Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

December 2013

Christmas Ornament (ENM-007047)

Christmas Ornament
A family celebration and social togetherness: most people wish for such a Christmas. They associate the holidays at the end of the year with belonging, safety, and home.

This Christmas ornament tells a story of such sweet moments, but at the same time is accompanied by experiences of loss and the challenges of new beginnings. It decorated Family N.'s Christmas tree in Lower Saxony for decades before becoming a part of the Museum's collection. It held a place of honor among tinsel, bells, and other ornaments for many years – since December 24, 1953, the family's first Christmas after fleeing from the GDR into West Germany.

Up until fleeing from the GDR, Hans and Christa N. lived in Zernin in Mecklenburg, where they ran a farm together. In 1952 they began to feel pressure from the East German government, which wanted to force independent farmers to join agricultural collectives – even against their will. When the regime's bullying became too much in February 1953, the couple fled to the West with their two year old son.

Christa N.'s parents and sister had fled already in 1951. Reunited once again, they celebrated Christmas together in 1953. Only months after their flight, they were still living in uncomfortable conditions, but were happy to be together. The Christmas ornament was a present from Christa N.'s sister.