The German Christmas Truce
Of World War One

From Craig DeMott

Hi Jeff, This article is late for the Christmas season, but not for the lesson it contains.
This is more in-depth than the one you previously posted.
All the best,
Craig from Cyprus
Germans Started The Christmas Truce Of World War One
By David Crossland
Sunday Mail - Cyprus
Singing 'Silent Night' and calling "We not shoot, you not shoot", German soldiers began the Christmas Truce of World War One, when whole regiments stopped killing each other and played football in no-man's land instead.
"The Germans started it. That's the miracle. For the first time it wasn't the Germans who waged war but stared a peace," Michael Juergs, the first German author to write a book about the legendary ceasefire of December 1914, told Reuters in Berlin.
British troops holding the front line in Flanders on a cold, clear Christmas Eve four months into the war heard 'Stille Nacht' ('Silent Night') being sung across the battlefield littered with frozen corpses.
They stared clapping and shouting "more, more". German soldiers ventured their heads above the parapets and put candles along the edge of their trenches, writes Juergs in his book The Little Peace in the Great War, published last month.
It resembled the footlights of a theatre, one British solder recalled.
One German office sang the Scottish ballad 'Annie "We were overwhelmed, as if the war was suddenly over," Juergs quoted a British rifleman, W.A. Quinton, as writing 15 years later.
The office called: "I am a lieutenant, gentlemen, my life is in your hands. I'm outside the trench and walking towards you. Would one of your officers please meet me half way?"
A British sergeant walked up to him and they started talking. Others followed. The news spread rapidly, with British soldiers taking part readily, and French and Belgian troops more hesitantly, writes Juergs.
"It was maybe almost 1,000 soldiers at first. Then word spread by field telephone."
Along the entire 40 kilometres from the Belgian North Sea port of Nieuwpoort to the town of Ypres, soldiers met and arranged not to shoot each other over Christmas.
Juergs matched war diaries and letters from soldiers on both sides to piece together a detailed account of the series of spontaneous armistices that by December 26 had silenced much of the western front from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
They staged joint burials, hunted rabbits, and cooked a pig. One British soldier, a hairdresser by trade, brought out a stool and offered haircuts to all comers for a few cigarettes a time.
It was the first Christmas of a war that has come to epitomize pointless sacrifice on a biblical scale. In over four years an estimated 10 million military personnel were killed in action or listed as missing, with more than 20 million wounded.
"If there had been live television footage at the time and people had seen the pictures of this truce, it would have been the end the war," said Juergs.
Soldiers exchanged food and cigarettes and showed each other photos of their families. A frequent topic was how best to get rid of lice and the rats that plagued them.
They swapped Dresden 'Stollen' Christmas cake and sausages for British jam and whisky. One German infantryman even handed over a Christmas tree with lit candles.
Some French civilians scorned at the fraternization taking place on their invaded soil. Some British troops reported French women spat at them for it.
While many officers took part, the top brass on both sides were outraged, ordering their men back into the trenches and threatening court martial whenever they heard about it.
But soldiers continued to shoot above each other's heads until February on some stretches of the front, said Juergs.
Prussian troops, traditionally the most disciplined in the German army, were less prone to join the armistices than others, such as soldiers from Saxony in what is now eastern Germany.
"We are Saxons, you are Anglo-Saxons, why should we shoot each other?" said one Saxon.
"After the dead had been buried, and because the ground had frozen, hundreds of men played football wildly in uniforms with leather balls which the English supplied, or tins or balls of straw," said Juergs.
The diary of the Lancashire Fusiliers tells of one match the Germans won 3:2, but notes that the third goal should not have been allowed because the scorer was offside, he writes.
British newspapers gave the truce prominent coverage, perhaps because the idea appealed to a British sense of fair play among gentlemen, writes Juergs.
German newspapers largely ignored it, while French papers wrote that French soldiers shouted out "Shut up, German pigs" as soon as the Germans started singing. In fact, whole French regiments took part.
Attempts to repeat the truce a year later rapidly quashed. "In the history of war there had never been such a peace from below. There has never been once since," writes Juergs.
By Craig deMott
Though this Christmas Truce happened many years ago, and even the recounting of it is past the Christmas season, I feel that it is very relevant in the light of recent wars that many European nations are engaged in. The Christmas Truce of World War One reflects the common man, with common sense, realizing the senselessness of the war they were engaged in. In the 21st Century, millions of people the world over see the senselessness of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars.
What do you think if something like that would happen today? It would be just like it was nearly 9 years ago-the high ranking offices would be opposed to a spontaneous show of peace. The most venomous opposition would be from the politicians and the wealthy Power Brokers of the country. Such soldiers would be quickly court marital and perhaps even charged with being a terrorist under the perverted laws that we have now.
Should such a thing be done now?
Most definitely, yes. Regardless of the consequences, injustice should be stopped. Long has the day passed that such injustice can be rectified in court, so it has to be done by the common man and woman in refusing to fight an unjust and un-Christian war.
In the Bible, we read two different verses: one about turning plowshares into swords and another one about turning swords into plowshares. If you read the context of each, you will see that there is a time for war and a time for peace. Thus, Christianity is not hawkish, nor is it pacifist. The book of Ephesians says "a time for peace and a time for war."




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