Background: Die neue Gemeinschaft was the Nazi Party’s periodical for those responsible for conducting party ceremonies and events. It carried a great deal of material about conducting Christmas ceremonies, even in this late-war issue. As other material on the GPA demonstrates, the Nazis did their best to remove any Christian aspects of the holiday, a task made easier since the German word for Christmas is Weihnacht,literally Holy Evening.
This article provided a speech that a party leader could deliver at Christmas ceremonies in hospitals caring for wounded or ill soldiers. It provides an interesting example of what Nazi propagandists had to say late in the war, when there was little factual evidence for optimism.
The title comes from a poem by Friedrich Wilhelm Weber, the point of which is that the farmer’s seed is slumbering under winter’s snow, waiting to come forth in spring.
The source: “Es wächst viel Brot in der Winternacht... Der Hoheitsträger spricht zu den Soldaten in einer Lazarett-Weihnachtsfest,” Die neue Gemeinschaft, October-November 1944, pp. 538-540.
However distant a German is from his homeland, whether he stands alone at his post in the twilight of northern fjords, during bright southern nights, on far-off oceans, or snowy mountains, once a year he thinks even more warmly than usual of home. Even the most hard-boiled soldier, the most dashing dare-devil, is not embarrassed to turn soft for an evening — when it is Christmas in Germany, and wherever there are Germans. He hears old songs that he had sung back home with shining eyes in the light of the candles on the Christmas tree. That tree, no matter how tiny and modest, was for him the most beautiful of all, just like one’s mother is the best woman on earth for each of us, and he is not wrong who seeks in the girl he wants to marry the image and likeness of his own mother. Yes, Christmas is the festival of the German family, the festival within the smallest circle, the festival of mothers.
To begin I must say to you, my wounded or ill soldiers, to you I must say that your hearts may be home while you must remain here in the hospital because of wounds or illness, but do not be homesick, but rather sense the deepest meaning of Christmas. That I must say to you.
We all know that each family is only a cell in a great people, and just as each Christmas celebration in a healthy and hardworking family resounds throughout the entire people, so the people’s community that our Führer Adolf Hitler has given us will not forget those who cannot celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.
Each soldier, whether in a bunker or barracks or patrol boat, celebrates Christmas with his comrades in the German manner.
We in the local group feel a duty, nay, even more than a duty, in the depths of our heart, to celebrate Christmas with you in the hospital. Is not a hospital a particular kind of community, built with thanks and labor? Does not the great Winter Relief campaign of the German people, in fraternal cooperation with the German Red Cross, raise funds to care for our wounded? Is it not significant that in the “hospital” family hard-working German girls have the name “sister”? Their family names sink back into our people, and they give sisterly care to soldiers as “Sister Inge” or “Sister Gertrud.”
We are here so that those confined to the hospital on this holy evening are not saddened by being here, to see that the light of Christmas shines in a place with so much pain, where one must often whisper to avoid awakening those who are exhausted or recovering. We bring Christmas songs, the aroma of the fir tree, and Christmas light. We are here as representatives of the people’s community to bring a modest Christmas celebration.
It is obvious that, at a time when all the strengths of the front and homeland are needed for the war effort, when our comrades in the field are surrounded by filth and hardly know where to find a small tree and a miserable Christmas candle, we neither can nor want to celebrate in fancy ways. Perhaps we should thank fate that a hard war compels us to be modest, forcing us to find the strength within our own hearts to reject all the cheap decorations we once hung on our Christmas tree, replacing fake gold foil with deeper meaning, to be satisfied with a star made of straw, a simple Christmas song, a gift of a picture or a book. No longer do we want golden nuts [a traditional German Christmas tree decoration], but rather we want the core, the fruitful core.
The enemy has laid in ruins many treasured buildings, many quiet corners, many familiar dwellings where shining Christmas trees stood year after year. Yet he cannot destroy those fir trees in the forest, rooted in German earth, nor can he destroy our hearts that are even more firmly rooted in the German people. Is there a more beautiful symbol of the unbroken life force of our people than each small fir tree shining on Christmas Eve in the ruins of cities destroyed by Negro pilots who have not the faintest inkling of what a German Christmas means? That should teach us that the morale in the homeland is worthy of our soldiers at the front!
A hospital is a creative rest between front and homeland. One of you will have to remain in the homeland after your time in the hospital, another will return to the front. Both of you should take with you faith in our people and its future, even if the pain and boredom of a hospital threatens to wear down one’s heart. That shines particularly brightly at Christmas. Yes, comrades, and that is why we may and want to celebrate Christmas even in these times, and more strongly and deeply than ever before. The German soul lives in the Christmas festival, a soul that lives for our battle alone, not for economic gain, colonies, or spheres of interest.
The “gunpowder-gray warrior” becomes silent and solemn as he sees the farmer sow his seed in the field and a blessed mother laughing with her child on her lap. The seed that the farmer sowed rests under a carpet of snow on a winter’s night and the mother with child is the best image of the Christmas miracle that compels us to be silent, to withdraw softly in our heavy army boots.
Some people do not see it, the silence under which grain grows, the honor due the mother in whose womb a small child grows toward that most important hour when he comes into the world as the child of a German mother. He who tramples the snow without realizing that grain grows underneath, who does not respect the girls, women, and mothers who carry our people’s future in their wombs, who ignore each quiet hour from which his strength could grow, he should not be surprised if his seed does not sprout or his grain mature. The best of our people understands seed corn and holds such things holy, so that our people can gain strength for the coming year from Christmas Eve.
With love and respect in this hour, as in all deep and meaningful hours, we think of the man who stands in lonely greatness, yet who is not alone for he rests in the love of the whole people, now more than ever since those traitors who knew nothing of grain and their people and mothers raised their hand against him [a reference to the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt]. No Christmas tree could shine in German lands, no mother could bear her child in freedom, if that contemptible attempt had succeeded. Providence preserved the Führer because it needs him for the future of our people, also so that our children will be able to celebrate Christmas in peace and joy. Because we are thankful for that, our trees glow brightly, shining cheerfully into the future.
One last thing we do not want to forget in this contemplative hour: to invite all our dead comrades from all the battlefields of Europe to be our guests. They should be with us in spirit, not as pale ghosts, but in the fullness of their youth. We will all age in the coming year, some sooner, some later. The year will bring us much labor and worry, but they will remain eternally young heroes who look over our shoulders in our battles and work, who rejoice in our shining eyes during our festivities. They, too, the dead, are seed for Germany’s future, and it is for us to ensure that their seed grows unto the harvest, for they will always return to us with the flags of victory.
My dear comrades, war has been called the father of all things, but it also gives depth and meaning to the most motherly of all festivals, one that gives our people the strength to end this war with victory, to banish everything superficial and false and foreign. The grain will grow in stillness from the depths, producing the bread that we, God grant, will eat in peace.
Much grain grows during winter’s night...
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