Background: This is the translation of a Nazi Christmas story from a booklet published for the Advent season in 1943. Nazi propaganda intended to remove as much of the Christian content of Christmas as possible, turning it into a family festival with German racial overtones. This story parallels the biblical Christmas story in many ways, though there is no mention of Jesus Christ and no hint of Christianity. More material on the book from which this story comes is available on this page.
The source: Vorweihnachten. Ausgabe 1943 (Munich: Franz Eher, 1943).
A Christmas Story
by Thilo Scheller
A woodcutter who lived alone in his hut deep in the forest had eaten his last piece of bread and the fire in his hearth had gone out, so he was hungry and cold.
He was forced to go out even though it was dark and the paths were snow-covered. Dark clouds hung down to the tops of the fir trees.
At the same time, a solder was afoot in the forest. He was returning from the war. Bloody images of war were still before his eyes and the noise of battle rang in his ears. For years, he had slept outdoors on the naked earth.
And on the same evening, a king had gone out hunting. Driven by hunting fervor, he had followed a doe and lost sight of his companions. He became lost in the confusing mists of the forest. All his blowing of the hunting horn was in vain, for the mist swallowed every sound. As the forest grew thicker and thicker, he got off his horse and trudged through the snow, leading his horse with the reins, searching for a way back to his castle.
At a crossing, the three men met, the woodcutter, the soldier, and the king, and asked each other which way to go, but none could give an answer.
The woodcutter was silent, the soldier cursed fearfully, and the king was proud and superior. None trusted the others to know the way; they could only agree that this was the darkest night and the worst weather in the world. The woodcutter went ahead, and the other two followed in his steps.
Soon they stood before a small hut with bright windows, and they heard soft singing. The woodcutter forgot his hunger, the soldier thought no longer of noise and war, and the heart of the king grew soft.
Then the clouds parted, and the stars shone clear and bright as guardians of the small hut.
As they opened the door, a mother sat by the oven, holding a child on her lap. She looked at the three men and nodded to them. They entered quickly and closed the door so that the child would not become cold.
They stood respectfully before the mother, who with a lovely smile looked on her child, and then greeted the three strangers.
The king thought she should stand up and bow to him. Instead, she turned to the woodcutter who had come near the oven to warm his hands.
“Light the lantern over there, and also take a piece of bread from the cupboard. I have more than enough light and warmth, for where is it lighter and warmer than where a little child has been born?”
The woodcutter followed her instructions. The child reached its little hand toward the light of the lantern, Then the woman saw the soldier, who was standing uncertainly. “Brave soldier, I thank you that you have stood watch for me and my child and for all the children of our people so that no enemy came over the border. You and your comrades are the protectors of the homeland, and the mothers and children thank you, most of all those who gave their lives!” The soldier's eyes shone as he put his large hand on the child’s head, and all the nights he had endured, all days of hunger, all the bloody battles, seemed small in the bright light of the baby’s eyes.
Only now the woman saw the king, who had waited in displeasure to the side, because he thought he should have been the first. “We all must wait. In this little boy, my waiting found its fulfillment. You, too, my king, have had to wait for this child. Children are your kingdom’s greatest treasure. What good are all the lands and treasures of the world, all its forests and fields, if there were no children who would grow up to take up the plow, to bake bread, to swing axes in the forest, to cut timber for huts and houses and halls, to hammer swords on the anvil to use against your kingdom's enemies, if there were no children who would become the mothers whose wombs would give your kingdom a future!”
The three men gazed with respect on the baby, for the mother’s words had touched their hearts. The woodcutter gave the baby a sprig of fir, the solder whistled him a song, and the king took the golden chain from his neck and gave it to the mother, then bowed before the child.
Now the three men knew which way to go and they left cheerfully. The woodcutter led the way with the lantern and the soldier whistled one song after the other. The king, leading his horse with the reins once more, felt the bands that had held his heart break, the bands that had kept him from knowing the heart of his people.
As they had to go their separate ways, they gave each other their hands. No longer were they strangers, the woodcutter, the soldier, and the king.
And golden stars illuminated each treetop, for it was Christmas Eve.
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