Christmas in Post-War Germany
|US occupation forces inside Germany on Christmas, 1945|
We got a nice holiday card today from our local PeaceWorks activist Christine DeTroy. I was struck by the enclosed letter that I'd like to share below:
Return with me to the past - to December, 1945, the first post-war Christmas in Germany.
Picture yourself in a large room, part of the downstairs of a former spacious art gallery that had been converted into several apartments, one of which was my family's for a number of years. American officers had occupied the downstairs and upstairs of the large house -- part of the post-war occupation forces -- since May of 1945.
It is mid-morning, probably the third Sunday in the Advent Season, when a few girls and I - some of us were teenagers, others were younger - went to the officers' quarters to present them with a gift of singing Christmas carols. We wanted to bring a bit of cheer to them and music and singing was what we could offer.
I knew that the large front door of the gallery would be open. I also knew of the grand piano in the room, which could accompany our singing. I recall that we walked in very quietly and gathered around the piano. My friend Kathe accompanied our small singing group of perhaps five or six girls.
Can you hear us singing? I believe we started off timidly, but our volume grew as our spirit increased - we wanted to bring joy. Except for our singing there was no sound in the large house.
Although no one came downstairs to listen to us we continued singing for half an hour or so - we had learned a number of carols and wanted to sing all of them.
Suddenly we heard the sound of feet coming downstairs and one by one the group of soldiers stood by the door facing us. They were silent. They did not look happy. The looked sad. It was a shock to us. We ended singing and quietly exited, embarrassed by our intrusion into their lives.
We walked home singly, thinking about what had transpired.
I realized then that what we had considered a gift of cheer was most likely a reminder to the men of what they were missing being so far from home and their families. Perhaps they had been away from home for several years? Had they been in battle and seen and experienced the death of a comrade amid the killing and wounding of war? Perhaps they had witnessed the horror of the concentration camps as they entered Germany?
How could we have been so naive to think that our few carols would bring the joy of Christmas into their lives?
So many years have passed since that day in December of 1945 - so many wars, so much killing and maiming has continued across the whole world. I try to think of today's children in the warring countries. Perhaps some of them are gathering to sing carols or folks songs to cheer each other and strangers up?
I'm no longer naive - yet I live with hope and love for peace among all the children and their families throughout the world.
Please join me in working for such a peace - for the sake of the world's children - for all of us.
Christine A. DeTroy