When I first visited Germany in 2013 I noticed what I thought were Jewish Stars everywhere, especially in breweries. Below, for example, is the Star of David I saw in the bathroom at the Schlenkerla Brewery in Bamberg. I didn’t notice that the star was also hanging out in front of the brewery. I thought the fact that it was in the bathroom behind the faucet was maybe it was a “secret” way to be supportive of Jewish people or pay a tribute to the past.
Thank goodness I asked someone about it. It turns out that it’s actually the Brewer’s Star. This star looks identical to the Star of David and it’s possible that way back in the day, the reasons for applying the symbols to both Beer brewing and the Jewish faith were related. In modern day however, they are not related in the least. I must say too– in the part of Germany where we live, while there are countless numbers of tributes and monuments and candles burning for the Jewish people, for obvious reasons, there are so few Jewish people who actually live here, that I don’t think people are even reminded of the Star of David anymore when they see the Brewer’s star.
The Brewer’s Star story, in short, is this: In the feudal times every household was allowed to brew beer. Each time the beer was ready to drink, they hung the star outside their door so that the neighbors would know it was available. This symbol represented community and Gemütlichkeit. During the Nazi era the breweries were ordered to remove the star because of its similarity to the Star of David. It seems to me, as an observer, that putting the Brewer’s stars back in front of the breweries was actually a way celebrate that the Nazi era was over. The tradition of hanging the star in front of the brewery goes back much further in the German story than the Nazi Party does. And so now they hang there again, as they always did, to remind everyone of the readiness of the community to gather together, drink beer and break bread.
The details of the six pointed star and what it symbolizes are worth reading. The symbol is said to have originated in the study of Alchemy. Triangles and lines are drawn in such a way to represent, the masculine, the feminine and the four elements (fire, air, water, earth). As a whole, the symbol is meant to indicate balance. Although it is interpreted in a number of different ways, most of the interpretations come down to the reconciliation of opposites or the peace between any two opposing forces. (Masculine/feminine, Fire/Water, Earth/Heaven)