Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 by Stanley WeintraubIt was one of historys most powerful,yet forgotten,Christmas stories. It took place in the improbable setting of the mud, cold rain and senseless killing of the trenches of World War I. It happened in spite of orders to the contrary by superiors; it happened in spite of language barriers. And it still stands as the only time in history that peace spontaneously arose from the lower ranks in a major conflict, bubbling up to the officers and temporarily turning sworn enemies into friends.
Silent Night, by renowned military historian Stanley Weintraub, magically restores the 1914 Christmas Truce to history. It had been lost in the tide of horror that filled the battlefields of Europe for months and years afterward. Yet in December 1914 the Great War was still young, and the men who suddenly threw down their arms and came together across the front lines to sing carols, exchange gifts and letters, eat and drink and even play friendly games of soccer naively hoped that the war would be short-lived, and that they were fraternizing with future friends.
It began when German soldiers lit candles on small Christmas trees, and British, French, Belgian and German troops serenaded each other on Christmas Eve. Soon they were gathering and burying the dead, in an age-old custom of truces. But as the power of Christmas grew among them, they broke bread, exchanged addresses and letters and expressed deep admiration for one another. When angry superiors ordered them to recommence the shooting, many men aimed harmlessly high overhead.
Sometimes the greatest beauty emerges from deep tragedy. Surely the forgotten Christmas Truce was one of historys most beautiful moments, made all the more beautiful in light of the carnage that followed it. Stanley Weintraubs moving re-creation demonstrates that peace can be more fragile than war, but also that ordinary men can bond with one another despite all efforts of politicians and generals to the contrary.
The Great War: Christmas Truce (WWI Documentary)
The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce
Even at the distance of a century, no war seems more terrible than World War I. In the four years between and , it killed or wounded more than 25 million people—peculiarly horribly, and in popular opinion, at least for less apparent purpose than did any other war before or since. Yet there were still odd moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders and France, and one of the most remarkable came during the first Christmas of the war, a few brief hours during which men from both sides on the Western Front laid down their arms, emerged from their trenches, and shared food, carols, games and comradeship. Their truce—the famous Christmas Truce—was unofficial and illicit. Many officers disapproved, and headquarters on both sides took strong steps to ensure that it could never happen again.
On Christmas Eve , in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war , a remarkable thing happened. It came to be called the Christmas Truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history. British machine gunner Bruce Bairnsfather, later a prominent cartoonist, wrote about it in his memoirs. Like most of his fellow infantrymen of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was spending the holiday eve shivering in the muck, trying to keep warm.
The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of World War I around Christmas The Christmas truce occurred during the relatively early period of the war During the first five months of World War I, the German attack through Belgium into France had been repelled.
fear of being left behind
On a crisp, clear morning years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives. But what actually happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of — and did they really play soccer on the battlefield? Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. To this day historians continue to disagree over the specifics: no one knows where it began or how it spread, or if, by some curious festive magic, it broke out simultaneously across the trenches. Nevertheless, some two-thirds of troops — about , people — are believed to have participated in the legendary truce.