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Darkest Christmas (Hardback)

December 1942 and a world at war

Military > By Century > 20th Century WWII

By Peter Harmsen
Imprint: Casemate Publishers
Pages: 240
Illustrations: B/w and colour
ISBN: 9781636241890
Published: 15th October 2022



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December 1942 saw the bloodiest Christmas in the history of mankind. From the islands in the Pacific to the China front, from the trenches in Russia to the battle lines in North Africa, in the skies over Europe and in the depths of the Atlantic, men were killing each other in greater numbers than ever before. The Holocaust continued, and innocent civilians were murdered by the thousands throughout the evil Nazi empire, even as the perpetrators celebrated the birth of Christ.


Millions stationed in far-off lands amid the greatest conflict in human history feared this was their last Christmas in freedom, or their last Christmas alive. At the same time as the slaughter continued unabated, throughout the world there were random acts of kindness, born out of an instinctive feeling of the essential brotherhood of man. These gestures also straddled religious barriers and sometimes included those of non-Christian faiths. Even some Japanese, otherwise embarked on a self-declared crusade against the West, relented for a few precious hours in acknowledgment of the holiday.


At the same time, Christmas 1942 saw the injunction of ‘good will to man’ distorted in ugly and callous ways. At Auschwitz, SS guards played cruel games with their prisoners. In Berlin, the German heart of darkness, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels spent time with his family while still buried in feverish fantasies about the Jewish world conspiracy.


Christmas 1942 saw the entire range of man’s conduct towards his fellow man, reflecting the extremes of behaviour, good and bad, that World War II gave rise to. The way the holiday was marked around the world tells a deeper and more universal story of the human condition in extraordinary times.

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About Peter Harmsen

Peter Harmsen, has been a foreign correspondent in East Asia for two decades. His reports have appeared in the Financial Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He has also worked for Bloomberg, the Economist Intelligence Unit and French news agency AFP. His previous book, Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, has been translated into Romanian and Chinese.

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