And a Happy New Year from ARPLAN
This year’s Christmas article is a little longer than usual. Normally for Christmas I will post some seasonal verse, or a few holiday-related extracts from various National Socialist sources – in other words, something light and easily-read, in keeping with the relaxed demeanor people like to adopt this time of year (myself included). This year, however, I felt it better to post a full-length article for the holiday (although still not a particularly long one), a means of trying to make up for the slight sparseness in content which has occurred recently as a consequence of my heavy focus on the Rudolf Jung translation. I did not translate the following article myself, but rather transcribed it Rabinbach’s and Gilman’s Third Reich Sourcebook, a mammoth collection of writings related to National Socialism, in particular to its 1933-45 period. The article is a 1937 piece by NSDAP functionary Hannes Kremer, and originally appeared in the journal Die neue Gemeinschaft (“The New Community”), a Party publication specifically directed towards the ideological examination of Germany’s cultural events, holiday celebrations, and leisure activities. Kremer’s article discusses the best way for the NSDAP to approach the politicization of “inherited” holiday traditions like Christmas; he also offers a critique of some of the ham-fisted means other National Socialists have employed in trying to ‘Nazify’ German holidays, such as shoehorning Nordic ritual or overt NS propaganda tropes into traditional Christmas ceremonies. Particularly interesting is that Kremer never once mentions Christ directly in his writing, and even seems to exhibit an opposition to those “religious fanatics” who would prefer keeping Christmas’s focus on Christian ideals rather than politics. For many of those in the Party, what mattered most about Christmas was not Christ or His message, but the ‘Germanness’ of the national traditions which had grown up around the holiday, and how shared participation in them could foster a sense of togetherness, acceptance, and belonging across the dividing lines of class, estate, and denomination.
New Meanings for “Inherited” Customs?
By Hannes Kremer
First published in Die neue Gemeinschaft, vol. 3, 1937.
In our efforts to deepen National Socialist forms of behavior in the area of rituals and ceremonies, we have two main tasks. On the one hand, we must create new customs to accommodate new ideas, and on the other hand, it is necessary to adjust those customs that have grown out of the people to the “new community of the Germans,” which means giving these inherited customs a new content consistent with the people’s community [Volksgemeinschaft].
That is clear when we look at the annual calendar. First, there are the political holidays that regularly remind the people of the political achievements of the National Socialist movement during its battle for the Third Reich, along with its great idealistic motives. (30 January, 1 May, 9 November. Themes: battle, work, sacrifice).
Here it is a question of creating new customs to suit the new political worldview governing the daily organization of our Volk today, customs that will also enable later generations to be reminded of those forces of instinct, emotion, and spirit that have been recognised as so critical in our struggle for existence and for the security of the people’s community (to cite just a few of those forces: courage, bravery, affirmation of life, awareness of duty).
These new customs develop directly from the ideas, experiences, and traditions of the Party itself. One must accept the risk that in the course of their development wrong choices will occasionally be made. This is true with anything that is new. The advantage is that a strong new spirit can develop its forms of expression, heedless of convention. But there are also those holidays that have a long history with the people, and which still may have public value, but no longer have the significance in the popular mind they once did (solstices, Christmas, etc.).
The significance of holidays and rituals – from the political standpoint – lies in the spiritual or emotional deepening of the experience of community. Thus, these historically inherited occasions for holidays and rituals, along with their living expressions, may in no way be thought less important in their educational and political effects than those newly-developed in our day. If we are to attempt to make inherited customs politically useful, we must be clear that this is possible only if we give them a fundamentally new content. Even if religious fanatics object, this is justified because it deepens the sense of belonging to the people’s community. Obviously, the goal here is not to serve denominational interests, but, on the contrary, it is designed to transcend the denominational fragmentation with overarching ideas to act as bridges between denominations.
It is thus necessary to give inherited customs a meaning that reaches each member of the community in the same way (that is, a political meaning that reaches the people as a whole).
“Christmas” is an example, as we will see.
When we conduct such a holiday or ceremony, we want – as in everything else – to mobilize the spiritual or emotional forces of the community for National Socialism. Nothing makes more sense than to present this inherited holiday about theoretical peace for all humanity – one whose celebration requires no national or social exigency – as a holiday about an actual internal national peace, which is in fact without question a critical demand of the National Socialist people’s community, to each individual German. If we make visible the blessings of this actual peace, along with its foundations and requirements, then “Christmas” doubtless can also become a high point in the course of the political year. Both according to popular custom and popular view, the Christmas holiday can justifiably be seen as the festival of the homeland.
From this perspective, it can be easily integrated into the arena of politics and worldview.
But if we do this, we must understand that the Christmas holiday or Christmas festival is more than a date on the calendar that lends itself to cheap entertainment. We cannot meet out goals in the style of pre-war clubs with their “variety evenings,” raffles, or the ever-so-popular military farce. Not even if “Bananini the Magician” or “Bear Mouth the Sword Swallower” make a guest appearance.
In light of this, the question becomes what to do in place of such things. One may object that there are rarely the means available for an “expensive celebration” and that, ultimately, there really is no readily available political content. This is the classic point at which someone, usually someone who is ignorant of pre-history, hastily comes up with some (ostensibly “authentic ancient Germanic”) custom that no one understands or is moved by.
While it is certainly necessary to educate the public in matters concerning pre-history, it is nevertheless inappropriate to turn our ceremonies into versified dissertations (particularly if they are done by dilettantes!). The ceremony should appeal not to the knowledge of the few, but to the spirit, and the life sentiment of the many. They should seek not to reconstruct the presumed needs of our ancestors of two thousand years ago, but rather to speak to the needs that are very much alive in our spiritual consciousness today. We cannot set our sights on merely imitating our ancestors in our festivities. Instead, we must strive to develop effective and understandable methods that will awaken the innately Germanic forces within each German person of our century to the National Socialist idea, and this in ever new and strengthening ways. But this cannot succeed if in a ceremony we appeal to knowledge of historical customs that may or may not be common knowledge; it can only succeed if we have the courage to express today’s spiritual condition in the language of our time. Who, pray tell, would possibly be moved by dull verses about the customs of our ancestors, to whom we lack any living connection, much less any concrete knowledge of their history? This may be a regrettable state of affairs. But that does not alter the facts that we must confront in our political work.
A Christmas ceremony based on events and views that are no longer comprehensible from today’s perspective does more harm than good. This only serves to arouse distrust of our goals, not confidence in our ability to lead the people spiritually (which is more than necessary!). In some places, arrangements have been made for people to participate in such museum-like tours through archaic history in events dubbed “festival of light” in which, of course, representatives of every economic and professional grouping in society carry a little candle in honor of the “people’s community.” And of course, the “blue-collar” worker parades hand-in-hand with the “white-collar” worker across the platform. The blue-collar worker is clad in brand spanking new overalls and holds a hammer in his hand; and the white-collar worker? The best he could do to represent his position would be to don a business suit with leather elbow patches and – depending on his profession – perhaps a briefcase, drawing instruments, or a book. On the one hand, it is entirely superfluous to present, even in this context, people according to their respective “class” if we hope to appeal directly and in a unified way to the German as German (in the name of the eternal nation); on the other hand, we may not make the movement, the community, and their symbols into “living images.” Because when we conduct a ceremony or a solemn holiday, this involves a serious and genuine affirmation that should find its base in the real and the true, not in sentimental illusions. We do not want simply to stir emotions at the surface level (a movie with a “happy ending” usually can do that much better!), but rather to make people aware of their responsibility for the nation’s fate. We must stress that theatrics is not the same as ceremony and that ceremony is not mere performance if we hope to avoid reducing “ceremony” to just another name for the entertainment industry, but rather to view it as a serious task affecting the worldview and political life forms of the community. One known disadvantage we face is that, in many places, we do not have the “ceremonial facilities” at our disposal, and, especially when it comes to indoor festivities, this places us at a decided disadvantage from the start. However, with the necessary degree of determination, we can use simple means to overcome such obstacles to the extent that they are at least tolerable. The important point is this: that we avoid the theatrical spirit and theatrical props and stay with political reality – even when we celebrate. A Christmas “festival of lights” can be an affirmation if it is done properly (and whether this is what it should be called is open for debate; we, however, think that such a literary travesty hardly merits the name “Christmas celebration”). Simply by virtue of the fact that we take advantage of the opportune moment to make visible in a festive way those things taken for granted during the rest of the year, but which are the foundations of our national life and thinking, we elevate them to the level of symbols.
Seen in the context of fundamentally sound basic premises, there is no reason that we should neglect to lend new meaning to inherited customs, especially when, as for example in the popular custom of the Christmas tree, these customs themselves present a wealth of opportunities to have a political impact. And this is precisely why we must concern ourselves with these matters – because they do “have an impact.” And if they do not have an impact that is in line with our will and sensibilities, their impact can all too easily work without and against us!
We have no reason to forget that not long ago, the reigning Pope described German Christmas customs as “pagan,” and that the German bishops worked hard to change this opinion at the time. Frankly, they apparently saw in these “pagan customs” most valuable psychological props. Since, however, the highest office of the church called them a “nonessential element” of Catholic ritual, one cannot hold it against us if we rely on this judgement and keep these customs alive for the day when they fully and finally are eliminated from the church’s religious rituals.