The celebration of Christmas during wartime has always been a bittersweet experience, no less so than during the First and Second World Wars. We offer this collection of Christmas-themed photos from the two world wars that show the full spectrum of the human experience, from friendship and love to hatred and barbarity.
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British Soldiers Bringing in Holly for Christmas. First World War. Source: The Literary Digest History of the World War, Vol. 2; Funk & Wagnalls Co.; New York, London; 1919.
Wounded German Soldiers at Christmas. First World War. Source: Library of Congress
German soldiers celebrating Christmas in a trench in the First World War. Source: New York Times, 01/31/1915
French soldiers preparing for dinner at the front. First World War. Source: The Literary Digest History of the World War, Vol. 2; Funk & Wagnalls Co.; New York, London; 1919.
Finnish Army unit holding a Christmas service near the Kollaa River, Finland, 12/24/1939. Source: WWII Database
Personnel of USS LEXINGTON celebrate Christmas, 12/1944. Source: U.S. National Archives, Dept of the Navy.
US Army soldier dressed as Santa Claus at Camp Lee, Virginia, 12/1941. Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps
Christmas Dance for African-American soldiers of 1323rd Engineers, Camp Swift, Texas, 12/23/1943. Source: U.S. National Archives
Actor Mickey Rooney eating in the USS Intrepid crews mess during a Christmas visit in California, 12/1943. Source: U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation
A Christmas tree standing in front of Block 15 in Auschwitz I Concentration Camp, date unknown. Source: Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Archives
Sgt. Hiram Prouty of US 175th Infantry Regiment dressed as Santa Claus, arriving on a M3 medium tank, Perham Down, England, 12/1942. Source: United States Army Signal Corps
US 5th Armored Regiment tankers gathering around a fire and opening Christmas presents, near Eupen, Belgium, 12/30/1944. Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History
US Army Sgt. Edward F. Good feeding Pfc. Lloyd Demin during the Christmas dinner at a field hospital in the Philippine Islands, 12/25/1944. Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps
Man stands next to pile of dead bodies, Christmas wreaths in background, at Buchenwald Concentration Camp
US Army soldiers sharing care package sent by one of their wives for Christmas, somewhere in Europe, 11/18/1944. Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps
Members of the 101st Airborne Division walk past dead comrades killed during the Christmas Eve bombing of Bastogne, Belgium, 12/25/1944
M-51 Anti aircraft Battery looking up at a Christmas Day dog fight near Puffendorf Germany, 12/25/1944. Source: U.S. National Archives, Department of the Army.