A friend pointed me to this interesting article in the November 17, 2009 Daily Mail about a new exhibit in Germany:
Nazi Germany celebrated Christmas without Christ with the help of swastika tree baubles, 'Germanic' cookies and a host of manufactured traditions, a new exhibition has shown.
The way the celebration was gradually taken over and exploited for propaganda purposes by Hitler's Nazis is detailed in a new exhibition.
Rita Breuer has spent years scouring flea markets for old German Christmas ornaments.
She and her daughter Judith developed a fascination with the way Christmas was used by the atheist Nazis, who tried to turn it into a pagan winter solstice celebration.
Selected objects from the family's enormous collection have gone on show at the National Socialism Documentation Centre in Cologne.
'Christmas was a provocation for the Nazis - after all, the baby Jesus was a Jewish child,' Judith Breuer told the German newspaper Spiegel. 'The most important celebration in the year didn't fit with their racist beliefs so they had to react, by trying to make it less Christian.'
The exhibition includes swastika-shaped cookie-cutters and Christmas tree baubles shaped like Iron Cross medals.
The Nazis attempted to persuade housewives to bake cookies in the shape of swastikas, and they replaced the Christian figure of Saint Nicholas, who traditionally brings German children treats on December 6, with the Norse god Odin.
This doesn't surprise me particularly. I recently finished reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. He makes the claim that the Nazis removed prayer from German public schools in 1935, for a similar reason. I have not had a chance to spot check Goldberg's claims, but I this does generally fit. National Socialism was derived from progressivism, and shared many of its most obnoxious traits: hostility towards religion, and especially Judeo-Christian beliefs; support for eugenics; government control over the economy; hostility towards free market capitalism.
UPDATE: It does appear that Goldberg was largely right, although perhaps a little oversimplified. Richard Grunberger's The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 pp. 289-290 indicates that in 1935, religion was removed from the school leaving exams, and religion classes were made optional. The time when religion classes were offered was moved to encourage students to miss classes, religious instruction was reduced to one day a week in the over-12 age group, and completely stopped for the over-14 age group once the war started. In Bavaria, parents were strongly encouraged to take their kids out of Catholic schools. What remained of what we might call chapel was replaced with entirely patriotic activities.
(While not relevant to religion, not surprisingly, the Nazis also encouraged students to think of themselves as smarter than their teachers and other educated people, since most of these in many villages were clergy.)