December 1941 was not a good time for Adolf Hitler — and you can see it on his face in these remarkable color photos taken by his official photographer, Hugo Jaeger. The war was supposed to have been over by this point — but the Russian campaign was turning into a fiasco and the Americans had now entered into the fray. Adolf, it would appear, was having a hard time getting into some Christmas cheer.
The pictures are definitely surreal — and even a bit pathetic. While he was setting the world ablaze, Hitler organized a Christmas party for his generals in Munich. Earlier that spring, when the Russian campaign was launched, he had promised everyone that the war would be over by Christmas. Instead, he had to spend it with his generals while contemplating an uncertain future.
The photos show the usual Nazi iconography backdropped against advent candles, the glint of ornaments, and streams of tinsel dangling from a giant Christmas tree. It's fascist dystopia meets A Christmas Carol.
LIFE magazine explains how it came into the possession of these photos:
The photos published here were part of an enormous stash of color transparencies made by Hitler's personal photographer, Hugo Jaeger, and buried in glass jars on the outskirts of Munich in 1945, near the war's end. Advancing Allied forces had almost discovered the pictures during an earlier search of a house where Jaeger was staying (a bottle of cognac on top of the transparencies distracted the troops), and Jaeger — justifiably terrified that the photos would serve as evidence of his own ardent Nazism — cached them in the ground. A decade later, he exhumed the pictures; 10 years after that, he sold them to LIFE, which published a handful in 1970.
You can find more photos at LIFE, including an explanation as to why the anti-religious Nazis were celebrating Christmas in the first place.
All images via LIFE.