German Propaganda Archive Calvin College


 

Background: During the war years, the Culture Department of the Reichspropagandaleitung of the Nazi Party, its central propaganda office, produced a book of material each Christmas for those both at home and at the front. It appeared in large editions from 1941-1944. This edition has 200 pages of stories, letters, songs, and illustrations. There is no hint whatsoever of the Christian nature of the holiday, made somewhat easier by the German word for Christmas: Weihnacht. The material presents a picture of German soldiers standing bravely at the front, while their confident wives and children rest secure at home, ready to make any sacrifice for final victory. I here provide a variety of material from the final edition.

For additional material on Nazi views of Christmas, see a 1937 article on transforming Christian holidays into Nazi ones, and a page on Advent 1943.

Source: Deutsche Kriegsweihnacht (Munich: Franz Eher, 1944).


German War Christmas (1944)

Booklet cover

The cover: Deutsche Kriegsweihnacht. Published by the Main Culture Department of the NSDAP.

Hitler

Hitler looking at a Christmas tree. The facing page has these words from Goebbels’s 1941 Christmas Eve speech: “On this evening we will think of the Führer, who is also everywhere present this evening wherever Germans gather, and place ourselves in the service of the fatherland. At the end of the war, it shall be greater, lovelier, and more impressive. It should be the proud and free homeland for us all. We promise the Führer that in this hour he can rely on his people at the front, at home, and in the world. He leads us. We follow him. Without the shadow of a doubt, we follow him, bearing the flag and the Reich. The flag and the Reich shall remain pure and unscathed when the great hour of victory comes.”

Soldier on guard

This picture faces a poem by Walter Flex that translates: “Lonely watch / Ice-cold night! / The frost creaks / The storm rages / The peace I extol / I see in them. / The bright flame blazes! / Murder, hatred, death / They fill the earth / With grim threatenings. / Never will there be peace, they say, / Swearing an oath with bloody hands. / What care I about cold and pain! / In me burns an oath / Blazing as a flame / With sword and heart and hand. / Come what may / Germany, I am ready!

Soldier protecting family

This picture shows a mother holding her child next to a Christmas tree, while three soldiers trudge through the snow of the east. It faces a poem by Herybert Menzel titled “Soldiers’ Christmas.”

Soldier protecting family

This drawing follows an essay by Walter Henkels, titled “My Thoughts are with You. A Christmas Letter from the Front to Women and Children.” It begins: “I have traveled to you today without a leave, without a ticket — with only the baggage my dreams and thoughts — to be with you when the candles on the Christmas tree are lit. I have come only in my thoughts. That’s the way it is. It is wonderful to travel with one’s thoughts. I sense how my steps lighten as I heave the railway station, as I turn the corner, as my boots squeak in the snow. There is our home, protected by the rose bushes. I ring quickly three times, just as before: three times, it’s me. Your heart leaps a little, for no one but me would ring three times. (continued here).

Soldier writing letter

Here, soldiers gather around a small Christmas tree in their dugout. It accompanies a letter from a soldier’s wife for Christmas 1943. It ends: “And so, like millions of women today, the light of my heart shines forth with joy and love, illuminating the front, brightening the year’s longest night, in which you stand watch and fight for us. That light is within us, and will give us all the strength to find our way to a fresh spring. That is my firm, unshakable faith.”

Soldiers in a dugout

This pictures faces a poem by Herybert Menzel: “Women quietly serve a strong people, / They are the homeland, and they shape the home. / When men take risks, they trust. / What men build, they make beautiful. / They are the happy mothers of proud sons, / Sons are their greatest fame, / They carry through the years all that is beautiful, / They build a better humanity. / Such a people needs great strength, / For what glows must suffer greatly, / And when hard times come, / The woman must stand alongside the man.

Soldier entering a dugout

In this picture, a sentry enters a dugout. It accompanies a story about Christmas 1941 in Russia that begins: “I will tell a story about a Christmas Eve that some who hear will think could not possibly have been worse....” A unit, after hard battle, is resting in a forlorn village, hoping for Christmas packages. They find a small tree, and put some Christmas candles on it. Suddenly, an order comes to return to the front. The enemy is attacking. As they leave, one soldier runs back to get the Christmas tree. After a day’s march through a bitter-cold snow storm, they set up the tree again, exhausted, weary. The flicking candles warm their hearts. The story ends: “Perhaps the soldiers did not realize what they had done for the world this evening — during the longest and bitterest night of their lives, in which, despite everything, they had stubbornly rescued their little tree. On earth, on the dead, cold, dark earth, they lit the light that alone has the strength to renew life eternally, even in the darkest night.”

Nazis graves around a Christmas tree

This picture faces an excerpt from Goebbels’s 1942 Christmas Eve talk: “A soldier speaks tonight of his fallen comrade as he recalls the hard battles of this war, and at home today, a mother, a father, a wife and a group of children remember each dead hero in proud sorrow. Our dead are the only ones with the right to make a demand today, and indeed to us all, at the front or at home. They are the eternal monuments, the voices of our national conscience, which constantly drive us on to do our duty. The mothers who mourn their lost sons may be at peace. They did not in vain bear their children in pain and rear them. They lived the proudest and bravest life that a son of the fatherland can live, crowning with the most heroic end possible: they sacrificed themselves so that we could stand in the light. It is up to us alone whether their great devotion has its deepest meaning.... The coming century shines to us, as the poet says, from a royal distance. It demands of us battle and sacrifice. But one day, we will be there. For us, it is only a matter of time and patience, of courage and work, of faith and confidence in the strength of our souls and the bravery of our hearts.

Nazis graves around a Christmas tree

This page has a quotation from Adolf Hitler, which hardly seems consistent with the standard Christmas story:

All nature is a gigantic struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.

—Adolf Hitler

 

[Page copyright © 2006 by Randall L. Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]


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