Today, 3rd November, is the German Day of Unity. On this day in 1990, reunification took place in Germany. ‘Die Wiedervereinigung’ came about a year after the Berlin Wall went down. At school, during my GCSE and then A’ Level German, I studied reunification and the events leading up to it. Rightly so, and I also won’t forget the euphoria of our German language assistants when the wall came down.
If you are wondering why the Day of Unity isn’t celebrated on the 9th November (the date the wall came down in 1989) the reason is dark. On that day in 1938, Kristallnacht, or ‘Night of Broken Glass’ took place. Kristallnacht was a pogrom against Jewish people in Germany by SA (Storm Division) paramilitary forces and German civilians.
Remembering this feels especially poignant, since today Jewish friends celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a two-day holiday that marks the Jewish New Year.
The falling of the Berlin Wall was a historic event, yet sadly history continues to repeat itself with the proposed wall in Calais. The UK government has refused to confirm costs, but it’s reported to be around £1.9m. Apparently, plants and flowers will be planted on one side of the 13ft high, 1 mile long concrete wall ‘to reduce its visual impact on the local area.’
Experts from a range of organisations – from law firms, to road haulage bodies to think tanks – have deemed it a waste of resources. They say that people will seek ways potentially more dangerous ways to get around it and no doubt they will.
My thoughts are with the innocents that get caught up in all this. Charities have said that self-harm and mental health problems amongst children have soared in camps like Calais. Even Unicef has criticised the Home Office’s failure to rehouse them.
Children have died trying to seek asylum, including alone children who were trying to get to friends and relatives in the UK. According to international guidelines, this shouldn’t happen in the first place, yet at least 1000 such minors are in Calais. At least 400 of these are eligible to come to the UK, according to a recent Guardian article.
What can you do?
What can we as individuals do? It can feel so overwhelming. Peace, at times, feels very elusive. I want to help women feel confident and resilient enough to create positive change in society, no matter how small; and to build a network of peers to support each other.
Asylum seekers and refugee women are the group where my own attention is focused, but there’s much to be done for other parts of society too. This is where I felt a network of proactive, influential women was needed; so I founded Inspiring Women Changemakers.
If you’re interested in knowing more about how you can help refugee support organisations or get involved in the movement, please get in touch. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.