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Exhibition shows how the Nazis stole Christmas

AFP · 15 Dec 2009, 10:00

Published: 15 Dec 2009 10:00 GMT+01:00

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Presents wrapped in paper covered with Nazi symbols nestling beneath a tree adorned with swastikas and grenade-shaped baubles: welcome to Christmas during Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

As a new exhibition in the western German city of Cologne shows, the Nazis tried to skew the Christmas story to do away with the Jewish baby Jesus and impose their racist ideology and propaganda on the popular festival.

"Celebrating the birth of a Jewish baby was unthinkable for the Nazis," Jürgen Müller, the chief researcher behind the exhibition, told AFP. "But Christmas was too popular to be banned. They therefore decided to corrupt it."

Nazi officials "invented a Germanic origin" for Christmas, renaming it Julfest and claiming that yuletide traditions stemmed from ancient rituals surrounding the winter solstice four days earlier, Müller added.

Baby Jesus was turfed out of the crib and Santa Claus was reincarnated as a

Viking knight. In addition, the regime also created bizarre Nazi Christmas symbols, including swastika-shaped tins for Christmas cakes and Christmas cards emblazoned with a bullet wrapped in fir.

The creator of the exhibition - named "Far From A Holy Night" - got the idea as she was scouring flea markets for Christmas memorabilia.

"I wanted to have an 'old-style' Christmas for my father's 70th birthday ... that's when I started to come across these objects," Rita Breuer told AFP.

The objects "tell a story not often told," she said, adding that she hoped the exhibition would prompt historians to do more research on the subject.

Ironically, some Nazi Christmas items, such as the wrapping paper emblazoned with twisted crosses, were later banned for fear that children would tear the beloved symbol of the Third Reich. But Müller said some of the Nazis' corruptions of Christmas have since been adopted by today's neo-Nazis in Germany.

Among the memorabilia available is a CD of Christmas songs, with an innocent-looking sleeve of a snowy landscape, but with the songs rewritten by the Nazis and all references to Christianity expunged.

"Many visitors are amazed to discover that the version of the song they know is not the original but the way the Nazis re-wrote them," said Müller.

Story continues below…

Germans still buy so-called Julleuchter - Christmas lanterns - without knowing they were popularised by Hitler's sidekick Heinrich Himmler in 1938, with tens of thousands of them being manufactured by concentration camp prisoners.

Nevertheless, despite traces of the Nazis' Christmas corruption still remaining, the Third Reich generally failed to dampen the Christmas spirit in Germany.

"During this period, the Germans kept the link with the Christian festival, even if the symbols were no longer used," said Müller.

The exhibition is hosted by the Cologne centre for Nazi research and runs until January 17.

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Your comments about this article

11:47 December 15, 2009 by Celeon
So Adolf was the Grinch? :-D
16:16 December 15, 2009 by mixxim
Who has stolen Christmas if not the commercial interests and businesses. What is Christmas - has it anything to do with God, religion or the Church????

OK What has the Church to do with God or religion?

I give up!!!
17:58 December 15, 2009 by Sharon Vida
Interesting article. Christmas customs can have very surprising histories. Sometimes we need to ditch a lousy tradition and create a new one.
19:08 December 15, 2009 by snorge
Funny, today it's Commerce that stole Xmas!!!!
20:38 December 15, 2009 by wxman
See what I mean?? I rest my case.
20:41 December 15, 2009 by bernie1927
Here we go again. A big to-do about nothing. The swastika was the symbol of the third Reich. So, why the surprise? What's wrong with Yule now? Can't you guys get over it? How long has it been? 64 years, right? Here in the US we are going completely bonkers with our flag symbol. You find it on cakes and Bikinis, not that I condone it, mind you. Gee!!
20:44 December 15, 2009 by Henckel
It's remarkable how traditional nordic symbols like the swatika (hakenkreuz) and the sunwheel (a closely related symbol) were twisted for politcal ends.
01:59 December 16, 2009 by sc123
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good nacht, do they say that in germany?

well Merry Christmas
18:08 December 16, 2009 by lordwilliams629
Why does that happen with certain leaderships? this is really nothing new for america. American school children and people in most work places can no longer call it christmas, notice the nazis forbid the same thing. Dictatorships and taking more control of people starts by tearing down anything religious, and excluding things in history books ext ext. These are all things that are seen as threats to their power base.
19:47 December 16, 2009 by Henckel
That's right, lordwilliams629. They misuse traditional terminology and excluding religion, whether in the former Soviet Union, Red China, Vietnam, Peron's Argentina (he was excommunicated shortly before being deposed in 1955), France in the 1790s, and so on. One exception to the rule would be Franco's Spain, where he co-opted the church as one of the pillars of his rule, but that may be a traditional Iberian policy.
18:36 December 17, 2009 by lordwilliams629
If you also think about it Henckel, mussolini like the franco goverment was probably somewhat weaker because of the catholic church. Italy like spain was and is such a traditional country with such deep catholic traditions. Both would have almost been forced to accept the church if they was to stay in power. But like spain italy was one the few exceptions. Good point.
01:29 December 18, 2009 by Thames
Madison Ave. as been stealing Christmas bit by bit for over 100 years.
16:15 December 18, 2009 by Badger1911
Is there going to be an exhibition how Christmas is stolen in Europe right now? Because when I look into the UK, the Netherlands and even Germany, well, I see how old traditions are done away with for the sake of "multiculturalism", or better said: they are done away with to not anger the "usual suspects".
19:20 December 18, 2009 by Ducano
The original spirit of Christianity,if there ever was one,has over the last few centuries been so abused,that one would almost feel ashamed to associate oneself with it.There seems to be a collusion between religious leaders of the different sects and politics as a whole on a worldwide scale,which made me personally unsubscribed from the whole charade.Christmas or any other religious holiday is fine with me as a bit of nostalgia ,but the true spirit of Christmas,as it was meant to be,got highjacked by the big corporations,who like to maintain the sentimentality of it to make the public overindulge in their overpriced junk.And lately they also manipulate the politicians,who run our governments.What was the definition of democracy again?Or don`t you believe in that fairytale anymore either?
03:03 December 21, 2009 by Thames
Badger 1911 has it right the old traditons are being destroyed for the sake of multiculturalism. While European culture is being destroyed those who are leading the destruction go to their old stand by and point to the Nazis.

The large corporations and the multi kulti frauds are destroying what made Europe great while pointing to the Nazis to cover their betrayal of European culture. We constantly have to hear and read about the Nazis these 60 years hence. Wow! I sure am suprised that the National Socialists tried to steal Christmas. Maybe next there will be a big story about how the Nazis tried to take over the German health care system or the trade unions or maybe the military, or the churches. Of course they tried to take over every aspect of human activity.
13:18 December 23, 2009 by Mick Dee
"Germans still buy so-called Julleuchter" I grew up in Germany, what the f...ck are Julleuchter?? And who the f...ck cares about the Third Reich and the Nazis??? Hey whats the deal, Santa is still flying his sledge so the Luftwaffe did not only fail over Britain?!?! But who knows, maybe the Taliban might get him with a surfice to air missile over Afganistan. Oh well at least the poor old Germans 'll be out of that one then........
15:05 December 24, 2009 by Ahmay
I agree Henckel. It would be nice if the running cross could be taken back but its link with the horrendous is too recent just yet. It's still living memory.

As for religious use in the work place, rather than be exclusive I think it's gotten more inclusive. "Happy Holidays" includes several faiths not just one. It doesn't beat you about the head and shoulders that one is "normal" and the others are not. I don't know about Germany, but in the US there are churches with 3-10k member congregations. They are hardly an endangered species.
14:49 December 25, 2009 by Hagen
I am surprised at such igorance, it was the early Christians that stole the ancient symbols away from the so-called Pagans and Heathens !

Of all the things the Nazis did or were alleged to have done, this in my opinion is the best they ever did !, why not go back to the true origins of the Jul?

Far better than the corrupt worship of the Carpenters son and the multi-Billion Dollar business that it supports !
02:08 December 26, 2009 by Jaya_papaya
Oh yes, Adolf was the ultimate Grinch...what a sick thought of a christmas tree covered in Swastikas...
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