early autumn 1944
With a final jerk, the train stops at the station. "There are not many stations after Greifswald," thinks Karl, who is sitting alone in his compartment. Suddenly the sliding door opens. A young girl enters. "Hello," pulls a suitcase into the compartment and tries to put it in the luggage rack. Karl watches her efforts with fascination – a blond, curly-haired being in a long gray coat. Suddenly she turns around. "When you've had your fill, can you help me?" Karl's blood rushes to his head. "Excuse me, I, I..." He jumps up. "It works," she says mockingly and holds out her hand to Karl. "I'm Vreni and I have to go to Greifswald as a nurse." - "I'm Karl, we have the same goal. I have to go to the airport for training.” Embarrassed, he looks out the window.
"Departure to Greifswald postponed to an unknown time!" calls a voice. "Well, that can be fun," says Vreni. And they're deep in conversation.
The hours pass like this. Suddenly the door is thrown open: “Vreni! Come quick, we have a mission not far from here.” She jumps up. "Stop, your address!" But by then she's gone.
December 24, 1944
Karl is sitting on the train towards Fürstenfeldbruck near Munich. The train stops at the place where he met Vreni three months earlier. How stupid not to have asked her for her address in time!
A train pulls in on the siding. There are moments that nobody will believe later. Karl sees a girl with blond curly hair getting up on the side train. Vreni! He grabs his suitcase and jumps over the tracks like a madman. When she finally turns around, she takes him in her arms. "I wrote to you," she says. “But the letter to the Greifswald air base came back unopened.” – “I was at flight school,” says Karl.
Suddenly, a loudspeaker announces that there are no more trains due to an air raid warning. The waiting room is closed due to overcrowding. "Today is Christmas and I can't celebrate with my people." Vreni's voice is melancholy. Karl takes her hand. "Come on, let's look for an inn." But everything is overcrowded.
Suddenly they are in front of a church. An elderly woman is closing the door. "Please wait," the two call. The pastor's wife offers them to spend the night in a small annex where church props are stored. She brings them blankets and food. You should make the best of the situation, it's Christmas Eve after all.
Vreni briefly closes her eyes. She wakes up when someone pinches her nose. "Hello sleepyhead, I wish you a Merry Christmas!" Karl lights candles. He prepared the snack on the ground. He then leads Vreni to a wall where he lights more candles. A beautiful drawing flickers through the candlelight. It is a Christmas tree drawn with charcoal pencils. Karl even made red candles with wax.
"Karl, you are my Christmas magician!"
"It's time for our feast," he says. It seems they've never tasted better on Christmas Eve. They sit contentedly on the floor, each with a blanket around their shoulders. They talk, laugh, are sad. And at some point they both sit together under one blanket.
The next morning at the train station, there is a quick goodbye, a short hug, two quick tears, and Vreni is gone. Karl drives south.
The two write to each other regularly. When Vreni's letters fail to come, he hears of an air raid on hospital buses where Vreni was stationed. Shortly thereafter, he is badly wounded in a plane crash, captured and sent to a Russian penal camp.
December 24, 1953
In the morning, an emaciated, poorly dressed man sits in front of the church where he once found shelter. The pastor asks where he is from. "Straight from Russian captivity," says Karl. He tells him that during the war he was allowed to stay in the church extension and drew something on the wall. "If this drawing still exists, please let me take a look!"
"I ask you for a little patience. For many years someone has been coming on Christmas Eve who also wants to look at this painting.” The pastor lets Karl go into the church, where he sits a little apart on a bench.
After a while the door opens and two people come in - a blond woman holding a boy by the hand. It's Vreni and she has a child! His joy turns to insecurity. She's already taken!
"Stop!" the priest suddenly thundered in Karl's direction. "This one wants to slip away!" Vreni turns to the man she couldn't forget. They grab hands. "I've thought of you so often. Even in the darkest hours of my imprisonment, you were my comforting angel,” says Karl. "I always hoped so much that you survived the war. You have a family?”
"I'm not married," she says. "I missed you every day." The boy? "This is Karli, and he's almost nine years old." Karl leans towards him and recognizes himself in him. "Yes, he's your son." Then she takes the boy and pulls him between her and Karl.
Together they go to the picture on the wall and pray. Vreni sings a song.
Six months later, the pastor marries the couple.
From now on, the small family will drive to the church every Christmas morning to see their painting and profess their great love there.
Ortwin Neuner from Taufkirchen told the love story of his grandparents
For years we have had an angel with a pearl necklace at our front door during the Christmas season. When we didn't put it in front of the door in 2017, a note was promptly stuck to the mailbox with a nice request. What we didn't know: An unknown newspaper delivery lady was always very happy to see the Christmas angel. Of course we put it back in its original place the next day. The joy was great. On both sides. This resulted in an anonymous exchange of Christmas messages, which we look forward to every year.
This year we will end anonymity. My wife and I are around 80. I was in intensive care for three weeks in February and was very lucky that God sent me back to earth once more. Probably to have another cup of coffee with our nice newspaper delivery lady and exchange ideas. It would be a shame if we hadn't gotten to know each other personally.
Ulrich Engelmann-Bange, Soest
Christmas Eve 1965. I was eight years old, my brother five years older. We lived in Gifhorn near Braunschweig.
It had been snowing heavily for days. And fresh snow kept falling. My mother had to work on Christmas Eve. She was one of the friendly voices from the Braunschweig main post office.
She started work at ten o'clock in the morning. So my father and we children could decorate the Christmas tree in peace. When it was dark, my father went to pick up our mother. He took us kids with him. As a surprise. We arrived in Braunschweig quite punctually. "You stay here!" said my father after he had parked the car and left. "It does not take long. Don't get off, do you understand?"
That was, as my father never tired of assuring me later, “just before six”. It was still snowing heavily outside and soon we couldn't see well through the fogged windows. Around half past six we started to feel queasy. Had anything happened?
As we found out later, our parents had met on time and now wanted to get back to the car. But my father couldn't find our VW Beetle again. All cars somehow looked the same, namely snowed over. They were looking for us, running back and forth. Her desperation grew by the minute.
In their distress, they turned to the police. Together with an officer, they rattled off the parking lot. Freed many a license plate and various side windows from ice and snow. Without a result! Discouraged, they went back to the police station.
We were getting cold in the car. My brother said we would have to take action ourselves and go to the police, especially since we could see a police station from the car. And so we got out. Our parents, who had just returned to the police station, saw us standing there across the street and called over to us. The rest was pure happiness and joy.
On the way back, of course, there was only one topic. At home we told our worried grandparents everything again. We were just happy to have each other again, had a quick bite to eat, and then there were the presents. I still remember what I got: a stuffed dog and a stuffed cat. I was happy and content, playing under the Christmas tree with my two new friends for a while longer, while the rest of my weary family really had plenty to talk about that Christmas.
Heidrun Gerlach, Aschaffenburg
The neighbors thought I was a badly brought up lout. My mother didn't do enough, or to be more precise nothing, to prevent me, as a twelve-year-old German boy, from spitting in competition with the Romanian street children in Hermannstadt (Sibiu) and not avoiding many a fight, back in the 1960s in Transylvania in Romania.
The grandparents thought I was spoiled, but showed understanding and said sympathetically to my mother: "Well, you only have one", when my mother once again patiently pushed one ham after the other - she called them "soldiers". . My younger brother Dieter died at the age of twelve months from a mysterious brain disease.
While eating, I was constantly engrossed in some book. I had put together a picture of the Land of Cockaigne in my head from such books. No, it wasn't the semolina pudding you had to eat your way through that impressed me. Rather, I had a roast chicken in mind, a crispy brown, glistening fat, headless chicken with a knife and a fork stuck in the top left and right. On a silver platter.
Christmas was coming. I vividly described to my parents what a chicken should look like, smell and taste like. They were surprised because I had certainly never eaten roast chicken in my life and now I suddenly wanted it for Christmas.
The day before Christmas, my mother bought a live hen from a “gypsy” (as the Sinti and Roma were called back then). The poor fowl was to spend its last night in the shed. By the next morning it had inexplicably died - and was no longer fit for consumption.
Only the more or less tolerated private market down by the river could help! My mother rushed down to the lower town to find a replacement. A living, fresh hen, as young as possible, was needed. On the morning of Christmas Eve, however, it came at a price. So be it. At home, in the yard, the neighbor cut the animal's throat. My mother pulled it out, took out the innards and put it in the oven.
The candles on the tree in the front of the room were burning. The grandparents shifted around in the chairs. My father put on the accordion. I practiced my poem in my mind.
The young woman in a black skirt and bright green silk blouse made her appearance. She presented the chicken on a silver platter. It was exactly as it should be, knife and fork were in it, and it smelled freshly roasted, that second chicken, the Christmas present for her only child.
Jürgen Schuster, Kolbermoor
On December 15, 1977, I drove in a coach from the courtyard of the Stasi detention center in Karl-Marx-Stadt to the West German emergency reception center in Giessen. I had been a political prisoner in the GDR for more than three years, and now the Federal Republic of Germany had bought my freedom. When driving through the Christmassy decorated and illuminated inner city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, I got a shock: Where I came from was the misery, the forced labor, the accommodation with 23 criminals in a communal cell. And now I was driving through a glittering fairytale world. I only felt better on the freeway. I looked at the wintry landscape passing by. The sight calmed me.
My wife had already been ransomed in August and was waiting for me in the West. In the fall of 1974, my wife and I were arrested in our apartment in East Berlin and disappeared behind bars for years, sentenced to four and five and a half years in prison, separately in the Hoheneck and Brandenburg-Görden prisons. Our sons, aged one and a half and two and a half, were initially taken to a state children's home and after a few weeks were allowed to join my sister's family.
Our "crime": We had failed to report a friend's escape plans. The escape failed, and during the interrogations the state security found out that we had been in contact with him and his escape helper. The long prison sentences were mainly due to the fact that the arrested friend had met his West German girlfriend and later helper in our apartment several times before attempting to escape.
In the opinion of the court, we had temporarily integrated ourselves into a human trafficking organization. We would have made our apartment available to a courier from this organization. We were also convicted of preparing the illegal border crossing. So we allegedly instructed the escape helper to smuggle our family out of the GDR and only refrained from the plan because of the friend's arrest.
It was only after the reunification that we found out from our Stasi files that there was another reason for our arrest: an example was to be made in the East Berlin Radio Choir, in which I was employed as a tenor. Choir members had fled to the West on trips abroad. When a concert tour to Japan was planned for the end of 1974, the secret service decided to take deterrent measures to prevent further escapes.
After her arrival in the west near Frankfurt am Main, my wife was able to get hold of a three-room apartment. She was given a double bed, and she had bought furniture for the children's and dining room on payment. She even got a small Christmas tree in the desperate hope that her family would be reunited by Christmas.
We both celebrated Christmas Eve at my in-laws' house, who lived in the same high-rise building and had retired to the West. There was no Christmas spirit because my wife and I were so upset. Nevertheless, my father-in-law started singing a few Christmas carols. Tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn't hold her anymore when she said, "Your little children, come." Later, when we were back in our sparse rooms, we lit the candles on the tree and thought of our sons. We were deeply saddened not to be able to have her with us. But we were free and full of hope that things could only get better from now on.
And indeed, a belated Christmas miracle happened: On January 11, 1978, we got the children back. My father, who lived in Dresden as a pensioner and was therefore allowed to travel to the Federal Republic, brought them by train. They were estranged from us and becoming a family again was not easy. While the big one still had memories of us, the little one wanted to go to Dresden to go to mum, my sister. Who could blame him? Once again the child had been separated from familiar people. With a lot of patience and infinite love, we managed to be the beloved parents for both of them again.
Irene Köß von Norderney wrote down the story of the singer Friedemann Körner. She is a member of the association "Against Forgetting - For Democracy e.V.", which works to ensure that the memory of National Socialist crimes and the injustice of the SED dictatorship is never lost
On an Antarctic cruise in 1995. The small expedition ship "Bremen" is in the southern Atlantic off South Georgia on Christmas Eve. After the festive dinner and a Christmas entertainment program, a landing at the former whaling station in Grytviken and a visit to the small Norwegian stave church are planned. Dressed warmly, the passengers and crew board the boats at almost midnight. We glide towards Grytviken over the endless, silver-grey, still water and under the immeasurable expanse of the southern starry sky. We all feel this special atmosphere very intensely, the conversations gradually fall silent.
On land we follow the torch-lit path to the church. Suddenly the church bell rings and the church door opens. The small nave is lit by candles and decorated with coniferous greenery. Nobody is prepared for the atmospheric ambience. A small program is quickly improvised: the captain talks about Christmas on board from the pulpit, the singer sings the Ave Maria a cappella, the Polish pianist plays Christmas carols to sing along on the old, slightly out of tune harmonium, the Filipino crew sings along on the small Empore their native songs ready. And finally, the prayer of an Israeli boy - with a request for peace - is read from the pulpit.
Deeply moved and with tears in our eyes we leave the church. At the exit, we are kissed goodbye by British soldiers who were stationed here far away from any civilization after the Falklands War.
In its simplicity and modesty, this “Holy Night” moved our hearts more than any other celebration, and we gratefully felt the closeness to our neighbors. The little Israeli boy's prayer for a peaceful coexistence in the world has an everlasting validity - right now! May it become a reality to live in harmony with other people and to share peace with all people with goodwill and respect.
Elke Raasch, Norderstedt