A Visit on Christmas Eve 1943

Two days under attack on the 21
st and 22 nd of December 1943 near Nowgorodka in the Ukraine had so decimated our 7 th Parachute Regiment 2 that only about 35 to 40 men could celebrate Christmas. Supplies, including even branded goods for the the entire Company (170 men), had been ordered several days previously and had been duly delivered. So we were very well provided for.

About ten men from the 4th Unit had been billeted in a 'Kate'. We sat gloomily on our straw bedding and thought about the high number of casualties at Nowgorodka. Every one of us had lost good friends. Outside a cold snowstorm was blowing and near the warm stove in our hut in Nowo-Ukrainika it was quite comfortable.

Suddenly a door creaked and out of the next room came an elderly Russian woman with two little girls between five and seven years of age holding her hands. Wrapped up in thick clothes and head scarves they looked anxiously at us. Our make do Christmas tree decorated with cotton wool, foot powder, and fairy lights aroused the curiosity of the children. They placed little baskets on the side of the stove. In them was some bread and some maize cakes. Near them the grandmother placed a wooden dish on which she had put cucumbers and tomatoes as well as a jug of milk. With her toothless mouth she muttered some words which we did not understand but we knew what she meant.

As if by command a tent tray was put on the floor and from our well stocked gift table each one of us spread out on it sausages, butter, biscuits, chocolates, sugar, tins of meat and other things. We were so happy that we could give presents to somebody and by so doing to become children ourselves again.

We joked with Granny and the children until, all of a sudden, our Christmas carol, 'Silent Night' ('Stille Nacht') was heard. Max Lang was playing it on his mouth organ and we sang it with him, quietly at first then more loudly. But then we gradually sang less and less loudly because the emotion had brought a lump to every throat. And Granny cried too. What had she been thinking about? Where were the father and the mother of the children?

Four of our men brought our presents for Granny into the next room. She and the children would be well stocked up for several days. And we too had had a happy Christmas Eve which the Russian Granny and her grandchildren had given to us.

For a little while we had forgotten war and death and for a few hours had found peace. Every Christmas Eve I think of our guests in the Russian encampment for whom at the time we had been uninvited guests but by whom we had been treated as friends.

By Rudolf Müller in the book: ‘Unter den Sternen Weihnachtsgeschichten aus schwerer Zeit’ (‘Under the Stars ‑ Christmas Stories from a Hard Time’) published by Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (the German War Graves Foundation), Werner‑Hilpert‑Str. 2, D‑3412 Kassel, 2nd edition, 2007.

Deutsch / German / Almaeneg

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