Christmas feast in National Socialist Germany
To days date, 25th of December: Christmas in National Socialist Germany was both a family event and a feast in the sign of the folk community.
The Christmas festivals in National Socialist Germany differed in many aspects from today’s Christmas celebrations in the Western world. Even though the German families celebrated Christmas as usual in their homes, the command pointed out that Christmas celebrations were also a matter for the entire German people.
During the peace years, when Germans were still poor after the chaos of the Weimar Republic, Christmas gifts were organized for poor German children. During the war years, loved ones were urged to send greetings to the German soldiers at the front so that they would know that they were thinking of them at home.
In 2009, Life Magazine published colour images from a Christmas celebration in NS-Germany, which must have been taken by Hugo Jaeger, one of Adolf Hitler’s personal photographers. The celebration took place in 1941 in Munich and in addition to Hitler and the party leadership, high officers and officer’s cadets were present within the SS.
Hitler participated in several other Christmas celebrations. Down below is a celebration from 1940 with members of the Waffen-SS:
Hitler and two Santas:
While the Christmas celebrations were popular (in the sense festive), they were also used to emphasize the seriousness of the situation that Germany was in and to serve the community. Below is a donation of food for poor Germans:
Down below is Joseph Goebbels as an official at a gathering of Christmas packages for children in Berlin in 1936. Goebbels held annual Christmas speeches during the war years that largely touched the soldiers at the front and urged to “express our love for each other and our belief in everything that holds us together“.
The elimination of unemployment: Autobahn workers at a Christmas celebration in 1938:
From 1941 to 1944, the Goebbels Cultural Ministry published an annual Christmas book, Deutsche Kriegsweihnacht (German Christmas War), with requests to send greetings to German soldiers at the front. The book was illustrated with pictures and appropriate quotes or poems. The German Propaganda Archive page has translated the edition from 1944 into English. Below, soldiers gather around a small Christmas tree in their shelter and read a letter from a soldier’s wife ending with the following message:
“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.”
NS-Dokumentationszentrum, which is a German state project with the task of documenting national Socialism in Germany, has collected other images from the Christmas celebrations where glittering Christmas balls have been replaced with a hand grenade or iron crosses as a reminder of the hell that the families’ fathers suffered through.
Many of the Christian symbols were replaced by Nordic symbols and the swastika. An interesting thing is that Reichführer-SS Heinrich Himmler established a Christmas party in 1936, which was just called “Julfest“, for SS members. At these Christmas parties, Christmas lanterns, “Julleuchter“, was produced, among other things, given to the SS members who attended the Christmas party.
The design of these Christmas lanterns are most likely originally been taken from Sweden, Halland, from Christmas lanterns that were created in the late 1700s, which is mentioned in the Swedish journal Runa in the 1800s and via the detours found the way to National Socialist Germany. The lantern is adorned by the Hagal rune and Himmler explained the importance of the Christmas lantern in the following ways:
“Its heart represents the heart and home and the Hagal rune peace through victory […] Just as our ancestors never let the glow in their hearts go out, our Christmas lantern must always burn. Therefore, it becomes a symbol of the never-dying sunlight.”