Christmas in Westerbork.

At first glance when you look at the picture it doesn’t appear to be extraordinary. There is an officer clearly given a speech. There are a few Christmas trees at the back so it appears to be some sort of Christmas do.

The officer is Albert Konrad Gemmeker he was a German SS-Obersturmführer and camp commandant of the Westerbork transit camp.

He was considered the friendly face of Nazi evil. Known as a decent commander, who insisted that he never knew what happened to the Jews in camps such as Auschwitz. Yet during his reign at the Dutch camp, around 80,000 Jewish people were deported to Auschwitz.

On December 19,1942 Gemmeker threw a Christmas party, or rather a Julfest(Yule feast).

The venue for his party was Westerbork. According to some survivors, a line of shiny new cars had pulled up to the camp, with a number of high ranking SS officers and their mistresses or prostitutes, either way not their wives. Officers like Aus der Funten and photogtapher Breslau, Untersturmführer Hassel(who was there with his wife.

The big hall in Westerbork was filled with SS staff, celebrating. What makes it even more disturbing is that their food was cooked and served by some of those 80,000,Gemmeker would later send to Auschwitz, to be murdered.

sources

https://www.rug.nl/news/2019/05/kampcommandant-gemmeker-jarenlang-bevreesd-voor-nieuwe-rechtszaak?lang=en

https://anderetijden.nl/aflevering/406/Kerstmis-in-Westerbork-

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Die Hard, Christmas movie? “Yippee-Ki-yay or “Yippee-Ki-nay?

Die Hard, Christmas movie? “Yippee-Ki-yay or “Yippee-Ki-nay?

Every year around Christmas time there is the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?”
Personally, for me, it is not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber fall of the Nakatomi building.

However, I appreciate that, that will not get everyone in a festive mood. So, let us look at what constitutes a Christmas movie?
According to sites like the Hollywood reporter and cheatsheet.com a Christmas movie must
• Be set around Christmas
• Have a Christmas setting, things like decorations, tree etc.
• Christmas music and carols
• Festivities
• A topless woman, oh no wait that is a different list, I should have checked that twice.
Die Hard fulfils all those criteria (including the topless woman).
To compare with a classic Christmas movie like White Christmas?
Die Hard takes place entirely in the Christmas holidays, while only the first and final scenes of White Christmas are set during the holiday season. The entirety of Die Hard is also at a Christmas party, while only the end of its 1950s counterpart is.
Therefore, the only conclusion can be that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. In fact, it is probably the most multi-cultural Christmas movie of all time. It is set in Los Angeles in a Japanese owned building, which is taken over by German, French, Chinese and Italian terrorists.

Christopher Lee-Heavy Metal star

We all know Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, or as the Sith lord Count Dooku. Some of you may even know him as the evil wizard Saruman from the Lord of the Rings. Others may know him as the dentist father of Willie Wonka.

Few will know of his real life heroic exploits during World War 2 ,where he was attached to the No. 260 Squadron RAF as an intelligence officer where he was a liaison officer for the Special Operations Executive.

Even fewer will know him as a Rock star, Heavy Metal star even, yet he was.

Lee became a fan of metal in the early Seventies when he first heard Black Sabbath, whose guitarist Tony Iommi reciprocated the respect the actor had for his band and the genre it spawned. In a 2013 promotional video for one of Lee’s own albums, he told Iommi, “You are the father of metal,” to which the guitarist replied, “But you’re the one that started it, really, because we used to go watch Dracula and the horror films you did and that’s what influenced us.”

He worked together with Heavy Metal acts like Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar.

In late 2010 it was announced that Manowar were to rerecord Battle Hymns for a November 26 release. The album, Battle Hymns MMXI, was drummer Donnie Hamzik’s first studio recording with Manowar since the original 1982 Battle Hymns release. Orson Welles having died 25 years before, the narration during “Dark Avenger” was recorded by Sir Christopher Lee.

But prior to the Manowar’s re-release of “Battle Hymns” Christopher Lee had already released his first album.

“Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross” is a symphonic metal concept album . It was released on 15 March 2010. This was Lee’s first full-length album. It tells the story of Charlemagne, the First Holy Roman Emperor. The album’s promotional MySpace page garnered over 20 million hits globally The album features 2 metal bands, and a number of guest vocalists playing the different roles in the story. Music was composed by Marco Sabiu. A music video for “The Bloody Verdict of Verden” was released in June 2012.

Christopher Lee was 90(yes that’s right 90) when the single was released. That must surely make him the oldest Rocker ever.

He had released two albums previously. His first one “Christopher Lee Sings Devils, Rogues & Other Villains” released in 1998 was not Heavy Metal albums.

His second album “Revelation” from 2006 was a cover album and did include some heavy metal tracks. like “The Toreador March”.

In 2012 and 2013 he released two Christmas albums .titled “A Heavy Metal Christmas” (2012), and “A Heavy Metal Christmas Too” (2013).

2013 must have been a busy musical year for Sir Christopher lee, because he also released the follow up to “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross” that year, titled “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death”

It was his fourth and final album and was released on 27 May 2013,his 91st birthday It is a sequel to his album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross (2010). The music was arranged by Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner, and features prominent Guatemalan guitar virtuoso and World Guitar Idol Champion Hedras Ramos on guitar, as well as his father, Hedras Ramos Sr, on bass.

This must make Sir Christopher Lee the coolest man on earth. He would have been 99 today. Alas he died on June 7, 2015, aged 93. But the man live a truly full life.

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The lesser known Christmas songs

Most radio station are flooding the airwaves with Christmas songs at this stage, and there is nothing wrong with that. I love Christmas and especially love the music that goes with it.

However I do find that the same songs get played every year, there are songs which get very little airplay but are just as good as any other.

Below are just a few of them.

Jim Croce-It doesn’t have to be that way.

Fay Lovski -Christmas was a friend of mine

Dan Fogelberg-Same old lang syne

All About Eve -December

Stevie Wonder-What Christmas Means to Me’

Johnny Cash-I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

And although it is a new song it has already become one of my all time favourites

Sandra-Mae Luc -Where is Christmas Now.

Probably the most talented boy band ever!

On December 4 ,1956 , Carl Perkins, who had had a big hit for the Memphis-based record label Sun that year with “Blue Suede Shoes,” had a recording session booked at Sun’s studio. Jerry Lee Lewis, not yet a star in his own right,had been hired to play piano. Elvis Presley — Sun’s breakthrough artist, who had already moved to the larger RCA Victor label, earlier that year — stopped by. So, by chance, did Johnny Cash,

Car; Perkins and his brothers Clayton and Jay and by drummer W.S. Holland had come to the studio to record some new material including a redone version of the blued classic Matchbox.

However by chance Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley were also in the studio. The quartet decided to do a jam session . They jammed together for a while — not to generate an actual recording, but just to have some fun —playing gospel standards, bluegrass songs and hits of the day, including Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and “Don’t Be Cruel” The session eventually resulted in a recording of 47 tracks. An article about the session was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title “Million Dollar Quartet”

However the songs were only released a few decades later. In 1981 17 tracks were released and mainly the gospel and blues standards. In 1987 the other tracks were discovered and a double album was released.

This probably most have been the most talented boy band ever.

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Sources

A very Dickens Christmas meal.

Dickens

In the mid 1800’s Lady Maria Clutterbuck published a cook book called “what shall we have for dinner?” An introduction was written by Sir Charles Coldstream.

It was a cook book typical of the Victorian era. The book did not necessarily instructions how to cook a meal it was more a book of menus. like the one below a menu for the winter time and possibly for Christmas.

menu

You will have difficulties in finding more works by Lady Maria Clutterbuck or the writer of the introduction ,Sir Charles Coldstream. They were in fact the pseudonyms of Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine Dickens.

It is unclear when Catherine Dickens cook book was first published but a second edition was published in 1851.

Catherine

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Happy Birthday Santa Claus

1200px-Icon_c_1500_St_Nicholas

I know what you’re all thinking” Has he lost his marbles, we are only 2 days away from St Patrick’s day and he is coming up with a Christmas story”

Do not worry I can assure you that I still have all my faculties. Legend has it that on this day in the year 280 Saint Nicholas was born. Saint Nicholas who we now know as Santa Claus, Saint Nick or if you live in a Dutch speaking country Sinterklaas or still as Saint Nicholas

Sinterklaas-Gouden-Hoefijzer_still2

There are so many different version of his origin varying between Lapland and Spain.

According to tradition, he was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, currently in Turkey,,when he was young, he traveled to the Middle East. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian but was released under the rule of Constantine the Great. He attended the first Council of Nicaea (325), where he allegedly struck the heretic Arius in the face.

Saint-Nicholas-Slaps-the-Heretic-Arius

He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy; this removal greatly increased the saint’s popularity in Europe, and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centres. Nicholas’s relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola at Bari,

St._Nicholas_Bari

It is however also alleged that Saint Nicholas is buried in County Kilkenny,Ireland. Tradition in these parts tell that the earthly remains of St. Nicholas were secretly removed from Bari by returning crusader knights, who brought them back to Newtown Jerpoint for safe keeping.

The grave’s stone slab is carved with the image of a cleric with the heads of two knights behind each shoulder, said to be those of the two crusaders who, so the story goes, brought Nicholas’s remains to Ireland. Evidence lends some credence to this tale as the Normans in Kilkenny were keen collectors of religious relics, and it is known that Norman knights participated in the Holy Land Crusades.

St_Nicholas'_Tomb

 

We all know of course that all these theories are incorrect because he still delivers present every Christmas.

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Krampus- The anti-St Nick, when Christmas gets creepy.

krampus-st-nicholas

Bad Santa, meet Krampus: a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who literally beats kids into being nice and not naughty.

krampus-black-white

They say he comes on the eve of Dec. 5, a night they call “Krampusnacht,” armed with a bundle of gold-painted birch sticks to beat naughty children with. One can usually hear him coming, as though he has one bare human-like foot, his steps alternate with the clip-clop of his other cloven hoof.

His name is Krampus, a figure whose pointed devilish horns and long snake-like tongue have been terrifying European children for centuries. A hairy, black monster of a creature who appears before Christmas to punish children, he is often depicted as carrying chains, and various bells. He also carries a large sack, or occasionally a basket, on his back to cart off evil children and dispose of them. Though the stories vary, his usual disposal methods include drowning, eating, and dropping them off in Hell.

1

Starting before the 17th century, stories of a horned god who showed up to punish people for their sins around Christmastime began to pop up in Europe, particularly in Eastern European countries. Many historians attribute the roots of the legends to pre-Christian paganism, as the appearance of Krampus coincides with multiple pagan winter rites.

In the aftermath of the 1923 election in Austria, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland’s Front (Vaterländische Front) and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled “Krampus Is an Evil Man”.Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today. The Krampus tradition is being revived in Bavaria as well, along with a local artistic tradition of hand-carved wooden masks.

hand-carved-krampus-mask

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Christmas in Limerick-a poem

DSC_0765

My shoes are touching the promenade on “Poor Man’s Kilkee”
Rain is falling on my head and drops are slowly reaching my face.
A man in a coffee shop is putting up a Christmas tree.
Undisturbed the Shannon flows, in so much splendor and grace.

4

The town with its magical and festive lights makes me smile.
Children gaze in awe as they see the sign that Santa is in town.
Beautiful people all dressed up, ready to celebrate in style.
The cold wind is picking up nearly blowing the decorations down.

lights

A man is sitting on a stool outside a shop playing an accordion.
Some tourists stop and listen to him play and dance slowly to the tune.
They give him a few coins and walk on following a local historian
Christmas in Limerick is special and hopefully we’ll see some snow soon.

snow.jpg