Christmas presents a time for people to come together and celebrate.
And while it is horrible to imagine that happy sentiment extending into one of the most horrible genocidal groups throughout history, recently-released pictures give viewers a glimpse into their holiday festivities.
LIFE magazine released a series of photos from a Nazi Christmas party in 1941, right during the beginnings of World War II when they sent Jews, homosexuals and gypsies away to their death at concentration camps.
Under the Christmas tree: Adolf Hitler (center) sits with Heinrich Himmler to his left, who was the commanding officer of the Nazi secret police. They both were at the forefront of the movement’s push to create a ‘master race’ ridding the world of Jews, homosexuals, and list of other groups they deemed less socially acceptable
The pictures show the group’s leader Adolf Hitler sitting with a furrowed brow at a formal dinner party for Nazi officers held in Munich.
That picture, showing Hitler’s hands grasped at his mouth as he sits quietly next to a peer, was the only one of the group that LIFE originally ran.
The caption they ran alongside it, when it as published in 1941, said that ‘though he dominated his officers and came to despise them, Hitler never felt socially at ease with them — they had better backgrounds and education. He never invited them to dinner, aware that they looked down on the old comrades he liked to have around’.
The December 18, 1941 event was held at the Löwenbräukeller beer hall, and it was decorated for the season.
Leader and followers: Hitler (center left) appears ill at ease at the Christmas party and is rumored to have not trusted his advisors, and the group of underlings to the right have a similarly stiff attitude at the Christmas party held on December 18, 1941 at a Munich beer house
A large Tannenbaum tree was placed behind Hitler’s seat and tinsel streamers adorned the hall’s rafters.
The eeriest aspect of the photos is the knowledge of what was going on outside of the building, and knowing what massive atrocities these men- who seem to be throwing their cares aside for the evening- were capable of enacting.
The photos were taken by Hugo Jaeger, one of Hitler’s personal photographers. Unlike many other photographers at the time, Jaeger was using color technology in 1941 and took many of the Nazi propaganda photos in that style.