Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas and the Nazis / 3

Since the last post on this subject I've done some more reading on the various youth organizations agitating during the Weimar republic.  The anger over Versailles and the occupation of the Ruhr created overflowing anger, frustration and hardship which drove the politics into the street and to the average citizen's breast.  About 400 youth groups of all kinds were organized throughout the country involving about six million youth and children.  These groups had many different ideologies.  Some were tolerant, leaning to incorporating communists and Jews and others were developing with a pagan mythology and race focus.  After 1933, these groups were all gradually brought by more or less force, through the ideological "Gleichschaltung", to submit to Nazi ideology or else risk being sent to Dachau.  Young people were even encouraged to denounce their parents and send them to camp.

Thus the young folk systematically was forced to be incorporated into the Hilter Youth.  I read a very good article on this process here.

Over Christmas, I also asked the elder women in my family about how this worked and got the following out of them.  One of the women was born in 1934, so she was not even born when this Gleichschaltung of youth organizations happened. She always has told us somewhat cynically that it was in the Hitler Youth that you learned which one was your right hand.  It was the one you saluted with.  She also said that after 1942 when there were food stamps, that you could not have any if you were not in the Hitler Youth. -- I find this all very disturbing, having been born after war and knowing all about what happened and always wondering what I would have done if I had been in their shoes.-- The other woman I spoke to, was born in 1926 and remembered a little more.  She said  that for some reason such as that she had to work somewhere, she ended up not on the roster for being called up.  All the younger girls were in the DM, Deutsche Maedchen (German Girls) which they liked to joke about as the "Deutsche Milchkuehe" (German Milkcows), (I am guessing because of the Hilterian idea of reproduction and motherhood).  (Our grandmothers, my husband's and mine, had medals for bearing quite a few children.)  So, this woman I mentioned, was not on the roster and never ended up having to swear and oath or become a member of the Party;  but this was some kind of fortuitous accident.  She did not, for that reason, have to be de-nazified, later.  Somehow, she did suffer repercussions, as did others in the family, since hers was not a good Nazi family, so that she received bad report cards in school and one of her brother was even failed a grade.  She says that he certainly wasn't that stupid and that this sort of thing could damage your future and determine what kind of school you might transfer to later on.

So as the Nazi's tried to control the indoctrination of all children in youth groups and in school, they also tried  to stamp out the bourgeois observance of Christmas but this proved difficult even in their own circles.  There was the attempt to rename the Christmas tree as the "Juletree" or the "Worldtree".  In addition, if you could not institute successfully songs, such as we looked at in the last post on this subject, then at least you could try to rob the regular Christian songs of their substance or else make them ambiguous in their meaning, so that pagan ideas could be brought in.

Such ideas included mystical thinking about the solstice, resurrection of nature, motherhood and hopefulness in life.  This happened mostly during the war years, so that in addition there was an increase in themes related to the national character.  Even though Christmas could not longer be Christmas, it was still the German character to celebrate Christmas and, of course, no other nation could celebrate it as well as Germans. (The songbook I am looking at gives examples of such verses.)

The Nazi "Christmas" songs in this songbook are printed small and without music, or else without piano accompaniment as they are not meant for singing or revival, only for illustration and learning of history.   Here is a translation of one by me:

 "Today the God who made you  reaches for your heart.  Will you just let it pass, oh you my Volk (German nation, racially speaking), the call of the Savior?  Is in your heart, too, not burning the question about God?   Even more in these days of darkness and wild greed?  Now you have been snatched by a miracle from the hands of the enemy's darkness.  My Volk, God is your guest.  He invites himself into the German house.  Up!  Open the door!  God wants to be your comforter.  His word has German language, is manly, tough and clear.  Germany!  My Volk!  Awake!  God was revealed to you!" (p. 226)

A Pastor wrote this mixing up German Lutheranism with racial purity and election, to the honor of the Fuehrer's Heil.  Very pathetic and quite incomprehensible in some ways.  (The State church, of course, had to be "gleichgeschaltet", too, doing things like this to the Christmas message.)  The famous Christmas song "See how a rose is blooming" has a line "von Jesse kam die Art" (the root of Isaiah), which was changed to "von wunderbarer Art" (in a wonderful way);  and such the prophecy was done away with and a pagan nature magic was replacing the prophetic word.  More difficulty was had with "Silent Night".  Even we nowadays, seem to be able to substitute everything with Santa, snow and jingling bells, but "Silent Night" stubbornly remains.

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