Now available: ‘Christmas under Fire, 1944’
How was Christmas celebrated and experienced during 1944, the last year of World War II? This question is answered in the newly published book Christmas under Fire, 1944, written by the Dutch WW2 expert Kevin Prenger.
Bastogne in Belgium, Christmas 1944. Plagued by biting cold and the nerve breaking sound of striking mortar bombs, American soldiers sang Christmas carols. They ate their meagre rations, yearning for well-laid Christmas dinner tables and fried turkey. On the Eastern front, German military assembled to listen to Christmas music on the radio, if they had a little respite from the bloody battle against the advancing Red Army. After having read the latest mail from Germany, they wiped away a tear or two, thinking of their families back home.
In liberated Paris as well as in other European cities, Christmas was celebrated, how limited the circumstances may have been sometimes. In the major cities in the western part of the Netherlands, occupied by the Germans, civilians scraped the very last bits of food together for a Christmas dinner that could not appease their hunger. POWs dispersed all over the world looked forward to Christmas parcels from home. Even in Nazi concentration camps, inmates found hope in Christmas, although their suffering continued inexorably.
“Christmas under fire” tells about the circumstances in which Christmas was celebrated in the last full year of World War II by military, civilians and camp inmates alike. In the midst of the violence of war, Christmas remained a hopeful beacon of western civilization.