Christmas 1941 in Ukraine
Müller, Dr. Florian. "Christmas 1941 in Ukraine." April 1991.
Translation from German to English by Alma Herman
Hardly had the German troops been marched into the Soviet Union when
the Vatican sent Catholic priests to the Ukraine to tend to the souls
of the Catholics. The Holy Chair knew that many Catholic colonies
existed whose priests were arrested by the Communist regime and carried
off to Siberia.
By instruction of the Holy Chair, Prelate Dr. Markus Glaser and
Father Nicholas Pieger came to Odessa in the fall on behalf of the
Catholics in Ukraine. Prelate Dr. Glaser belonged to the Diözese
of Teraspol. He was named Apostolic Visitor to South Ukraine and
in 1943 was ordained as a Bishop in Odessa. His General Vicar was
P. Pieger. Chancellor to the Bishop was Walther Kampe (later ordained
as Bishop in the diocese of Limburg).
In the year 1921, 150 Catholic priests belonged to the Tiraspol
Diözese. Of these, only two were retained because of illness
while all other spiritual leaders were arrested and deported to
Siberia or to the Polar Sea where they all perished in prison camps.
In praise of the clergy, I would like to point out that not a single
spiritual leader gave up his priesthood; they all died for their
belief and loyalty to the church.
On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1941 I arrived in Strasburg on foot
at noon from the last train station. I entered the church. In the
choir room stood a table with a picture on it of Adolf Hitler beside
a Christmas tree. Men and women were busy decorating the table.
I asked what they were doing. Their answer was that they were preparing
for the German Christmas the SS would celebrate that evening.
I introduced myself as a Catholic priest. The old Uncle Anton fell
to his knees and wept, saying, “Sir Pastor, we have longingly
Father Pieger had promised them that he would send a priest for
Christmas. Then I advised them: “Good! Celebrate your German
Christmas with the SS at 7:00 o’ clock. At 10:00 o’
clock we will celebrate our religious Christmas Eve with the Christmas
Mass.” Then Uncle Anton led me to the home of a family near
the church where I could stay.
At 9:00 o’ clock as I came to the church the streets were
filled with horses and wagons and many sleighs. The church yard
was crowded with people. Inside the church, I could hardly press
my way to the alter.
Then the Christmas Mass began. A melodious choir sang, ZU BETHLEHEM
GEBOREN (Born in Bethlehem). There was singing and weeping for joy
when for after so many years we could celebrate a Christmas Mass
with our beautiful German Christmas songs. With the old familiar
“Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) we concluded the service.
But the people lingered; they did not want to go home until I promised
to come again.
With a pony wagon, I was brought to Baden. There again was the
same scene; the church overfilled with Believers who sang their
heart-warming Christmas songs. They had sent out messengers on horseback
to proclaim the good news that a Christmas Mass would be said. For
three weeks I was driven from one parish to another by sleigh: Straszburg
to Baden, then to Mannheim, Elsasz, and all the way to Jeremejewka.
I held Holy Mass, baptized the children and blessed the married
couples – over 3000 children and 1600 marriages. The oldest
person baptized was 28. I was received with such enthusiasm everywhere
that in my priestly eagerness I felt neither the Russian cold of
that terrible winter nor the weariness of my body.
Pastor Pieger writes about the first days of that “Pastoration”
in the freed Ukraine: “Like a new Pentecostal wind, he overwhelms
our Believers. In all free parishes, the churches were renewed,
worship services were scheduled and there were calls for priests
Our appreciation is extended to Alma Herman for translation of this article.