Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year’s Celebrations Around the World

Fireworks, champagne, silly hats, resolutions, Auld Lang Syne, a midnight kiss, and a slowly-dropping lighted ball — these are the things Americans usually associate with New Year’s Eve.

But what about possums, pickles, and peaches??

That’s what they “drop” in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, respectively, according to an article about New Year’s Eve traditions on the CBS News blog.  In Germany, they drop molten lead into water and try to read the future in the resulting shapes.  In Romania, revelers don — gay apparel?  Nope, bear skins — and dance to usher in good luck for the upcoming year.  In Scotland, the celebration, called Hogmanay, lasts three days, and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration includes a street march, concerts (this year, the 80s hit Pet Shop Boys are featured! I wonder if I still have time to get there…), a carnival…and lots and lots of people dressed as Vikings.  Check out some other New Year’s traditions across the world in this beautiful photo essay by The Baltimore Sun’s DarkRoom.

Want to be a part of the celebrations around the world tonight?  We’ve already missed a few (Happy New Year, Australia and New Zealand!), but click here to watch videos of the celebrations in Sydney and Auckland, and watch live presentations of the New Year arriving in Shanghai, Dubai, and Berlin starting at 4:00 pm Eastern time.

Here’s to a fabulous 2014, the whole world ’round!

Fireworks over Edinburgh. Photo by Robbie Shade.

Fireworks over Edinburgh. Photo by Robbie Shade.


Christmas Season, Sarajevo, 1994

Happy Holidays from the IUSB International Programs Department!

Following in a similar vein as our last post, we present another well-known incident that happened during the Christmas Season in Sarajevo, during the worst part of the Bosnian War. The heavy metal band Savatage commemorated this event with a song named Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 and placed it in the context of a story they developed for a concept album about tolerance. Reminiscing and borrowing from the Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo, the members wrote the tale about a Serbian Christian boy who loved a Bosniak Muslim girl and how their nation tore them apart. Even though it is a Savatage song, it is best known by the members of Savatage’s side project, Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

ImageThe song is essentially an instrumental medley of the Ukrainian song Carol of the Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with other parts written by rock producer Paul O’Neill and members of Savatage. The song describes a lone cellist playing long-forgotten Christmas carols. This part of the story is based off of a true account:

… We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago (Vedran Smailović)…I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed…It was just such a powerful image…Sometime later, a reporter tracked him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing [and he said] said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

Paul O’Neill goes on to say that the “song basically wrapped itself around him.” O’Neill and Savatage chose some of the oldest Christmas carols and the “orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.” The images placed in O’Neill’s mind when he heard this story and its message of hope is undeniable and inspirational. So when you are out shopping and a “heavy metal” version of Carol of the Bells or a slow contemplative Silent Night playing at the store stop and remember the “Cellist of Sarajevo” and the “Christmas Truce” and the hope these events produced in times of tragedy.ImageListen here:


Breimeier, Russ (2003-12-22). “Interview with Paul O’Neill on“. Retrieved on 12-04-13.

“One of the Greatest Surprises of a Surprising War”

Christmas Eve is a very special time for many people around the world, a time when families get together and have celebrations or go to church together. Over the years, there have been occurrences on Christmas Eve that have shown that hope can come through tragedy. One such incident occurred on Christmas Eve in 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, and it was called by newspapers at the time as “One of the Greatest Surprises of a Surprising War.”Image

On Christmas Eve, shouts of “You no fight, we no fight!” and German troops decorating their trenches near the Belgium front created an unofficial truce between the German troops and their Belgian, French, and British counterparts. Candles were place along the top of the trenches and a few small trees in “no man’s land” received some decorations as well which would normally be dangerous as the light would give away their locations. The war-wearied soldiers continued celebrating their Christmas by lustfully singing German Christmas carols that have English equivalents, such as Stille Nacht, or Silent Night. The English troops responded by singing English carols and soon both groups were shouting Christmas greetings across the buffer zone. During this unofficial truce German and British troops exchanged gifts and some of them played a game of football (soccer). The Germans and the English helped each other bury their dead and together they mourned the loss of their compatriots. This truce occurred through Christmas and some reports indicated it lasted until the New Year, in spite of orders from higher military commanders.


Here is an excerpt from a letter of an unknown English soldier:

This will be the most memorable Christmas I’ve ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don’t think theres been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us—wishing us a Happy Christmas etc.

They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party. Several of them can speak English very well so we had a few conversations. Some of our chaps went to over to their lines. I think they’ve all come back bar one from ‘E’ Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir. In spite of our fires etc. it was terribly cold and a job to sleep between look out duties, which are two hours in every six…. After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We’ve had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about a 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him.

About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench. How we did sing. ‘O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night’ were the hymns we had. At present we are cooking our Christmas Dinner! so will finish this letter later… Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came 1/2 way over to us so several of us went out to them. I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I’ve also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won’t fire tomorrow if we don’t so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday—perhaps. After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner…We can hardly believe that we’ve been firing at them for the last week or two—it all seems so strange. At present its freezing hard and everything is covered with ice…



Weintraub, Stanley. Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914. New York: Free Press, 2001.

Crimes unworthy of the human race… Joe Gearhart on the White Rose resistance movement.

…More reflections on the White Rose exhibit at the Schurz Library
Hans and Sophie Scholl, students in Munich, led the White Rose group
and were executed for their resistance against Nazi Germany in 1943

“Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these
abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the humans race?”  
-Second White Rose leaflet.

This  is the same question that we struggle to answer even today.  Her point
is made clear through this question, why are we letting this happen?  What did
they do to deserve this? Exist?  

Perhaps people are apathetic because of how Hitler brought the German people
back from the aftermath of WWI and promoted some
sort of blind patriotism, therefore they blindly trust their leader no
matter what he says.  Or perhaps the German people are not as apathetic as
she thinks, but merely do not have a way to organize and rise up against
the Nazi state, or more likely they are too afraid to say anything for fear
of reprisal.  All in all it is a difficult question to answer, which I
believe differs from person to person.

White Rose Revisited

…More reflections on the White Rose exhibit at the Schurz Library
Hans and Sophie Scholl, students in Munich, led the White Rose group and were executed for their resistance against Nazi Germany

“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be “governed” without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes, crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure, reach the light of day?” 1st Leaflet.


Phrases such as “unworthy of a civilized nation” and “every honest German is ashamed of his government” are powerful statements that would count as treason if the authors were ever revealed. The White Rose members knew full well that death was a possible result of their actions. They do not try to excuse the brutal oppression under the Nazi regime and argue that when the “veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes – crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure – reach the light of day” Germans collectively will have to answer for the Nazi crimes. They are encouraging people to rise up and fight the oppression and brutality of the “irresponsible clique.” The White Rose members are not blaming the Germans specifically for the crimes, but argue that the German people as a whole are culpable for not resisting the Nazis when presented with tyranny. Today we should do the same and stand up against all forms of tyranny when it is brought to the “light of day.”

“At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one’s fellow man; even at that time it was inwardly corrupt and could support itself only by constant lies. After all, Hitler states in an early edition of “his” book…’It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule it’…As it grew larger, however, and finally in an ultimate spurt of growth attained ruling power, the tumor broke open, as it were, and infected the whole body. The greater part of its former opponents went into hiding. The German intellectuals fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death.” – 2nd Leaflet.


The metaphors they utilize invokes strong feeling about intellectuals who continually hide from their obligations and eventually die: “fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death.” The White Rose members also point out that the deception of the Nazis should have been known because Hitler said that he must betray the German people to rule over them. Hitler wrote this several years before the Nazis came to power, yet the people still voted for the Nazis and gave them more and more authority.

“Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? … The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals… [The German] must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt….For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do…he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated…But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty! …now that we have recognized [the Nazis] for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts.”  – 2nd Leaflet.


White Rose writers are essentially arguing that the German people should have known what the Nazis were going to do and that they should not have been surprised when the Nazis actually did betray the German people to make their vision for Germany a reality. The phrases “inwardly corrupt” and “support itself only by constant lies” leave little to the imagination. They are blaming Germana as a whole for not standing up against Hitler and the Nazis when they could have.  Although they are not saying the Germans themselves are guilty of the crimes, they are responsible for allowing the Nazis to have power and allowing them to have their way with not only the German people, but the whole of Europe.


“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience.

The White Rose will not leave you in peace!” – 4th Leaflet.


The White Rose: We Will Not Be Silent.

“We will not be silent” has been a rallying cry for several generations of nonviolent resisters. Originally coined by die Weiße Rose (the White Rose), a student group at University of Munich, “We will not be silent” has become a symbol of passive resistance and the refusal to support tyranny and injustice. The White Rose was founded in 1942 and only lasted a year before they were brutally suppressed for their widespread anti-Nazi rhetoric. Their activities primarily consisted of pamphlet distribution and graffiti messages, and their strong messages still resonate today.


…every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present “state” in the most effective way, how he can strike it the most telling blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. – 3rd Leaflet.

Although they only distributed six pamphlets, the White Rose effectively questioned the wartime motives of the Nazis, and their words continue to inspire today. The three members who were caught giving out pamphlets were executed by guillotine for high treason and demoralizing the military on Feb. 22, 1943.


In the next few days, we will post insights from fellow IUSB students that explore the rich passages that were produced by the White Rose during their short existence. Learn about German student resistance against National Socialism.

why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right – or rather, your moral duty – to eliminate this system? – 3rd Leaflet.untitled

Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right – or rather, your moral duty – to eliminate this system? – 3rd Leaflet.SCHOLL~2