Monday, December 24, 2007

The Christmas Truce, 1914

It's one of those hard to believe it really happened incidents: The truces occurred on several places along the Western front, I will recount one of the more famous occurrences. On Christmas Eve, after six months of heavy fighting and causalities, the Germans and English regiments were separated by trenches. The English, were cold, hungry, and forgotten by their high command.

At midnight, on Christmas eve, suddenly the German trenches lit up. Nervous English soldiers peered over the trenches- was it another assault? They were stunned by the site - in a desolate, crater filled midnight landscape - the German trenches were lit up with Christmas trees and the soldiers began to sing in "Silent Night" in German. The English joined in, singing in English and soon they were exchanging carols.

After this, The officers started to talk and eventually met in the "no man's land" and agreed to a Christmas Truce. The English, as mentioned, were not supplied with anything beyond normal rations, and the Germans shared their food and drink with the English. In our 24 hour convenience store society its difficult to imagine what a Christmas ham, warm rum punch, and sweets must of tasted like to a hungry, cold solider who had been living in water logged trenches for months. We are bewildered that just a few generations ago, tangerines and oranges were Christmas treats.

The men went on to spend Christmas day together and have a feast. Certainly many must have considered the senselessness of this war. Informal truces broke out all along the front....The men were reluctant to return to fighting the next day and the high command on both sides reprimanded their officers and shipped off the men to different parts of the front. Just one example of all to many of how the power elite failed the people.

Pessimists sneer at this episode "ugg they went back to killing a week later", but to me it shows there is hope for mankind, and it was one of the few sensible moments in an otherwise senseless war.

ps: The picture above is from the movie Joyeux Noel, which covers some of the events. Recommend viewing.

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