1 January 1944 – Hope and Dread for the New Year in Berlin

Berliners now knew that the air defenses could not prevent the widespread destruction of their city.

Many people were hoping that 1944 would bring a better year. For many, it did not seem an unrealistic prospect that the war would be over by the end of the year. An Allied victory now seemed inevitable, although there was much uncertainty as to how that would come about.

Ursula von Kardorff was a young journalist working in Berlin. She had already lost one of her two brothers on the frontline. Berlin itself was increasingly looking like a battlefield itself as more and more building were destroyed by the bombing. She moved in circles where many young officers were anti-Nazi, although she knew very well how careful they had to be in expressing such sentiments. Her diary, if ever discovered by the authorities, would have seen her sent to a concentration camp at the very least:

Berlin, 1 January 1944

1943. The worst year of my life. Jurgen’s death, the raids, people rendered homeless by bombing, so that the Germans now wander around as homeless as the Jews, loaded down with the same kinds of sacks and bundles. At least it relieves one of some of one’s guilt, and that is a comfort.

‘This must be a better year.’ I write that down again in my diary as a motto. If only the war could end this year and we could be freed from that monster Hitler I should never ask for another thing for the rest of my life.

Last night I saw Barchen home at two in the morning because she was too frightened to be alone in the subway which leads from the Savignyplatz station, where a man was shot dead before her very eyes a few days ago.

We said goodbye by the light of our torches and I was walking home alone when suddenly a ruined house collapsed, just behind me, with a terrifying crash. My hat was blown off, and if it had happened a second earlier I should have been buried. All the same, I was not at all frightened, I don’t know why.

I imagine that the climax of the war will be reached in the spring and that if we, here in Germany, do not do something soon to change the situation radically we shall be finished by the autumn. By then the Russians will be here.


1 January – Today in German History

45 B.C.

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect.

Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition, the pontifices, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar, often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections.

In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, who advised him to do away with the lunar cycle entirely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 46 B.C., making 45 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly after Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C., Mark Anthony changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) to honor him. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor.


  • The Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich IV, persuades 26 bishops to refuse obedience to the Pope.


  • German Customs Union comes into force.


  • The founding of the Reichsbank and the Mark becomes the German currency.


  • Birth of Wilhelm Canaris, 1887-1945, in Aplerbeck, Germany. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr (military intelligence) in 1935. He oversaw German military aid to Spain’s General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. By 1944, he was opposed to Hitler and participated in the attempted assassination of Hitler. He was arrested, sent to the Flossenburg concentration camp and executed there.


  • The British and American occupation zones in Germany are combined into one occupation area.


  • Saarland becomes a German state.


  • The Euro begins to be introduced as the common currency of Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Holland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, and Finland.


  • The Euro is distributed to the population at large and becomes the official European currency. Until this time it had existed as book money rather than physical currency. National currencies will become invalid by the end of February 2002.