WW2: Expert reveals man who ‘saw Hitler’s plan coming’
During the festive season, you will no doubt hear plenty of people singing the popular Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’. First written some 203 years ago by Joseph Mohr, it has been recorded by an abundance of singers across a variety of genres. Bing Crosby’s version, released in 1935, has sold more than 10 million copies — although his biggest hit White Christmas has sold more than 50 million copies.
Silent Night was first performed as Stille Nacht on Christmas Eve in 1818 at the St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a small village in modern-day Austria.
The English translation that is most frequently sung today was published in 1859 by Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, then serving at the Trinity Church in New York.
To date, the carol has been translated into 140 languages.
One bizarre version of the song was created by Adolf Hitler, who had the words rewritten as a tribute to him, in a desperate attempt to hog the festive limelight.
Adolf Hitler with a child. The caption reads ‘German Christmas’.
Adolf Hitler receives gifts from Father Christmas – surely he wasn’t on the good list?
The Führer had a Nazi songwriter compose a new version as part of his attempts to apply Nazi ideology to Christmas.
Throughout the Thirties and Forties, the Nazis attempted to transform Christmas traditions.
They used Nazi ideology and propaganda machines to align Christmas with their anti-Semitic views.
Christmas posed a major issue for Nazi Germany, since Jesus was a Jew.
Adolf Hitler at the Nazi Christmas Eve dinner in December 1938.
Eradicating Jews and Jewishness stood at the very heart of Nazi ideology.
Judith Breuer, organiser of a 2009 exhibition in Cologne that offered an insight into Nazi attempts to take the Christ out of Christmas, told the Independent at the time: “The baby Jesus was Jewish.
“This was both a problem and provocation for the Nazis. The most popular Christian festival of the year did not fit in with their racist ideology.
“They had to react and they did so by trying to make it less Christian.”
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Christmas tree decorations featuring Nazi swastikas made during WW2.
Mrs Breuer said the star at the Christmas tree was replaced with swastikas, since it represented either the six-pointed star of David, or the five-pointed star of the Bolshevik Soviet Union.
Mary and Jesus were reduced to the Germanic mother and child, depicted as a blonde mother and blue-eyed child, and dozens of carols were changed.
The altered version of Silent Night begins as normal: “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”
But then things change: “Only the Chancellor stays on guard, Germany’s future to watch and to ward, guiding our nation aright.”
Adolf Hitler during his address at a Christmas celebration in Munich.
The Nazis instead promoted the singing of ‘Exalted Night of the Clear Stars’, or ‘Hohe Nacht der klaren Sterne’ in German, which replaced traditional Christian themes with the Nazis’ racial ideologies.
Though the song was banned as Nazi propaganda in 1945, some families still sung it throughout the Fifites.
It lives on today in performances by neo-Nazi and far-right extremists.
Attempts were also made to rid Christmas of its true meaning, the coming of Jesus, and to instead replace it with the coming of Hitler — labelled the “Saviour Führer”.
Nazi propagandist Friedrich Rehm wrote in 1937: “We cannot accept that a German Christmas tree has anything to do with a crib in a manger in Bethlehem.
“It is inconceivable for us that Christmas and all deep soulful content is the product of an oriental religion.”
Even advent calendars were affected. Instead of the chocolate treat behind each door, there would be Nazi propaganda and militaristic imagery.
Towards the end of World War 2, attempts to remove Christian influences were somewhat reduced as the Government concentrated on the war effort.
Exalted Night was the only Nazi Christmas tradition to survive the end of the Third Reich.