Berlin, December 20, 1941
While the German homeland is not directly threatened by the enemy, with the exception of air raids, millions of our soldiers, after a year of the most difficult fighting, confront a numerically and materially far superior enemy at the front. Victories, as never before witnessed in world history, have been secured in battle thanks to the conduct and bravery of officers and men.
The greatest front of all time holds its own and fights from the polar regions to the Black Sea, from the snowfields of Finland to the mountains of the Balkans. And it will do so until the hour of the final destruction of this most dangerous enemy has come again.
If the German Volk wishes to give something to its soldiers at Christmas, then it should give the warmest clothing that it can do without during the war. In peacetime, all this can easily be replaced.
In spite of all the winter equipment prepared by the leadership of the Wehrmacht and its individual branches, every soldier deserves so much more! The homeland can help here! This will show the soldier at the eastern front that the Volksgemeinschaft for which he is fighting is not an empty phrase in National Socialist Germany.
The reality for soldiers on the front line was rather more desperate than this might suggest. The Wehrmacht had hardly prepared at all for a Russian winter, and what material it was sending to the front was held up in overextended supply lines that were now increasingly the subject of Russian counter-attack.
Willy Peter Reese was with the German Army in an isolated railway hut, a forward outpost:
We had our antitank gun, two heavy and three light machine guns, and plenty of ammunition. We slept on hay spread over boxes of bullets and grenades. We had a stove for warmth and a rifle oil lamp for light. But that was pretty much all we had. We burned the fencing and finally the flooring.
For twelve days we lived on potatoes, which we boiled with a little salt. We found some green makhorka to smoke, or we made do with hay. We drank snowmelt. There was no soap, and each of us had just one thin blanket. Tangled hair and beards, black hands, and most of us either festering and frostbitten or eaten alive by lice, scabies, and the inflammations on our legs.
When we went out to do sentry duty, we wrapped ourselves in our threadbare blankets, but our icy feet drove tears of pain and rage to our eyes.