And a Happy New Year from ARPLAN
For Christmas this year ARPLAN presents two brief articles from 1930s Germany, each exploring the celebration of Christmas from a Germanic, völkisch-socialist perspective. The first is a 1935 piece by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, an academic Indologist and religious expert and the leader of the ‘neopagan’ German Faith Movement (Deutsche Glaubenbewegung, DGB). The second is an earlier, 1930 essay by Alfons Hitzler, a former brewer and industrial worker and the NSDAP Kreisleiter for Plauen, Saxony. In each article the author describes certain ceremonial aspects of the German celebration of Christmas – the Christmas tree, the lighting of candles, the veneration of the ‘child of light’ – with quiet reverence, tying them back not so much to the Christian religious doctrine which they ostensibly represent, but rather to key facets of the Germanic racial tradition and the “German soul.” Despite their authorship, neither article is overtly anti-Christian in tone. Hauer’s DGB was a federation of various paganist and Nordicist organizations, ‘German-believing’ communities (deutschgläubige Gemeinden), and ‘freethinking’ Protestant groups, with their overarching concern being that certain key features of Christian theology and religious practice (most particularly that of the figure of Christ) be divested of their ‘Eastern-Semitic’ character and reincorporated instead into a new faith tradition more suitable to German blood, spirit, and soul; this aspect of the Faith Movement worldview is reflected in the conclusion of Hauer’s article, where the author promises the “deepening” of the celebration of Christmas rather than “the naked renunciation of Christian tradition.” Alfons Hitzler is a somewhat more obscure figure than Hauer, and although his article is more overt in its defense of mainstream Christianity (he specifically criticizes the “anti-Christian preaching” of Social-Democracy), Hitzler did have “Gottgläubige” inclinations – a term used in National Socialist and völkisch circles to describe those who rejected Germany’s established religious denominations without rejecting a general belief in God, Christ, or in some other form of ‘higher power’. Like Hauer, Hitzler also seems to advocate a Christmas celebration oriented around the German Volk rather than any higher concern for humanity’s salvation, a position which places him among the ranks of the more religiously radical segments of the NSDAP. I hope that readers enjoy these articles, and that you all enjoy a safe and happy Christmas season.
Christmas – Yulefest
By Jakob Wilhelm Hauer
Published 21 December, 1935 in
völkisch newspaper Reichswart,1 vol. 16, no.51
Christmas – Yulefest has a special place in the cycle of the year. Yule-solstice, that ancient Indo-Germanic celebration of the victory of light, of the birth of the young sun-god and the new year, requires a ceremony outdoors in the forest or on a quiet hill, where the deep winter night surrounds us or where the soul expands under the tree of light that is the starry sky. It makes sense to decorate with lights a fir tree, one perhaps covered deeply in snow, as a worldly-human response to the shimmering of the eternal stars. Currents of cosmic connectedness pervade our soul. And when we see the solstice fires flaring up over upon the neighboring heights, greeting ours throughout the night, we know that we are one with all of those celebrating among the Volk, and with those kindled hearts who have borne the light of the High Spirit and the love for Volk and German territory through the millennia of our Teutonic-German history. The German youth movement has discovered anew such a ‘Christmas’ [‘Weihnacht’] and has learned these celebrations out of a sense of deep emotion for such realities. These celebrations are among the most treasured memories of our lives. Today they should be the common property of all those who set out to search for something new. But such celebrations outdoors are only for the young, and for a few steadfast old ones.
Christmas is also a family celebration. It is impossible for us to imagine children who are not standing within the protective circle of the family under the dazzling tree of lights2 on Christmas Eve [am heiligen Abend] in order to there greet the ‘child of light’ in the radiance of their own joy. What doesn’t merge together at such a celebration: the children’s solemn joy at the tree of lights and their jubilation over the gifts; the older ones’ remembrances of childhood, which bring the rhythm of the generations to life for us so vividly; the mysterious turn of the year, when the snow is falling quietly outside or when storms are blustering, storms in which gods and spirits once swept out in order to bless the land with fruitful mystery; the knowledge that millions are celebrating with us within the sacred circle of the family? The inner value of this circle comes close to consecrating us. The soul thus imbues a goodness and a capaciousness which embraces others. In active love we give thanks for the benevolence which has blessed the world with great and kind people who came from the eternal depths and gave their Volk and their world a new light and a new life. All of this must be harmonized together in such a celebration of ‘Christmas’ – nobody should rob us of this good German word – as a ceremony of joy and goodwill towards all who need us. For a Christmas which is not also an opportunity for us to make others happy is like a Yulefest without snow.
The arrangement of this celebration must start at its center, with the child. Our children are also ‘children of light’, living symbols of the young god of sun and seasons who was the ‘Christ Child’ in the Christian millennium of our history. Child and mother are joyful tidings [Frohbotschaft] from the Eternal, the great signs of its benevolence. The tree, however, which we decorate with lights and perhaps festoon with red-cheeked apples from our garden, directs us towards the ever-expanding mystery of that life which is perpetually new to the world and to human goodness and human greatness. The German soul will not trivialize the celebration of Christmas through naked renunciation of Christian tradition, but will instead deepen it in its divine breadth and fullness. That is exactly why the symbolism for this celebration must be quite simple, as well as the words spoken, and the music. The source from which such a celebration springs is a childishly-moved soul.
By Alfons Hitzler
Published 23 December, 1930, in
Der Freiheitskampf,3 vol.1 no.122.
“The countenances of the hungry and the freezing are weakened and troubled, and those who wish to aid them are obliged not to deceive the despairing nor to comfort them with empty phrases, but to take up the fight against the present circumstances and to try to win over those who are suffering.”
So wrote the Volkszeitung für das Vogtland4 in its Christmas message of 24 December 1923, issue no.298, which finished up as a rallying-call and battle-cry for the proletariat. Thus it was in those days, when the majority of the German Volk were forced to make the distressing discovery that inflation had robbed them of all their accumulated labor power – their savings. Millions of German folk-comrades found themselves in abject poverty, and in desperation thousands put an end to their lives. Christmas, the celebration of love, was just around the corner. Memories rose up out of the days of childhood. People drew new courage to face life from the past. Inspired by an unshakeable faith in the future, millions began anew the struggle for life.
Full of hope, the world looked to the peace-heralding angel of Locarno, and Germany in particular to the Dawes Plan with its promises of bread.
“It is a matter of deciding the immediate future of the economy, the future of the German Volk.”
Social-Democracy saw in this plan the guarantor of life, and preached the safeguarding of peace. Heaven on Earth was promised to those in despair, and a better future to the hungry and the freezing.
In spite of the Young Plan, the masses today stand disappointed by the fact that the army of unemployed has increased twentyfold since then; that the achievements of Marxist and bourgeois statesmanship are bankruptcies and foreclosures, twenty-thousand suicides a year, hunger, hardship, poverty, misery, the brutality of the despairing, murder, and heartlessness. The wretchedness of the entire system is evident in the Brüning-Wirth government’s practiced brutality and in its ruthless exploitation of the productive Volk, and in the inflammatory, anti-Christian preaching of the Social-Democracy standing by its side. The latter has bewitched the masses with fine speeches, has disappointed the despairing, has magnified our poverty and misery, and has thus taken on a debt that must not go unpunished. Bitterness rises greatly on account of the wicked deeds which have exposed a Volk to annihilation and which have sparked a struggle of all against all.
Christmas is round the corner. The Christmas tree candles are not alight yet, and so it is difficult to banish the strain of the present from one’s heart. But now we all wish to shake hands in spirit and to gather round the Christmas tree, reflecting on the fact that this celebration of love is a truly German festival. Not all of Christendom celebrates as we do. The early Christians did not celebrate the birth of the Savior with any solemnity at all. The celebration of the date of Jesus’s birth is also not founded on Christian belief per se, for this day plays no role in ecclesiastical dogmatics. The figure of the Christ Child is an invention of the German mind, an expression of our tender inner life. The Christmas tree derives from an old Germanic custom of decorating the home with sprigs of fir at Yulefest. The candles on the Christmas tree can be attributed to an ancient mystical love of fire. The glow of the flame is, for us, a symbol of purity. The old Germanic Yulefest was able to merge so intimately with the figure of Christ because the German perceives Jesus less as the founder of a new religious doctrine than as the singular manifestation of perfect spiritual purity. Thus, for the true German, an idea which harbors pure eternal values is closer and greater to us than the materialistic revenge-tendencies of the present era.
The German celebration of love is Christmas. Not that love which the newspapers speak of today, not even pacifist love, but love which can also hate. We do not love humanity, but we love our German Volk and their nature with all of our heart. But we also hate those who contaminate our Volk and drive them to despair. We hate the enemies of our nature, but we love the humblest street-sweeper of our blood as a brother. All those who are disillusioned, hungry, and freezing are joining together in recognition of their common need, in order to shoulder their common lot in common love and to fight for a better future. Someday the day of light and German freedom will come. A German Christmas. When we sit by the Christmas tree, we will think of the words of the German poet Walter Flex, who fell in the Great War:
“I want you to be allowed to love,
For love is what is German and true –
With love we wish to crown
Each and every German servant.”
1. The Reichswart was a weekly newspaper owned and edited by longtime völkisch-socialist activist Ernst Graf zu Reventlow. Originally appearing in October 1920 and published fairly consistently until 1943, the Reichswart technically represented a political line independent of official National Socialist publications; Reventlow until 1927 had been a member of the German Völkisch Freedom Party, and after joining the NSDAP he was associated with the party’s left-wing and was regarded as not having the most amicable relationship with Hitler. Reventlow was a prominent member of the German Faith Movement after its establishment, and from its 31 December 1933 edition onwards the Reichswart advertised itself as the “Organ of the German Faith Movement,” including a supplement dedicated to the Movement’s news and ideology within its pages.