Darkest Christmas

December 1942 and a World at War

Peter Harmsen

A global account of how—as the outcome of World War II still hung in the balance—millions of men and women around the world, torn from their civilian lives, passed the most important holiday of the Christian year.
Date Published :
October 2022
Publisher :
Illustration :
B/w and color
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781636241890
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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December 1942 saw the bloodiest Christmas in the history of mankind. From the islands in the Pacific to the China front, from the trenches in Russia to the battle lines in North Africa, in the skies over Europe and in the depths of the Atlantic, men were killing each other in greater numbers than ever before. The Holocaust continued, and innocent civilians were murdered by the thousands throughout the evil Nazi empire, even as the perpetrators celebrated the birth of Christ.

Millions stationed in far-off lands amid the greatest conflict in human history feared this was their last Christmas in freedom, or their last Christmas alive. At the same time as the slaughter continued unabated, throughout the world there were random acts of kindness, born out of an instinctive feeling of the essential brotherhood of man. These gestures also straddled religious barriers and sometimes included those of non-Christian faiths. Even some Japanese, otherwise embarked on a self-declared crusade against the West, relented for a few precious hours in acknowledgment of the holiday.

At the same time, Christmas 1942 saw the injunction of ‘good will to man’ distorted in ugly and callous ways. At Auschwitz, SS guards played cruel games with their prisoners. In Berlin, the German heart of darkness, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels spent time with his family while still buried in feverish fantasies about the Jewish world conspiracy.

Christmas 1942 saw the entire range of man’s conduct towards his fellow man, reflecting the extremes of behavior, good and bad, that World War II gave rise to. The way the holiday was marked around the world tells a deeper and more universal story of the human condition in extraordinary times.

About The Author

Peter Harmsen is the author of New York Times bestseller Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze and Nanjing 1937: Battle for a Doomed City, as well as the War in the Far East trilogy. He studied history at National Taiwan University and has been a foreign correspondent in East Asia for more than two decades. He has focused mainly on the Chinese-speaking societies but has reported from nearly every corner of the region, including Mongolia and North Korea. His books have been translated into Chinese, Danish and Romanian.


Chapter 1: Pacific Ocean
Chapter 2: Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Australia
Chapter 3: Japan, occupied Asia
Chapter 4: India, Siberia and the Middle East
Chapter 5: Eastern Front
Chapter 6: Germany, Holocaust
Chapter 7: Occupied Europe
Chapter 8: North Africa, Britain
Chapter 9: Atlantic Ocean
Chapter 10: Americas


“In his sixth book, best-selling author Peter Harmsen provides a profound account of human resilience at Christmastime in December 1942, in the midst of World War II. An artful storyteller with a sharp eye for revealing details, Harmsen takes us on a wide-reaching holiday tour that spans continents and embeds intimate, personal experience in the context of broader wartime developments … In eminently readable prose, and amply illustrated with contemporary images, Darkest Christmas offers new insights into the history of World War II and one of the world’s most popular and important holidays alike."

- Joe Perry, author of "Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History"

“One single, crucial 24 hours—Christmas Day 1942. A world hanging in the balance. Peter Harmsen masterfully reveals the raging war across the globe through the hopes and fears of its inhabitants whether soldier, civilian or prisoner. A broad canvas, yet one that repeatedly becomes incredibly personal and often heart-wrenching. Among the vast library of books on World War II Darkest Christmas stands out as uniquely poignant and original.”

- Paul French, New York Times best-selling author of "Midnight in Peking" and "Bloody Saturday: Shanghai's Darkest Day"

"...this fabulous book focuses almost entirely on Christmas 1942 and the range of man’s conduct toward fellow man, reflecting the extremes of behavior, good and bad, that WWII gave rise to."

- ARGunners.com

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