Let me share with you and our friends my war-story that features that great carol [“Silent Night”].
I was chaplain of the 581st Anti-aircraft Division in 1945. After the armistice, we were stationed near Kassel in central Germany, still under the ban of no-fraternizing with the locals wherever our men were stationed.
However they did allow us chaplains to ask for the use of the village nearby. When we arrived we discovered about a dozen of the villagers gathered round the door, asking if they could come in.
Of course, I welcomed them and urged them to sit with our dozen or so GIs on the benches down in front of the altar. But they insisted on sitting on a bench behind the old-fashioned “tracker” organ which had to be pumped by hand.
Since neither I nor my assistant played the organ, we opted for our portable field organ which I placed down front. My assistant only played the violin which he carried and played all through our European tour of duty, so I played the pump organ. I have forgotten what hymn we were singing, but suddenly I heard a sound which I hadn’t heard in months — women’s voices!
As soon as the song was over I said to my men, “I know it is the middle of June and a long way from Christmas, but turn to “Silent Night” and let us sing it as though it were already Christmas. When we did we looked and heard that chorus of villagers standing and singing with us. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” with real gusto.
It was a most inspiring moment and demonstrates the power of music, especially religious music to bridge all the barriers of race, and tongue , of peace and war.
For the precious moment we were not two peoples at war with each other, but we were one around that manger-laid Babe who was called “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” who became Savior, not only to us, but to all nations and races of this warring planet.
To God Be the Glory!NOTE: The Battle of Kassel was a four-day struggle between the U.S. Army and the German Army in April 1945 for Kassel, a medium-sized city northeast of Frankfurt am Main. The battle resulted as the U.S. Third Army pushed northeast from the region of Frankfurt and Mainz. The battle opened on April 1, 1945 and ended with an American victory three days later.