- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- "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,"
- 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
- 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
- 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."