Chanukah Lights Shine at Site of Nazis’ Torch-Lit Parade

by Oliver Bradley

In the country that had once tried to annihilate them completely, Jews throughout Germany are getting ready to light their menorahs for the upcoming Chanukah holiday, spreading light in a land that a mere two generations ago was the ultimate symbol of fear and darkness.

In Berlin, 10 synagogues will be hosting candle-lighting celebrations Tuesday night, the first of the eight-day Festival of Lights, while three others will celebrate jointly at the capital’s main Jewish community centers.

Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin, which is coordinating all of the celebrations, will be hosting the central party at the city’s most historic site, the Brandenburg Gate, attracting hundreds of residents, tourists, and VIPs alike.

The gate, whose construction was begun in 1788, was commissioned by King Fredrick William II as a means to represent a century of relative peace and stability that followed the 30 Years War. After its completion in 1791, the gate became the Prussian, and later the German, capital’s primary backdrop for ceremonial processions.

The power symbolized by the gate culminated in a militarism that came to an apocalyptic peak on Jan. 30, 1933, when hours after Hitler formally rose to power, thousands of uniformed men and women swarmed through the Brandenburg Gate in a torch-light flooded rally, cheering on the new Nazi era.

For Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel, there could be no better place for a Chanukah menorah. By commemorating a Jewish victory more than 2,000 years ago and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem using an unblemished jar of oil that miraculously lasted eight days, the menorah allows people to relive the victory of light over darkness.

“The torch-lit parade marking Hitler’s rise to power, 70 years ago, represented the epitome of darkness,” explains Tiechtel, who will be on the dais with members of the German parliament and U.S. Ambassador Philip D. Murphy at the ceremony.

“Kindling the Chanukah lights at this very spot represents the absolute triumph of good over evil.”

The Chanukah lighting ceremony at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate will take place Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. local time. It comes as part of eight days of Chabad-Lubavitch events all over the world, from the Champs-Elysees in Paris to London’s Trafalgar Square to the Ellipse outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

image: 2010 Chanukah lighting at Brandenburg Gate
courtesy News