Gerrman First Communion (Erste Kommunion) Experiences: Albert W. Hanne II (about 1940)

Figure 1.--A German reader has sent us this photograph from his First Communion about 1940. He tells us, "We all had brand new suits or dresses made. My suit was custom-made by a tailor. It was more like a uniform, black suits, including shorts and black stockings for us boys. We looked ridiculous."

A German reader tells us about his First Communion from his autobiography. The portrait is not dated, but he thinks he was about 9 years old, perhaps even 10. It definitely was after 1939. So 9 years old sounds about right.


Then there were the intensive religious instructions, with studies of the Bible and Catechism. I got enough religion shoved into me to last me for the rest of my life and then some. At the age of 9 I was being prepped for my First Communion. The indoctrination was thorough. For weeks before the event, we attended special preparatory lectures by Pastor Alpers and Kaplan Cravic, his assistant, and prayers once a week, including the practice of the ceremony itself.

Our Class

Our class of candidates were about 50 boys and an equal number of girls, perhaps less, and for the High Mass ceremony the first 8 or so pews were reserved for us, with the first 4 for the boys and the other four for the girls. It was a real big deal!


We all had brand new suits or dresses made. My suit was custom-made by a tailor. It was more like a uniform, black suits, including shorts and black stockings for us boys (figure 1). The long stockings were customary for boys in those and earlier days. I hated them. Looking back I think we looked ridiculous. Of course I did not think so at the time.

The Ceremony

Everybody had a very tall candle, which during the ceremony was placed into a candle holder attached to one of the pews and extinguished during mass. A special communion rail was set up at the top of the stairs. Upon a discreet hand signal from the Pastor six candidates, with hands pressed together in prayer, slowly would file out of the pew, ascend the stairs, line up in front of the Pastor, genuflect in simultaneous synchronization, and kneel down. The Pastor then stepped forward and delivered the Eucharist onto our tongues. Then: stand up, genuflect, file back down the stairs, re-enter the pew and kneel down. Then put your hands over your eyes and pray. The whole process then repeated with the next 6 candidates."

Our Expectations

Now, we had been so indoctrinated as to the wonderful event that we were totally in awe! The Lord Jesus himself would enter our body and set up residence in our heart! So when Pastor Alpers placed the oblate on my tongue, my first impression was that it felt like paper. It didnít feel like bread at all! We were supposed not to chew it, but to swallow it whole. So as I kneeled there with my hands over my eyes and swallowed the Eucharist I was in expectation of a great change in me, an epiphany of sorts.


Any moment now..... But nothing happened! I felt no change, no ecstasy, nothing. What gives? Something is wrong! The Lord Jesus hadnít shown up! Did Pastor Alpers not say the right prayers and the blessing that would turn the oblate into Jesus? What is going on here? And then it hit me: I was not worthy! Jesus wanted no part of me! The Eucharist was just a dud! Between fingers, I peeked over to my peers. They were just as immobile as I was. Were they faking it too? Who got Jesus and who didnít? And then it occurred to me that I must not let on that I had blown it. So I continued the charade. I was so worried that I didnít even think of praying. Outside the church I accepted the congratulations of my parents, relatives and family friends. I did a lot of thinking, but gradually I adopted a more pragmatic attitude: things were as they were, no use worrying about it. Maybe next time it would turn out right. When we got home, a great feast had been prepared and I dug into the cakes and tortes.. The agony was over!


The text here comes primarily from chapter 3 of Albert's autobiography.


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Created: June 10, 2002
Last edited: 6:02 PM 12/12/2009