Julleuchter (German pronunciation: [ˈjuːlˌlɔʏçtɐ]; "Yule lantern") was the term for a type of lantern used in the "Julfest" during the German Third Reich. Heinrich Himmler, commander of the SS, who placed great interest in Ariosophy, gave the SS Julleuchter as a presentation piece for SS soldiers to celebrate the winter solstice, from approximately 1936 until 1944. Heinrich Himmler originally had the intention to make the Julleuchter a standard gift to all SS members and there were no criteria attached to its presentation. For reasons which are not entirely clear, by the start of World War II, the Julleuchter had begun to be viewed as an SS decoration, and was entered as such in SS service records once the Julleuchter had been presented. However, as the SS-Julleuchter was considered "non-portable" (much like the Luftwaffe Honor Goblet), there was no outward display on an SS uniform indicating its presentation.
Swedish artefact type
The design of the Julleuchter was based on an early modern (late 18th century or early 19th century) unburnt clay candle-holder from Halland, Sweden. This particular specimen is kept in the Nordic Museum in Stockholm (inv. nr. 32.477). It has a height of 15 cm and a base of 8.2 cm squared. The candle-holder has an incised heart shape and below a six-spoked opening. This artefact was described in 1888 in the magazine of the Swedish literary club Runa (founded by Johan August Strindberg), which compared the six-spoked window in its base with the shape of the medieval h-rune; the 1888 article attributed a 16th-century date to the object (the earliest date of the introduction of candles to Scandinavian households).
There are several surviving specimens of this type of early modern candle-holder from Sweden. There is nothing to suggest that it was in any way connected to Yule in particular. The artefact type was also called Turmleuchter ("tower lantern") in some 1920s to 1930s German sources. A comparable specimen was on display in the open-air museum of Skansen, based on a photograph kept in the Detmold state archive.
Interpretation in Germanic mysticism
The Runa article came to the attention of Herman Wirth because of its supposed "Hagal rune" (the six-spoked window at its base) who mentioned it in his Ura Linda Chronik, whence it passed into Nazi-era Germanic mysticism. In a 1936 memorandum, Heinrich Himmler set forth a list of approved holidays, in part supposedly based on "pagan" traditions, including a "Julfest" intended to replace Christian rites. The Julleuchter and other symbols were also meant to serve as a consolation to women who, by having married into the SS, had to renounce the spiritual shelter and service of their church. The SS soldier was instructed to set up a shrine that included a ‘’Julleuchter’’ in the corner of one room of his household.
An article about the Julleuchter was published in the German magazine “Germanien” in December 1936. The author argued that this "millennia old" lantern was to be used as "a memento of the "Year of the Great Migrations of the people of the north"". Another article was published in the SS periodical SS-Leitheft Jahrgang 7 Folge 8a. In 1939 the Julleuchter was also mentioned in “Die Gestaltung der Feste im Jahres und Lebenslauf in der SS-Familie”(Celebrations of the SS Family) by Fritz Weitzel.
The information about the 1936 issue of Germanien magazine about the Julleuchter is actually from the later magazine “Der Freiwillige.” The article in “Der Freiwillige” reports Germanien magazine being, …”the official organ of the German ancestor inheritance registered association, Berlin.” The information given in that latter article is from Germanien magazine.
A 1936 issue of Germanien magazine claimed that the "millennium old" lantern had been used as a memento of the "Year of the Great Migrations" of the people of the north and as the small light of humanity under the stars of the night sky. When used during the 2 Solstice periods of the year, this is a symbol of the victory of Light over the Darkness, and also as a token of Eternal Circulation. The Julleuchter stands for an inseparable community, its conscience and attitude, and that it was used as a symbol of never ending sunlight. Further, the magazine stated that when the Julleuchter was used during the holiday of Yule (what is now known as The 12 Days of Christmas), twelve candles are used. One is used each night symbolizing the twelve months, until the 31 of December when the "July Moon shines." On that night a thirteenth candle is used for the new coming month of January. The candles always burn below but on the last night, the candle is again transferred upward- this is the sun, which is spilled in order to return to the earth from the gloom of another peace.
Use in Himmler's SS
The SS-Julleuchter was considered both an award and trophy of the German Schutzstaffel that was presented to members of the SS from approximately 1936 until 1944 as a service decoration. Manufactured by the Allach porcelain company, the SS Julleuchter was presented to any SS member who participated in a Julfest.
Heinrich Himmler originally had the intention to make the Julleuchter a standard gift to all SS members and there were no criteria attached to its presentation. For reasons which are not entirely clear, by the start of World War II, the Julleuchter had begun to be viewed as an SS decoration, and was entered as such in SS service records once the Julleuchter had been presented. However, as the SS-Julleuchter was considered "non-portable" (much like the Luftwaffe Honor Goblet), there was no outward display on an SS uniform indicating its presentation.
Apparently even as the Red Army was advancing and the fall of Berlin was in the foreseeable future, The Julleuchter was used during the decoration French volunteers in the Waffen-SS. One surviving soldier said, “In the light of a candle burning on a Julleuchter, a Jule Candlestick, symbolizing the never dying sunlight, Fenet decorated a number of comrades with the Iron Cross. Although simple, the ceremony that evening seemed all the more extraordinary.”
The SS Julfest
- "Not only the presents but the whole celebration should be full of surprises for all members of the family. The father lights the candle in the Jul-Leuchter, or ‘Jul Earthenware Candlestick’, from which the tree candles in turn get their light. [...] The Jul-Leuchter, presented by Reichsführer-SS Himmler to the SS Man, is the most important symbol used throughout the year to mark celebrations and commemorations. Its cut-out Heart represents hearth and home, and the Hagal Rune peace through victory. At midnight, when the candles on the Yuletide Tree are burnt down, the SS Man will put the Jul-Leuchter on the table. The Candlestick with its year-long candle has been lit at every family celebration the past year. Its candle has burned down, and it should receive a new one tonight. Just as our ancestors never let the sacred hearth cooking fire extinguish, so our Jul-Leuchter must always have a light. Thus it becomes a symbol of the never dying sunlight. Everyone becomes very thoughtful when the old candle finally burns down and the new one is put in its place." (From “Celebrations of the SS Family” by Fritz Weitzel, 1939)
Manufacture in the Allach factory
In January 1936, the SS Porzellan Manufaktur Allach was created in Munich under the control of Heinrich Himmler. Well known artists were forced to participate. The program of the factory included over 240 porcelain and ceramic models. Due to a rapid expansion of the enterprise, the factory was not able to meet production, so in October 1937 a part of production was shifted to the SS-operated Allach sub camp of the Dachau concentration camp. Originally the Allach factory manufactured only art ceramic, like plates, jugs and vases, but in the war years they also produced simple utensils like ointment containers and cafeteria table-ware.
Special occasion gift items for SS supporters were also made and given away at dinner parties and other events. Starting from 1941 German civilians and about 50 prisoners of the Allach sub camp of the Dachau concentration camp were forced to produce art and porcelain. The Allach sub camp of Dachau remained the main location for fine porcelain manufacture even after the original factory in the town of Allach was modernized and reopened. The factory in the town of Allach was instead retrofitted for the production of ceramic products such as household pottery. The fall of the Third Reich brought an end to the Allach concern. The Allach factories were shut down in 1945 and never reopened.
Allach porcelain made a variety of candle holders ranging from elaborate gilded baroque candelabras, to the most basic plain white porcelain single candle holder. Production numbers for most candleholders were above average for other Allach items, indicating popularity and interest among the German people. The varying styles and low cost (due to slave labor) of the candleholders produced at Allach allowed most Germans of every class to own them.
The Allach factory deposited the Julleuchter design with the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin on 16 January 1936. The Allach Julleuchter was unique in that it was made as presentation piece for SS officers to celebrate the winter solstice. It was later given to all SS members on the same occasion, December 21. Made of unglazed stoneware, the Julleuchter was decorated with early pagan Germanic symbols.
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Wirth was ousted from Himmler's Ahnenerbe as a crank in 1937. In the "denazification" period after 1945, Wirth attempted to portray this development as "opposition" against the Nazi regime on his part, and until his death in 1981, he attempted to portray his theories under inverted political conditions, not as völkisch but instead as "alternative" or "esoteric", successfully marketing them to certain elements of 1970s counter culture in Germany, notably among the "Matriarchist" currents of German 1970s feminism, because he posited that the "Germanic peoples of the Neolithic" had been "matriarchic". Because of these circumstances, the Julleuchter design did not become associated with the same stigma as other SS paraphernalia, and its design is still found in production and considered a "traditional" Christmas ornament in parts of Germany.
- SS Service record collection, United States National Archives; College Park, Maryland
- Schild (2000). C.f. this online copy of a photograph by Sören Hallgren, Nordiska Museet.
- Runa magazine 1888 page 20.
- Power Politics and Social Change in National Socialist Germany: A Process of Escalation into Mass Destruction, by John Michael Steiner, page 117.
- "The house of the SS man ought to know because one of its corners is intended for the celebration of his family. In it is to summarize those things that remind people of his higher obligations. ...On the chest , in the corner and shall include heirlooms, are all year round and the Julleuchter the Julteller (pewter or earthenware) of individual family members who use them on all holidays of the year, but also on birthday, wedding and death . ... The Wall adorns the image of the Fuehrer and Reich SS, to pedigree and family photos, mementos of war and times of struggle. The large SS runes will not be absent. The Jul-and SS-corner is the yardstick the extent of the SS man and his wife at the Customs of the SS to participate.“ SS Upper Section West: The design of the celebrations in the year and resume in the SS family, Wuppertal, nd, page 41, KW, Archive, 70/1/3/7, quoted in page 217
- Germanien magazine, December 1936
- For Europe: the French volunteers of the Waffen-SS, by Robert Forbes, page 454.
- Celebrations of the SS Family, by Fritz Weitzel 1939
- Admin at 5:41 pm. "Candle Holders". Allachporcelain.com. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Admin at 5:41 pm. "Allach Porcelain". Allach Porcelain. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Heinrich W. Schild, "Der Julleuchter der Porzellan-Manufaktur Allach", Militaria.zeitschrift, 2000, pp. 148–162.
- Изобретение традиций ("The Invention of Tradition") (allach.ru). Includes photographs of the Veddinge clay candle-holder and of an Allach-produced Julleuchter replica.
- RARISSIMA "SS JULLEUCHTER" (mymilitaria.it auction page)