Christmas should be a time of silence, contemplation and peace.

And contemplation.

The 1941 holidays had none of it.

Bad news rained down on the Germans from all sides: the Eastern Front wavered under the Soviet counter-offensive in front of Moscow, while German attacks on the Crimea and Leningrad got stuck.

In Africa, Rommel's Africa Corps had to break away from the advancing British troops in an express march.

And despite the bad weather, Royal Air Force bombers attacked port cities on the North Sea coast.

“The current situation is undoubtedly a crisis”, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels dictated to his secretary on December 21, 1941 and continued: “But Clausewitz already says that a battle without a crisis is not a battle, but only a skirmish.

Only in the crisis does it have to be proven whether the troop leadership is up to the situation. "

Joseph Goebbels greeted a war disabled man at the end of 1941

Source: picture alliance / akg-images

The effects of the German declaration of war on the USA on the mood in Germany were astonishingly small - at least according to the SD.

The domestic intelligence service of the Reich Security Main Office reported in its last "Reports from the Reich" before Christmas: "Despite the arrival of a new enemy, one looks forward to the further development of the war with undiminished confidence and victory."


The SS officers cautiously added to public opinion in their compilations intended only for the leadership of the Third Reich: "However, the population is not yet able to imagine the nature of the warfare against the USA."

That was better that way.

Because at least the initial successes of the Japanese lifted the mood.

In the 18 days since Pearl Harbor, Tenno's forces had attacked numerous islands in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia;

in the British colony of Hong Kong as well as on the Malaysian peninsula and Borneo they were already on the verge of victory.

But the negative news could not be suppressed.

Since the beginning of the Soviet offensive on December 5, 1941, they came to Germany mainly by field post.

Goebbels was annoyed: "The mood at home is now gradually being infected by the letters from the front." Despite censorship.

Of course, expanding them would not have helped either.

It goes without saying that Wehrmacht soldiers on leave from the front and the wounded who returned to hospital also told of their negative experiences.

You couldn't control that.

A soldier decorates the accommodation for Christmas Eve

Source: picture-alliance / akg-images


At home it was known that the troops at the very front at the end of 1941 lacked almost everything they needed for a successful campaign: food, gasoline, weapons, ammunition and well-rested soldiers.

"The dull feeling that something had been missed" spread.

On December 22, 1941, the Wehrmacht High Command announced in its internal and relatively honest report on the military situation: "The troops are extremely tired." This finding was illustrated by an almost unbelievable message: A senior medical officer from the front reported in front of Moscow that “no anesthesia is used during operations because the soldiers have fallen into a death-like sleep from exhaustion”.

A day later Goebbels became a bit melancholy: "Everyone is inclined to take stock of their own decisions, especially at Christmas and the New Year, and is, of course, faced with the question: Where does it lead and where does it end?"

Santa Claus and Knecht Ruprecht visit a company of the Wehrmacht

Source: ullstein picture


So where was the Third Reich at the end of December 1941?

National Socialist Germany ruled a large part of mainland Europe from France until shortly before Moscow.

But it was foreseeable that the available forces were almost exhausted.

In any case, the well-prepared and well-stocked offensives of the Red Army off Moscow and the British in North Africa could hardly be countered by the exhausted Wehrmacht.

"When visiting Berlin, the discrepancy between the widespread propaganda in the newspapers, the film, the radio and on billboards - and the utter apathy of the people who are only consumed by the material difficulties of everyday life," said the Swedish diplomat Arvid Richert stuck at that time.

Adaptation of the novel "Everyone dies for himself"

In the middle of the war, the Berlin working-class couple Quangel wrote postcards calling for resistance to Hitler and displayed them in public places.

The Gestapo is on their heels.

Source: X rental

According to his observations, hardly anyone cared about the official propaganda in the imperial capital: “The main interest is the lack of goods and labor, the failures and other inconveniences and not international Jewry, Freemasonry or Bolshevism.

The population had absolutely no interest in any of this. "

Even the Christmas preparations had caused annoyance, because there were hardly any toys or other gifts to buy in the shops.

In addition, there was particularly annoying talk: "The rumor that has so far emerged sporadically, despite press releases to the contrary, that Christmas trees will allegedly not be sold this year or only to a very limited extent, has also contributed to the upset," reported the SD.

“This time Christmas is being celebrated very sparingly and cautiously by the German people”, Goebbels dictated on Christmas Eve: “Millions of people will ask themselves the anxious question of what the next year will bring us.

Such melancholy breakpoints are not good for resilience. "

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This article was first published in 2016.