Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. (Photo: Avraham Golovacheov)
“The torch-lit parade marking Hitler’s rise to power, 70 years ago, represented the epitome of darkness,” explained the rabbi.
“Kindling the Chanukah lights at this very spot represents the absolute triumph of good over evil.”
In his remarks beside the menorah, U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy agreed, asking rhetorically: “Could there be a more appropriate location than the Brandenburg Gate to light the Chanukah menorah?”
Deputy Mayor Michael Müller joined in, asserting that the Chanukah menorah belonged to the city of Berlin.
“This menorah represents Jewish Berlin,” he declared. “It tells us that Jews have a fixed place in our city.
Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis Yehuda Tiechtel, left, and Shmuel Segal dance in front of the Brandenburg Gate. (Photo: Avraham Golovacheov)
“Even so, we cannot take what we see here tonight for granted,” he continued.
“Let me make one thing clear: If anti-Semites doubt that Jewish life is a part of our city, then they are picking a fight with all of us.”
Renate Kunast, Germany’s most prominent Green Party leader likened the people present at the Brandenburg Gate to the oil which burned miraculously for eight days when the Jewish people rededicated the Holy Temple more than 2,000 years ago.
“Are we not all like that oil, burning with a yearning to uphold the diversity of our society, to uphold the values which make us strong?” he asked. “We want our hopes to blaze like these Chanukah flames.”