When the Nazi Party rose to power in early 1933, the new regime took control of Germany’s political, social, and cultural activities through a process known as Gleichschaltung (German for “coordination”). Sporting events, recreational activities, and even charity drives became controlled by groups associated with the Nazi Party.1 Nazi leaders believed that participation in community charity events would promote a sense of shared responsibility and kinship among members of the Nazis' so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft").2
The National Socialist People’s Welfare (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt, or NSV) was originally established in 1932 to provide Nazi Party members with emergency assistance. After the Nazi rise to power, the NSV rapidly expanded and absorbed many private charity organizations. Each year from 1933–1945, the NSV ran a months-long charity drive known as the Winter Relief Fund (Winterhilfswerk). This charity campaign provided items like food, clothing, and coal to Germans in need during the cold winter months—if they were so-called “Aryans” in good standing with the Nazi regime.3 German citizens were urged to donate money, volunteer at soup kitchens, or make Christmas ornaments.
The featured film was created in 1942 to mark the achievements of ten years of NSV charity work. The film shows people donating money and food to the Winter Relief Fund, preparing large pots of soup, and making Christmas ornaments. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is pictured making a public donation. The film also uses Disney-like animation to represent the achievements of the Winter Relief Fund.4 Happy cartoon fish and livestock show how much food was collected and distributed. In the featured clip, one of the Winter Relief Fund’s Christmas ornaments of Santa Claus comes to life. Toys representing the charity’s yearly contributions march out of Santa’s sack.5
Annual charity campaigns first became a regular feature of German life during the Great Depression in the last years of the Weimar Republic. In 1933, Nazi authorities absorbed and adapted this tradition to advance Nazi propaganda about national unity and racial camaraderie.6 This charity campaign was specifically designed to generate public support for the regime. Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment Joseph Goebbels oversaw the operation of the Winter Relief Fund each year. Goebbels declared that “the entire community will pay us allegiance when we come to the aid of the poorest of the poor and prove to them by deed that the concept of the people's community is not an empty phrase.”7
Although the Winter Relief Fund was designed to increase support for the regime, it became a source of resentment for many Germans. Many questioned how the money that was collected was actually being spent. Some people felt forced or shamed into giving donations. The aggressive “can rattlers” of the Winter Relief Fund became so unpopular that one police officer joked that pretending to ask for donations to the charity drive was the quickest way to break up a crowd. Some Germans even mocked the Winter Relief Fund’s slogan—“No one should go hungry or freeze”—by changing it to “No one has to go hungry without freezing, too!”8