When I was researching the prequel to Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, I came across this photo of the Tsar’s children many times, but then I stumbled upon this wonderful website and found it colored in such a natural way it came to life. Colorization is a slow and demanding process (in doing the Civil War research I’m working on now, I’ve found colorizing was insanely popular) and it is done so well here. (Black and white version below.)
How Hitler Brought a Whole New Weird to Christmas.
One of the scenes from Lilac Girls that readers often ask me about is the one, which takes place at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where the camp staff, including the commandant, dress up as angels and shepherds and celebrate their own Nazi version of a Christmas party. “Is that based on fact?” they ask. Yes. In researching the book, it was fascinating to see how, during WWII, Hitler and Himmler actively suppressed all spiritual doctrines and created their own twisted religion.
Under Himmler’s watch, swastikas became part of Germany’s Christmas pageants, getting equal if not higher billing than the traditional crosses.
Hitler’s new religion was mandatory for members of the SS and many ardent Hitler supporters practiced the new religion and incorporated the swastika into their Christmas trees and holiday cards.
Nazi Christmas card
Nazi Christmas tree, above, ornaments below.
Soon Goebbels and Himmler were spreading their new, sanitized version of Christianity, one that removed God and Jesus from the narrative.
Magazines targeted at German women, like Frauen-Warte below, espoused Hitler’s religion, based on ancient runes, where the winter solstice was the focus, not God or Jesus. Suggesting the German people were supreme, editorials encouraged Germans to worship themselves, not God.
Once the war ended and Hitler was no longer in power, Christians in West Germany returned to their pre-war religious practices. But it’s disturbing to see how quickly one man could come so close to virtually erasing all traditional religions in Germany. This happened over seventy years ago, but this holiday season it’s a good reminder that we have to be vigilant to protect all of our precious rights.
A Fabulous New Discovery at The Bellamy-Ferriday House Polish Christmas
The Polish Christmas event at The Bellamy-Ferriday House in Bethlehem, CT. yesterday was so much fun. The incredible staff decorated Caroline Ferriday’s house so beautifully and to my surprise, this year’s theme was roses in honor of Lost Roses, the Lilac Girls prequel arriving this spring. Fresh roses were everywhere in the house, very welcome in a Connecticut winter, and I got to meet so many unbelievably wonderful Lilac Girls fans (even Caroline’s former hairdresser.) I loved meeting everyone, including a teacher with her brilliant students who showed me her copy of Lilac Girls, complete with a million Post-its and the Ott family, all the way from New Jersey, who created a multi-generational family book group to read Lilac Girls. I was delighted to find the house staff has opened a new exhibit on the tour, a rose room, where Caroline’s collection of rose books is displayed with great care. But the biggest surprise of the day came when tour guide Gary Cicognani told me he and site administrator Peg Shimer had opened a hidden drawer in one the desks at the house and discovered a photo of Caroline and her mother Eliza.
Isn’t it exquisite? Finding any new photos of Caroline or her family is so exciting for everyone at Connecticut Landmarks, but this one is especially moving, having just finished a book, which focuses on Caroline and her Mother’s strong bond and to top it all, Eliza is wearing roses in the photo. The house will close soon, the house and garden spending the winter months under a blanket of snow, but will open in the spring to welcome Lost Roses with a Random House launch event. Can’t wait for April!
Christmas Comes Early This Year at The Bellamy-Ferriday House
My friend Lee Reese recently gave me a 1996 copy of Colonial Homes with a wonderful article about Caroline Ferriday’s home, complete with fantastic photos of the home’s interiors. As we get ready to celebrate a fun event, A Polish Christmas at The Bellamy-Ferriday House December 1st, I thought it would be nice to share some of the pictures from the article. Those of you who’ve visited the house in spring know how lovely it looks, but it takes on a magical, festive feeling when dressed for the holidays. Enjoy the photos (I especially love the shots of Caroline’s purple transfer ware and of the roses on Caroline’s rose books, a precursor of Lost Roses) and hope to see you there for a Polish Christmas. You can find tickets here:
I loved the process of writing an essay about Lilac Girls for AARP The Magazine, digging into the past and reliving how the book came about. You will find the essay in the current (October-November) edition, winging its way toward mailboxes soon. And you can read it now on Nook or on your IPad. Hope you enjoy it!