Christmas 1942

Montreat Christmas 1942

In the fall of 1942, the Mountain Retreat Association was approached by the U.S. State Department to temporarily house Japanese and German diplomats, businessmen and their families. These individuals were waiting to be exchanged for Allied diplomats, missionaries and families stranded overseas when war with America suddenly broke out in December 1941. These “Special War Problems” were placed in hotels turned into special detention sites during 1941 - 1943, while waiting for repatriation. These facilities included the Greenbriar, the Homestead, Grove Park Inn, Montreat’s Assembly Inn and others.

There were 264 individuals — including 152 children — housed for six months at Montreat beginning on Oct. 29, 1942.

German and Japanese language Bibles were provided for each room, thanks to the American Bible Society. Christmas trees were decorated in Assembly Inn at the request of the war time guests. Presents were given to the children at Christmas, thanks to the financial contribution by the Sunday School of the First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

As Rev. R. C. Anderson, president of the Mountain Retreat Association, recalled: “On Christmas Eve ... the Germans were singing their carols in the lower lobby and the Japanese in the upper sun parlor, (when) a number of young people from Black Mountain assembled on the bridge crossing the lake and joined in singing the same carols.... Immediately the windows of the lobby and sun parlor were thrown open, and the Germans, Japanese, and the young people from Black Mountain engaged heartily in the singing of the same carols, ‘Joy to the World, The Lord Is Come,’ ‘(O) Holy Night’ and others.”

Caption photo upper right. This is a 1942 Christmas card in the PHC Collection. It was given to Assembly Inn employee Elizabeth Barr Bowers by German businessman, Hans A. von Heymann. Von Heymann was one of 264 German and Japanese individuals temporarily held at the Inn by the U.S. State Department to exchange for Allied diplomats, missionaries and children held overseas by Axis powers.