Christmas 1944: Stille Nacht
Seventy years ago this holiday season, some American servicemen were celebrating in POW camps across the world. They did not know it, but it was the last holiday season that they would spend in captivity.
Clair Cline, B-24 pilot from Minnesota, spent Christmas 1944 in Stalag Luft I. Cline had been shot down in February 1944. As a way to pass time and keep busy, Cline carved wood, beginning with B-24 models. In the fall of 1944, Cline took on a different project, a violin. Cline finished the project just before Christmas 1944. He later recalled the holiday (excerpted from Guideposts Magazine):
My most memorable moment was Christmas Eve. As my buddies brooded about home and families, I began playing “Silent Night.” AS the notes drifted through the barracks a voice chimed in, then others. Amid the harmony I heard a different language. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schläft, Einsam wacht…” An eldery white-haired guard stood in the shadows , his eyes wet with tears.
For more on the holidays while in captivity in Europe, see the Focus On: Kriegie Christmas.